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Honda Jazz hits a bum note…

What’s happening with Honda interior design?

Honda’s Jazz, or Fit as it’s known in the US, is a fairly mainstream B-segment hatch with some clever interior design details. In the UK at least it tends to be bought by a ‘senior’ demographic group..as it’s reliable, unexciting and practical. In the US and Japan, primarily because of more performance-oriented marketing it’s typically associated with younger buyers and perhaps small families. No matter – but the re-designed 2016 model introduces a new interior that must surely be sign-off error…hybrid-jazz-interior_0

Compare this to the previous-gen Jazz. There’s still a proliferation of random minor controls dotted around, but the overall volume is far more organic, flowing, and with the element of precision that honda are renowned for…

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Some of the chief offenders of the new interior;

  • Minor controls are seemingly thrown at random locations..the hazard switch, the ‘eco’ button to the right of the wheel. That old favourite of tucking the additional controls away on cheap blanking panels, almost hidden from view, a favourite of Japanese cars from the 80s and 90s;

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  • The different treatment of the vents. Where’s the harmony here?

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  • And the real eyesore is the lack of creativity in the treatment of the touchscreen / infotainment.Acres of piano-black plastic, surrounding a very aftermarket-looking touchscreen..

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There’s a wealth of competition out there who have worked through the opportunities that touchscreens can afford their interior designers, and have explored different layouts of screen that give a sense of space, clarity, minimalism even. Mazda’s 2 being a great example;

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or Peugeot’s 208;

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Compare these to the Toyota Corolla which seems to be from the same mold as the Honda;

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..and again we have that after-market screen appearance combined with shiny black plastic.

My assumption is that between Honda’s compact cars; HR-V, Jazz, Civic, CR-V etc. there is a bunch of cross-platform commonisation that requires this touchscreen to be used across all models. Fair enough, it’s a tough business to make money in, but Honda, you can’t afford not to push interior design to keep track of the competiton. It’s odd – in the Japanese domestic market there are some incredibly innovative design solutions that the OEMs develop for their home markets. Yet, when it comes to the international market, many of those same companies seem to be unsure about their design identity, and revert to a fairly characterless design language. Mazda have addressed this successfully; Honda need to join them.

Car Napping – Bestellt, geklaut, geliefert

Which means ordered – stolen – delivered, apparently.

Whilst doing some research (the kind that involves having an unlimited budget for classic cars..) I came across a 1985 Porsche 911 targa for sale. No big deal you might say, but this one had a set of decals on it that looked both ridiculous and yet fantastic at the same time…

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It turns out that this is a recreation of a 1978 car developed by renowned German tuner/innovator bb (designed by Rainer Buchman) for the 1980 film ‘Car-Napping’.

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A film I’ve never seen, let alone heard of. Brought up on a diet of Knight-Rider, Gumball Rally, and Dukes of Hazard, Car-Napping was described as a cult crime caper…the trailer could do with some added tension, but the ingredients are there;

bb has some pretty impressive heritage…not only were they a tuner of German cars and bikes in the 70s and 80s, they also developed various innovations for future car-interiors, namely steering-wheel mounted controls (patented in 1984) described as; “channeling attractive design and innovative technology (6 control buttons for up to 32 functions)”

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Alongside various technologies such as remote-control central-locking and parking sensors (no interesting pictures exist of this technology..)

Their vision for the future of motorcycling is both surprisingly contemporary and predictably sexist. But we’re dealing with a different era, so context is all..

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What is interesting is the focus that these smaller design consultancies had, in an era where electronics were just starting to become a part of our everyday lives. The complete flip to fully digital instrumentation was something that was experimented with by a number of these tuners, being an indicator of high-technology, and some OEMs flirted with their introduction too. But they were roundly criticised for being illegible, confusing, and distracting. And even now we’re really only seemingly happy with having electronics obviously visible in our cars in a familiar format – which today just happens to be a centrally-mounted screen.

bb‘s vision in the early 80s showed a certain foresight in that it moved as much as possible up into the sight-line, got rid of the ancient technology of wiper and lighting stalks, and made some ground in ergonomic clarity. (This is all relative – by todays standards this looks incredibly complex)

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So thanks Rainer, for having some real vision. And great taste in graphics.

Welcome back, Alfa

As a car nut, the arrival of any new Alfa-Romeo is cause for a minor celebration. A celebration tinged with concerned expectation…for Alfa have been treading a fine line between making characterful cars that make no money, and incredibly crappy cars that no-one wants to buy (I’m looking at you, Mito), for seemingly 20 years now.

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This new car, the Giulia, ticks some of the right boxes. It’s rear-wheel-drive. And it’s got a bespoke Ferrari breathed-on engine (at least in the top-spec Quadrofoglio version released yesterday). There is a hint of 3-series about the DLO though, and from the rear I see some Lexus genes. Probably those strange stacked exhausts, that look a little to Lexus F to me. Yet there are thankfully also some references to the 156, Alfa’s last decent car in my opinion.

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Things have moved on since the 164 Cloverleaf, the grand-daddy of the big powerful Alfa sedan. Most apparent, is the impact that lighting technology improvements have made on the design opportunities for the cars front-face. What was once a relatively simple feature, blended into the bonnet surfacing, has now become a focal point, sweeping from the upper grille through to the front wheel, and in many cases, beyond.

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The big gamble with the Giulia is the market positioning. Are people prepared to pay £50K for a new Alfa? Closest in spirit to Jaguar’s new XE, the Giulia has to succeed. If it doesn’t sell in volume Alfa may be another footnote in the history books of great cars that once were.

 

Coventry Degree Show 2015 – Part 1

Having been to many degree shows over the years, it’s been fascinating to see the process of preparing for the show from the other side. The last week before the opening Industry night saw the students putting in hard-core hours; painting, rendering, tweaking and refining. All good prep for a life in the industry!

Here are some of the highlights;


Audi 2+1

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Range-Rover Hunter

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Abarth Spyder

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Jaguar XL-O

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Perception

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Audi Autonomous

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Smart fortrack

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Opel – reverse the damage
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