2010 Volkswagen New Compact Coupe Concept Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Walking around the Volkswagen stand at the Geneva auto show last year had me in mixed emotions. First and foremost I fell in love with the brand's new look, a subtle yet effective update to thoroughly familiar VW design cues, improving on existing models, like the new Golf family I had yet to see up close and personal, and the Polo, a car that Volkswagen took me to see despite it not being offered for sale here in Canada.

That last point was the cause of my mixed emotions. How could a car as good as the new Polo not be made available here in Canada, where we snap up subcompact models like tapas at a fiesta? Hmmm… maybe that particular bit of Spanish isn't in the best taste, being that VW rival Ford plans on dominating the B-segment with a car of the same name that also hails from Europe, a realization that no doubt had VW's own Canadian staffers feeling the same mixed emotions that were plaguing my thoughts, if not worse. And what about the Scirocco?

Well, that racy little number probably didn't cause quite as much frustration as the Polo, simply because VW Canada already offers the Golf GTI and the Scirocco merely targets the same market with a different twist on styling and packaging, much like it did in its original mid-'70s form. What's more, such VW insiders might have also been privy to the car on these pages today, the NCC, or New Compact Coupe.

Yes, based on the Jetta architecture, the NCC is an altogether different take on personal mobile expression, and one I must admit that probably has a better chance for success on these shores than the Scirocco. The NCC is more conservative, for sure, but its classic proportions will appeal to a more mature buyer that may not have the bucks for an Audi.

Actually, there are four-ring styling cues all over the place, from the R8-like LED marker lights and turn signals outlining the complex Bi-Xenon headlight clusters to the elegantly shaped LED taillights, looking more A5 than anything Volkswagen has produced before. It's all in the family, of course, although Ingolstadt may have something to say about that. Still, the NCC would be a classy addition to VW's compact lineup, a model likely to be named Jetta Coupe if and when it debuts in production trim.

"Styling of a coupe is considered the ultimate in automotive design," commented Klaus Bischoff, Chief Designer for the Volkswagen Brand. "Our team has achieved a symbiosis of efficient technologies and elegance in the New Compact Coupe that is unique in its expression. Just a few precisely placed lines and powerfully sculpted surfaces have created a timeless dynamic and purist elegance that is typical of Volkswagen."

Of course, this two-door model's sleek shape speaks well for the future Jetta sedan's duds, and its drivetrain might be better suited to the four-door model too, despite it's sporting pretensions. Yes, the Touareg Hybrid will be Volkswagen's first foray into the mainstream HEV world, but just to pique our curiosity VW added a full-hybrid-electric powertrain to the NCC, the word "full" stating its capability of running on electric power only, with a leaning towards moderate performance equaling 8.6 seconds to 100 km/h and 227km/h (141 mph) top speed, rather than merely fuel economy. The NCC uses one of my favourite engines as its main ICE power source, the 1.4-litre TSI four-cylinder that I first drove through Hungary on the Tiguan launch a few of years ago, this one complete with 148hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, mated to a 20-kW electric motor that also butts up against a seven-speed DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox), VW's wonderful dual-clutch sequential "manual" automatic. Yes, no Continuously Variable Transmission, the norm for hybrids, means that the NCC should shift with immediacy without loss of the comparatively lazy feeling transmission's efficiency gains. The engine powers the drive wheels and charges the 1.1 kilowatt-per-hour lithium ion battery pack housed in the rear, which in-turn powers the drive wheels while providing energy for the electrical systems.  Like with most hybrids, a regenerative braking system reclaims otherwise lost kinetic energy and adds to the battery's storage to reduce the ICE's load and thus conserve fuel.

