Re-engagement with a previous (and prescient) concept leads us to speculate on Kia’s latest Frankfurt show offering.
When KIA announced the Novo concept at the 2015 Seoul motor show, it passed without much by way of comment in the mainstream press – although Driven to Write’s resident design critic did give it the benefit of his gimlet eye. At the time, Kia appeared to suggest that the Novo’s styling would influence its forthcoming compact car line-up, a statement nobody took very seriously at the time.
In fact, I quickly forgot all about the Novo, only rediscovering it by accident this week while doing a little backroom tidying. It remains a very nicely resolved piece of styling of course, but the striking thing (and you’re probably well ahead of me here) is that Kia were true to their word. Because we have seen the Novo faithfully translated into production form, not as a compact car, but as the recently announced, top of the range Stinger.
But I was struck by another factor, one which inverts the conventional concept-to-production narrative. Normally, one would expect the concept to display, in addition all the habitual showcar fripperies, showcar proportions, which would then be chopped and compromised to death by production engineers in the tortuous route to market. In extreme cases, a concept will be shown with rear-drive, only for the production version to be shoehorned onto a front-drive platform – Alfa Romeo’s Brera being a particularly painful example of this.
However, the Novo was based on a front-drive C-segment platform to begin with , and given the difficulty in lending a front-drive car the visually ideal scuttle/front axle ratio, Kia’s stylists did a fine job. But for the Stinger, not only did they opt for a larger footprint entirely, Kia elected to put it on a rear-drive platform and in doing so created one of the best looking cars in current production.
Which takes us neatly to the latest (and really rather accomplished looking) concept from Kia, the forthcoming Proceed, said to forecast the next generation C-segment offering. Styled as a shooting brake style estate, this concept is on the face of things a piece of speculative fancy, but on the basis of the Novo/Stinger, who now would bet against Kia actually producing a car not fantastically dissimilar?
Under the stylistic leadership of Peter Schreyer, Kia’s ascent in design terms has been remarkable. And while there have been a number of mis-steps of late, cars like the Stinger demonstrate not only the styling talent within Schreyer’s team, but also the managerial courage to allow these designs see fruition.
I do wish the wider industry (and especially the so-called premium marques) would wake up to the notion that it’s still possible to design attractive looking motor cars. But meanwhile, we can at least acknowledge good design where we see it.