As Orange Tip Flutters To Garlic Mustard

It’s high time I turned your attention to some design details: K is for Kia.

All images: The author

For this post I will be trying to persuade you to consider the merits of the photo essay. The car is the 2022 Kia EV6, winner of the COTY 2022 award, but introduced in 2021. I saw my first one on the road in late November 2021, in Norway. The striking design of the rear lights have the boldness of a concept car. If Citroën had some of the courage of their 70s and 80s heyday, they would be making electric cars that look like this.

Kia EV6

Lee Hyo-Sung and Choi Hong-Seok get the credit for the shape, produced under the guidance of Peter Schreyer who has transformed the quality of Kia and Hyundai’s design. It’s a large thing though. 4.6 metres long and 1.5 metres high with a weight of a minimum of 1800 kg. A Citroën CX had the same length weighed half a tonne less.

On the performance and mechanical side, the EV6 moves to sixty in just under 4 seconds; its motor is a permanent magnet synchronous reluctance motor. It comes in rear-motor and dual motor formats. The nickel-cobalt-magnesium-lithium battery can drag it up to 510 km. The boot is an okay 520 litres. So that is the quantitative side of the car.

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But the vehicle’s shape has the job of relating all this to the driver in an emotionally and intellectually meaningful way, which it does. The detail that stands out for me is a small one – the tailoring. You will notice in the slide show how the side glass and header-to-windscreen don’t line up when seen dead on but they do from almost any normal view. That is tailoring. I don’t think those lines can be forced to align from all views without a weird bend – so they nudged it so it seems right from most views.

Graphics and geometry controlled well

Then there is the military discipline of the graphics around the recharging flap and and rear lights, perfectly controlled.

Is it organic or geometric?

Overall, the form is neither organic or geometric, rather a subtle blend of the two that demonstrates remarkable finesse. This is all over the car – the bumper to wing (front) is linked to the wide, slim headlamps; it is reflected in the sill brightwork that carries up to the thrilling full width rear lamps that, at night, are unmistakeable. Again, the designers have played with the formal aspects of the shape, bridging graphics, construction and function. It seems so obvious when you see it but nobody thought of it before now.

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As Stephen Bayley said of the aluminium A8, I can’t wait to see what they do next. You must wonder what they are thinking at Citroën, don’t you?

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

42 thoughts on “As Orange Tip Flutters To Garlic Mustard”

  1. This is one of the few vehicles where I am not impressed upon and I seem to be firmly in the minority; a widely acknowledged, well regarded exercise in style that simply put is not to my aesthetic taste whatsoever. It should tick all the right boxes because it is admittedly “well done”, if such a thing can be qualified, and try as I might I cannot wrap my head around what I’m apparently not seeing. The 1962 Avanti, for example, is another vehicle that challenges my understanding of well done if further context is necessary to understand what I self acknowledge as an apparent failing.

    I’ve seen these more than several times in the metal now, and while I understand electrification allows for further blurring of well defined segmentation that exists within ICE propelled vehicles, this one reads to me too much like a hybrid of hot hatch crossover that leans too hard into the hot hatch aspect and as such still has what I’d describe as economy car undertones and not Our Performance Flagship presence. I’m not particularly sold on how unique it is either, details aside, because it reminds of the short lived WiLL (Toyota) VS from 20 odd years prior.

    Maybe that’s part of my problem? I don’t find the WiLL as challenging, however…

    1. You’re not alone – I can’t ‘see’ it – I don’t understand the design. It looks heavy and bland, yet messy, to me. That silver trim looks like accident damage.

    2. Having seen a number of these in the metal, I’m in the ‘no’ camp too. The design undoubtedly has positive qualities but, for me, doesn’t come together as a whole. Its Hyundai sibling on the other hand, though undoubtedly oversized, looks great on the road.

  2. Good morning Richard. Overall the EV6 has a good shape. It’s too high for my liking, 10 centimeters or so, but I understand you want useable space inside the car and the batteries have to go somewhere.

    On the exterior the C pillar bothers me. There is just a little too much going on between the metal part, little window in the body and the window frame of the rear door. I strongly dislike frames and added triangles that make the window retract fully in the door. It’s not a particular criticism of the EV6, almost all modern cars are affected by it. I understand why it is there, but I like a clean shape.