I remember a dark summer night of shifting my girlfriend's old Jeep into neutral on downward grades to eke a few more drops of fuel out of its near-empty tank on the way through the Rockies, and by some miracle making it to a gas station in Banff, this so-called "coast-down" method part of a process called hypermiling now, but the NCC does this automatically. At highway or city speeds, the transmission will decouple from the engine when coasting, obviously reducing fuel usage, and when it comes to standstill, a start-stop system comes into effect, shutting the engine down automatically as in Volkswagen's other BlueMotion models. Smart, and helping the sporty new VeeDub to achieve a stellar 4.2L/100km (56 US mpg) based on EPA testing procedures, along with 98 g/km of C02.

Like every Volkswagen, the interior has been designed to let its occupants feel like they're living the high life. The New Compact Coupe features light "Berry White" leather on the seats, while the lighter colour is also applied to the lower cabin area, complemented by a darker "Grigio Quartz" shade above the belt and on the leather-wrapped multifunction sport steering wheel.

Framed by that wheel, Volkswagen says the NCC's "instruments are laid out ideally," with classic Volkswagen circular dials featuring chrome bezels surrounding a multifunction digital display at centre, just like with all production VWs, while all ancillary switchgear is ergonomically designed to be in easy reach with good visibility to the driver. A unique design treatment, Volkswagen has surrounded each grouping of controls with bright metal, the topmost on the centre stack being a set of attractive vents bookending the hazard button, while just below these an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen accessing the audio, navigation and backup camera system. At the bottom of the stack rests a fully automatic climate control system VW continues to dub Climatronic. And the aforementioned metal trim doesn't just surround instruments on the centre stack, but also the air vents at each corner, the multifunction keys on the steering wheel, the DSG shifter on the lower console, window switches and mirror toggle on the door panels, while the door panels and dash trim get horizontal highlights in the same tone. It looks fabulous and pushes the VW brand further upscale, where it's already rubbing shoulders with the likes of BMW and Volvo, let alone Audi.

As with other coupe models, VW has arranged the rear seats for individual comfort by creating twin buckets separated by a centre console rather than a flat bench that could otherwise seat three abreast. That console features storage space and cupholders, of course, plus switchgear for the rear climate control system. And it looks comfortable back there too.

Volkswagen upped the current Jetta's interior spaciousness beyond compact to midsize levels, and it appears that this NCC model stretches cabin proportions even further with what the German brand calls "ample" legroom and headroom front and rear, the latter a welcome addition considering its steeply raked rear glass and overall low body height. To be specific, the New Compact Coupe gets some of its roominess from a 3-inch extension in wheelbase over the current Jetta sedan, equaling 2.65 meters (104.4 inches) compared to 2.58 meters (101.5 inches). The new coupe's overall length is 4.54 meters (178.5 inches) and width 1.78 meters (70.1 inches), while it sits 1.41 meter (55.6 inches) tall. Track widths equal 1.53 meters (61.2 inches) up front and 1.54 meters (61.4 inches) in the rear, for a nice wide stance.

Its 380-litre (13.4 cubic-foot) trunk isn't bad for a coupe and I suppose is pretty good for the compact class, although the current Jetta sedan's trunk is gargantuan at 527 litres (16.0 cubic feet), so we'll just have to see how close to production the NCC is and, if truly a soft launch of a two-door Jetta, whether the trunk height of this coupe model will reflect the lines of the new sedan too. Yes, sometimes a tradeoff needs to be made for styling purposes, but it would be difficult for current Jetta customers to loose that much stowage space from one generation to the next. 

From its beautiful 19-inch "Lugano" type alloy wheels to its long, lean lines above, the New Compact Coupe is another stylistic triumph from Volkswagen. It doesn't exactly break new ground, but more importantly it will be immediately accepted as beautiful by mainstream buyers, and likely become the peoples' A5, an affordable example of personal expression. Let's hope this two-door tease is more than just a concept and that a two-door model once again joins Jetta family, a sight we haven't see since the second-generation Jetta made way for the following model some 20 years ago. Keep your fingers crossed.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Coupe, Volkswagen, VW, 2010, New Compact Coupe Concept, NCC,

Organizations: Volkswagen, NCC

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