Explained: the VW Group's MQB platform
It's highly complex, incredibly clever and previews future car production. Time to swot up with Paul Horrell
Posted: 21 Mar 2014
But amid all that difference, there will be constancy. Certain dimensions are fixed, including the critical one between the pedal box and the front-wheel centre line – and, once that’s set, many engine-bay dimensions follow along. Which is why the engines all have certain physical sizes and mounts too, and the crash protection beams. This stuff is among the most expensive portions of a car to develop and the production line also has to be built around it. Standardising it saves fortunes and allows the plants to build whatever demand dictates. The steel platform can be built in a range of wheelbases and there are various levels of suspension system, several suites of driver aids, different levels of entertainment/navigation. The important fact is they all use common physical mounting points and electrical architecture.
That sounds like abstract industry talk, but when you drive these four cars, you get to feel how each set of designers, engineers and marketers has elected to shape, set up and spec their car to be congruent with what they want their brand to be.
Don’t expect drastic differences, mind. The constraints of the format inevitably impose themselves. The mid-size five-door hatch is one of the most rigid templates in motordom. It’s no surprise these MQB machines aren’t so very different from each other or from the Ford Focus, new Peugeot 308 or Mazda3. Frankly, you could add anything from an Alfa Giulietta via a Mercedes-Benz A-Class to a Hyundai i30 to the mix too, and you wouldn’t be straying far off this well-trodden path.
All these four cars use the excellently quiet and responsive 184bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine, FWD, the 6spd manual gearbox and have five doors. The VW, Skoda and Seat are the diesel hottish-hatch versions on sports wheels and suspension. But because an Audi configurator has more tick boxes than a US visa application form, we actually ended up with something slightly different from Ingolstadt. The A3 here is a sport spec but with the no-cost option of the softer standard suspension. It’d have been more like the others if it were an S line.