    The charge port is a failure for me as well. I like the idea, but how much nicer would it have been if there hadn’t been a shut line and the panel of the charge port actually met the rear light. The charge port would be fully concealed. Maybe not desirable from a first time user perspective, but if you use it once, you’ll know.

    That bit of brightwork running on the side doesn’t fit well with the mat black part. I understand why they are there, but it’s just a bit fussy.

    Another small detail is that black plastic or rubber part next to the charge port. What is it? does it hide some kind of sensor? It’s on the other side as well. If it’s a sensor wouldn’t it be possible to integrate it within the rear light cluster? Just wondering.

    1. I wonder if what looks like a piece of rubber, in the corner, is actually a reversing light. It’s hard to see / tell what it is, but it appears to have a textured effect, like the (other) lights.

  3. Technical data look identical to the Hyundai Ioniq 5.
    I’d take the Hyundai because of its calmer looks except for the silly kink in the door skins. Both designs show the difficulty of hiding the excessive height caused by the batteries in the floor.

    1. I really want to like the Ioniq 6, and, largely I do. I want to like it because it’s a brave attempt at a different answer to what an EV should look like. Like the Ioniq 5, it all goes a but wrong below the bumper line – if that was cleaned up, oh, and the headlamps were more appropriate to the rest of the design, I think it could be qualified as a success. Of course, I have not seen one in the metal yet, so probably should be reserving judgement until then.

      I think I admire the EV6, but don’t love it, especially around the rear pillar, spoiler around the top of the rear window, and the DRL graphics in the headlamps too. Of the two, I prefer the Ioniq 5, especially if it could adopt Bristowfuller’s Number 2’s changes.

  4. Good morning and thanks for a wonderful article, Richard. The Kia and Hyundai come across as front runners in contemporary car design (or is it styling?) however in my eyes the resultant is equally ambivalent as with e.g. the last Lancia Delta: you want to like them but something holds you back in actually wanting them sitting on your front lawn (if you have any, that is…). Thanks, good reflection on what Kia brought us here.

  5. I too am impressed with the EV6, my only criticisms being the flush door handles, the lack of an ICE, and the fact that the wide-angle lens you used to capture it doesn’t really do it justice.

    1. My camera is dreadful. Five years of greyish images plus a lens scratch like miniature Torvills and Deans had been trying to improve their rinksmanship on it.

  6. Like Dave, Initially I too preferred the Ioniq 5. I don’t even mind the side graphics, partly because ubiquity means it’s now useless for me continuing to rail about them, but also because unlike so many useless creases, the Hyundai’s actually starts and ends from a point, rather that just getting bored and fading away. But in the metal, or in this case more specifically plastic, the lower detailing is horrible, particularly the flimsy looking ‘rear diffuser’ and the fussy trim at the bottom of the doors (presumably there to make them look less high, but at what a cost). And I won’t even start on the wheelarches.

    I’ve gone entirely of topic because we should be discussing its EV6 relation, which admittedly has far nicer detailing. Yet unlike the Hyundai, the KIA’s overall shape follows the current convention, sloping rear roofline and prison cell rear windows, so it too ultimately disappoints me. Yet I certainly agree with Richard that the work of Schreyer’s teams generally put the products of the European makers to shame, especially Citroen who seem to be trying to do the same sort of thing, but with a paper bag over their collective heads.

  7. Good morning Richard. The EV6 is indeed a bold design but, for me, it would need some refinement in the details to make it great. I second Freerk’s criticisms: the bright strip at the base of the doors appears completely unrelated to the black cladding beneath it, to the extent that it looks like it is coming adrift at both ends. It is a shame the charging point flap doesn’t completely fill the space between the tailgate and rear light, eliminating the shut-line around it. The transition issue at the top of the A-pillar could have been ‘designed out’ by putting more horizontal curvature into the pillar, so that it met the windscreen in the same plane as the latter.

    One of the last photos I took before leaving the UK last November was of an EV6 at night, capturing that distinctive tail light signature:

    Likewise, the Ioniq 5 is just a couple of refinements away from greatness as a design: lose the diagonal crease in the doors and wheel arch ‘eye lashes’ and it’s there.

  8. Regarding the Ioniq5, to risk repeating the exercise of a few months ago with the Grandeur, I feel that although I’m against useless creases in general, it is possibly a necessary quirk to stop the Ioniq becoming too bland.

