I haven't ridden VP's bikes but I have seen one. I agree it's a BSO but as to this putting people off cycling, I think it depends where you're coming from. If you're coming down to one from, let us say a Sabbath
, you'll certainly find it horrible. If you're coming up to it from nothing or from a rusting hulk you had as a teenager, you'll find it great. Bikes are much better made, even at the bottom end, now then they were in the past, thanks to alloy rims, V-brakes, light aluminium frames, etc. But if you're switching to a VP from something like a bottom of the range Spesh or Trek hybrid because you like the pastel pink and baby blue, you might well want to switch back again. Or wish major manufacturers made something more 'feminine'.
It would be curious to take a load of bikes belonging to equal numbers of men and women, photograph them, and see whether 'experienced cyclists' (that's YACF!) can tell which ones belong to who.