Let’s go back to 1999 right now. We will refresh our memories about the Isuzu KAI.
Isuzu ran a concept design studio in the UK, led by designer Simon Cox. Among the products of the studio was the Vehi-Cross (1997-2001). For the Kai Isuzu used very different form language, though one in keeping with the geometrical themes manifest most obviously in the Mk1 Ford Focus. If the surfacing and detailing are very 1999, the package is very now. Think of the BMW GT5 or Mercedes GLC. There is an arcing roofline and a raised chassis. It’s a hatchback on stilts in very simple terms.
Technicalesque describes the detailing such as the delicate panels on the front bumper, the neatly inset lamps and the way the leading edge of the front door seems to form the trailing edge of the front wheel arch cut-out.
And at the rear, the trailing edge of the door has the same relationship to the wheel arch. The result is to eliminate the non-moving sheet metal areas that usually sit between the door apertures and the wheel-arch. It’s extremely Modernist in its character. An interesting point is the way the arch of the roof flows down to meet the large rear lamp. There was perhaps a slight loss of nerve here as there remains a small neck of sheet metal between the bodyside and the roof arch. That could have been eliminated with the lamp concealing the weld.
The 2000 Koleos, another of Renault’s wasted concept cars, allows the roof arch to rest upon a fine point where the side glass and rear screen almost meet. The point forms the intersection of two arcs, seemingly mirrored along the base of the DLO. Did Renault learn a little from the detail of the Kai?
Only two elements on the Kai look decorative: the small flares of the wheel arches. They may very well have some relief to them but they are quite shallow. If they are geometric they don’t look it but there is a faint commonality of form with the blunt curve of the bonnet line. Note though that the window to bonnet line angle is quite sharp, with the A-pillar stopping well back from the front wheel whereas Renault went for a more cab-forward look: Renault, after all, are kings of the monospace.
I don’t know why carstyling.ru has the only images of the Kai interior but I don’t feel like linking to their site. Instead we have to make do with this:
The interior is not the best part of the car: it’s got too many small pieces and lacks the robustness of the exterior. What seemed acceptable on the outside looks fragile and disorganised on the inside.
This and a few other concept cars were a late flowering of Isuzu, an attempt to redefine their passenger cars. It didn’t pay off as gradually after 2000 Isuzu discontinued their cars to concentrate on busses and vans. If only they’d had hung about they could have taken advantage of the CUV trend which they were well positioned to exploit.