    1. Original
    2. Losing crease and nasty trim panels and wheelarches
    3. As 2, but retaining crease

    1. I just tried an experiment with a side view picture of the Ioniq 5.
      I cut a horizontal slice out of it of the thicknes of the silly half moon trim around the wheelarch.
      When the car is lowered by those five or six centimetres it looks really good!

      Could it be that Peter Schreyer is the best unknown car designer?

    2. Lowering it is another matter Dave. I think many here might agree that all contemporary cars should be lowered by a minimum of 6cm, by law.

      And yes. Although he seems to always be photographed in the stereotypical Bond villain style favoured by some creatives, I have to set aside my prejudices and confess a great respect for Schreyer’s vision and bravery in committing himself to Kia/Hyundai when they were still viewed by many as a bargain basement brand.

    3. Number 2 for me please, bristowfuller. It’s almost perfect. I would also lose the diagonal bonnet to wing shut-line, extending the horizontal shut-line rearward to the door, using the bodyside crease you have helpfully extended forward to the front wheel arch to hide it.

    4. I’ve aimed for your further changes Daniel, as well as trying to address by own bete noire, asymmetric wheels. I took these off a Genesis – I hope the bricks stay in place and that the owner’s insured. In fact, they are too elaborate for my taste, but at least they’re uniform.

      Personally, I am happy with the real Ioniq’s straight creases. They give it a character that my changes lose. It’s just the fussy detailing I abhor, but that seems obligatory nowadays.

    5. Getting there, but I think the waistline crease now needs straightening! Incidentally, doesn’t the front end look just like Opel / Vauxhall’s current ‘visor’ grille treatment?

    6. Lol – the new Kona. Surely there’s room for another crease or piece of external trim? They’re just not trying hard enough.

    7. What are they thinking at Citroën?

      Chew toy! I am really starting to miss Chris Bangle.

    8. I’m certainly not going to work on the Kona. So much to do – so little processing power. I think I might have been a touch too effusive about Mr Schreyer earlier, and a bit too insulting about Citroen..

    9. Thank you gooddog. That restores the balance. I was right first time.

    10. The Kona isn’t so much jumping the shark ( as cutting up the shark, making a cubist painting of it, then jumping it. Oh well, anyone can slip up and its predecessor wasn’t particularly handsome either so at least they’re consistent.

      For the Ioniq 5: at its actual size, I think I’d prefer option 3. If you shrink the car down to C segment size (which it seems to me to be designed for), your final iteration works very well for me. With simper wheels maybe.

    11. A toy that’s been chewed, yes. It’s got a vertical windscreen. If you push down on the roof, does it shoot plastic missiles or something?

  9. Thanks, Richard. I’d never noticed the brightwork strip low on the side of the car. In the picture, I initially thought it was one of your own highlights. I like the EV6 a lot, though I can agree with most criticisms of it.

    What strikes me with Hyundai and KIA’s current output is that a lot of the details (like the roof line you mention, or that brightwork strip) at first blush really shouldn’t work from a “formal” perspective (if I’m using the term correctly, that is). In a car like the B5 Passat, every detail – to me – seems to strengthen the overall impression of the design: solid and “Bauhaus”. On Hyundai/KIA’s output, particularly the EV6 and Ioniqs, the details jar at first blush, but mesh together eventually. More or less. The result is thrilling to me, though I think the EV6 and Ioniq 5 are too large for the kind of design they try to convey.

    I haven’t seen an Ioniq 6 in the metal yet (I think), so I don’t know if I feel the same way about that car. In an interview with the designer I saw somewhere (but cannot find now) he stated that part of the design is meant to conceal the height, so that might let it down when seeing the real thing, much like the Ioniq 5’s size lets it down for me. Emotionally I resonate most strongly with the Ioniq 6, though. Perhaps because of the streamliner vibe.

    Mazda employ a more organic version of the Ioniq 5’s side crease on their designs as well. I’m in two minds about it, I must confess. I suppose it’s meant to break the huge slab of metal that is inherent in an SUV design.

  10. The Kia’s styling leaves me cold, no matter how well-executed it may be (to another designer in any event). It’s just another slightly blobby car, and the front-end styling is particularly anodyne.

    The Hyundai seems more coherent and interesting to me, creases and all. The front and rear light signatures mean that at night it can’t be mistaken for any other car. It’s modern, but with a nod back to the 1980s. Sadly, the Kia’s appearance verges on dull.

