Painting the town red with KIA
Just the other day I came across a rather surprising commercial on the telly; a bunch of ballerinas hanging out with random football players in a room with a tiger yawning and a hummingbird performing aerial acrobatics. Adding to the randomness of it all, there was also an astronaut, some fireflies, Felix the Cat and a bizarre slinky spring. But just when things started to slip into the surreal, all of them disappear in a cloud of smoke and through it emerges the beautiful Kia Stinger in its sexy California Red paint job. And that’s when Kia Motor India’s TVC made perfect sense.
Ballerinas represent style and elegance. Footballers are all about control, agility and skill. Astronauts are associated with technology and innovation. Hummingbirds are known for their aerial stability, balance and speed. Felix the anthropomorphic cat is known for its creativity and youthfulness. And the tiger? Well, all Kia cars sport the Tiger Nose grille and the striped apex predator is also a symbol of power. The slinky spring too was a representation of playfulness and science.
This isn’t a cartoon story for your 6-year-old here. Even though Kia’s design inspirations are far from conventional, their creations have impressed experts from across the globe. It has led the brand and Kia is a recipient of multiple design awards. In the last issue, we decoded Kia’s core design philosophies and saw how the global design studios are contributing to the brand’s success. This month we’re going to see how these elements and inspirations of Kia Design are incorporated into their cars.
Let’s take the latest generation of the Soul urban crossover, that the editor drove in Seoul recently, as an example to highlight the fine exteriors of a typical modern-day Kia. The new Soul’s Tiger Nose grille isn’t as evident as it is in other Kia cars where the grille sits between the bumper and the bonnet, while strong chrome lines form the famous shape. In the new Soul, the hexagonal radiator grille is embedded within the bumper and two extremely thin Tiger Nose-shaped panels are placed above and below the grille. One has to really observe closely to notice this subtle yet significant design cue. Even though the Soul’s proportions are tall boy-ish, attention to finer details make it very attractive. After all, it kickstarted Kia’s winning streak at the Red Dot Design Awards in 2009 and even today it remains a desirable car in the global markets.
There can be no better example than the Stinger, the first Kia car to sport the marque’s new design language that was conceived by designers acknowledged to be at the top of the game in the automotive world. Everybody went gaga over its exterior design, but did the interiors impress as well? Very much! Hints of Tiger Nose are carried over to the inside as well. A thin silver strip borderlines the dash all the way up to the steering column in the same flowing manner of the exterior grille. It’s another subtle element that showcases brand value. Similar silver strips flow through the door panels and above the door handles as well, reminding us of the ‘Simplicity of a straight line’ philosophy which is one of the main elements of Kia Design. The turbo-fan shaped air-con vents and the large touchscreen in the centre are just multiple cherries on top of the cake.
Design and performance
As there’s still some time for the India-specific mid-size SUV to be revealed, let’s take a look at another Kia SUV. When it comes to SUVs, a Kia wouldn’t strike instantly, but the biggies from US and Japan surely would. But the Sportage has muscled up against them and to supplement its sex appeal, offers some great oomph as well. In the global markets, its top-of-the-line variant is propelled by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine that makes 240hp and 260lb ft of torque. It’s combined with an intelligent AWD drivetrain that uses electronic sensors for power distribution. Driver-activated low-speed traction too helps in slippery conditions on poor roads. Focus on design clearly doesn’t compromise technology and engineering.
The Stinger, on the other hand, masters aerodynamics. It sports some functional adornments like the front air curtain, wheel arch gills and integrated rear diffuser that boosts its performance. They play a key role in ensuring high-speed stability. The low rooﬂine and fastback silhouette are enhanced by the chrome accent line that runs from the A-pillar to the base of the rear screen. When you look at it in profile you don’t notice the coke-bottle waist, but from the rear you see the car has proper hips. Kia has made sure that their flagship isn’t just about outright power and hard-edged dynamics but also about luxury, comfort and grace as the GT’s cabin quality and pliant ride is up there with the German rivals.
Globally, Kia has gone from being just a bargain to a challenger. In India, buying a Kia won’t merely be a rational decision, but also an emotional one, because a good looking car isn’t a need — it’s a want. But don’t be mistaken, Kia cars aren’t just designers’ indulgences; they also have strong purpose to them. And Kia’s Indian journey is set to carry the trend forward, first with the mid-sized SUV and later with international bestsellers coming in every six months. And that Kia TVC? That has garnered more than 200 million views in India. 200 million! If you stumble across it while switching channels, don’t ignore it, for there is a whole lot of meaning behind it. And you never know, it might even inspire you to buy a Kia in the future.