    Having said all that, I probably wouldn’t buy either!

  11. The Ionic 5 seems to be popular here in Ireland, judging by the number I’ve seen around Cork recently. Hyundai occupied the no.2 slot in terms 2022 sales here, second to Toyota, although the company’s Tuscon crossover is the top selling car overall.

    1. The EV6 seems to be equally popular in Kerry, despite not having been on sale as long as the 5. I haven’t seen an Ionic 6 yet, but I don’t particularly want to….

    2. Yes, I agree with zhe description about Ioniq 5.
      In the pictures it looks good but in metal it is just too big.
      Size matters, not only design.
      You can not simply zoom in or out a good 3D design and retain the same outcome. Proportions are size related
      I think it is Richard who first made me aware of this.
      I only saw Kia once. A very impressive presence in the road.
      Sometimes to decide if a car design is good, i wait to see 2 same cars inline at traffic.
      If they look good one after another then i say OK.
      I must wait a bit about the EV6 I suppose.

  12. The EV6 looks much, much better in this video. The featured car has less chrome and a colour that I think suits it better. It’s quite SAAB-like, from some angles, especially the roof and window design. I still think it’s a bit much, though – it’s not a very friendly design, somehow.

  13. There was a comment on another article at DTW that the EV6 was inspired by the Lancia Stratos according to its designers.
    I don’t know what you have to take to come up with such a statement, but whatever it is, it can’t possibly be legal.

    It’s an entirely-ok design at first glance – especially in the context of the current offerings from the usual competitors.
    But look at the details and it’s rather la-la.

    There’s obviously no getting around the door-handles-of-death that are now commonplace. Have fun with it if the worst comes to the worst.

    As already noted by Freerk and Daniel, the charge port is sloppy and should fill the entire area.

    The silver bar on the lower side is quite nicely continued from the front, but doesn’t continue at the rear, instead becoming light units. Even if the line is right, the material is not.
    Furthermore, this silver bar runs into the black wheel arch.
    The less said about the black bar above the silver bar the better. What were they thinking, if they were thinking anything?

    How the black plastic part next to the charge port – already negatively noted by Freerk – made it to series production will probably remain a mystery forever. The only explanation is illegal substances that have already given rise to the word “Stratos”.

    The rather grotesque upper headlamp surround and the way it runs into the front wheel arch and ends there is also terrible. It forces Dracula behaviour, only approaching the vehicle in the dark, never in daylight.

    But I’m not the target group in terms of vehicle size and price anyway., so it doesn’t matter what I think….

    1. I think you’ve expressed very clearly a lot of what makes me uneasy about the design.

      I also think there’s a wider issue in that the battery technology as it stands today means that these cars are going to be more or less hippos until we get smaller, lighter batteries. No amount of lipstick or distracting graphics is going to fix the problem in the meantime.

      I had an additional semi-related thought about concept cars: they need to stop doing them and get on with some serious design work. It’s not as if there aren’t any problems which need to be solved.

  14. Nice article, the hint to Citroën is appropriate. To my eyes, the EV6 has its roots from the CXexperience and it is a shame, Citroën (or Stellantis) has not the courage to realize the brilliant design-concept of the CXperience with the C5X, which is now nothing but a bigger Citroen C4.

    I loved the first pictures of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 too, but it is a shocking fat car in metal. The size is a killer for this kind of compact car design – same problem as the ID3.

    1. “…but it is a shocking fat car in metal”. That made me laugh. Yes. It is a bit portly. I really like that phrasing. The CXperience is two cars, one in front of the A-pillar and another one aft. Neither is all that good. Together it blends like a bowl of muesli and oxtail soup.

  15. Isn’t Kia’s new logo interesting? Apparently when my daughter first noticed it the other day, she thought it was some other alphabet – not Japanese or Chinese characters, definitely not Greek or Cyrillic, too angular to be Hindi script…. 🙂

    1. It definitely would have been Korean then and not Chinese or Japanese. Apparently a lot of people are googling KN cars.

  16. I’m inclined to dissent from the ‘too big for its styling’ view of the Ioniq 5. Reservations expressed above aside, I like the fact that it is quite sparingly and simply detailed for such a large car. We have been conditioned to expect an overload of ornamentation proportional to the size if the vehicle, so the Ioniq 5 is a pleasant surprise in the metal, and a relief to my tired eyes.

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