NAIAS 2018 | Episode 16 : Finale

Wrapping up our visit to the 2018 NAIAS in Detroit we will take a quick look at new products from Hyundai, Kia and SubaruThe quirky Veloster from Hyundai has been freshened for 2018, with an evolved style that is a little more mainstream and a little more “grown up”.  In general we quite liked the new version, although the gaping mouth grille is rather too large for the car as a whole in our opinion.  The asymmetrical three-door format has been retained, but somehow the freshness of the original has been lost along the way.


Kia introduced a new version of its compact Forte sedan.  It is larger than its predecessor and consolidates Kia’s position in this part of the market.  The side view is rather generic, although the small 6th window adds an upscale feel.  The front, however, is quite aggressive for the segment and reinforces a sporty theme for the brand that was signaled by the introduction of the Stinger.  The large, black lower front air intake flanked by the combination fog light and brake duct make quite a statement for this segment.  At the rear, the black deck lid spoiler, the diffuser and the triangular reverse light/air exhausters continue the sporty emphasis.  The aluminum pedals and large left footrest continue the theme on the inside.

Kia also displayed two customized versions of the Stinger.  We particularly liked a blue car modified by West Coat Customs.

Last, but not least, Subaru introduced the Ascent SUV, a vehicle that was shown last year as a concept.  The Ascent is the largest vehicle ever offered by Subaru.  Although it is rather generic in terms of styling and has a “Ford-like” grille, we are sure that Subaru’s avid customer base will welcome its addition to the range.  Remember, Subaru sells almost twice as many vehicles as VW in the US market.

NAIAS 2017 | Episode 13 : KIA

Introduction of the Kia Stinger at the show was an interesting surprise. Having spun the Genesis brand away from Hyundai to go after the premium makes, now the manufacturer pushes Kia in the BMW direction. Kia hired an ex-Audi designer and an ex-BMW dynamics expert to work on the team, so it is clear that they meant business – including testing at the Nurburgring.

As Laurent Boulay told us,” the car is designed by Andreas Sittel and Miklos Kowacks, colour and trim by Barbara Schaeffler, supported by our colleagues in the Namyang Design center. As a small team we are all very proud to write the next steps with this car.” And we can agree on that…Note that the Stinger received the Eye On Design Award for production car design Excellence…

The Stinger is a long low 4-door with aggressive, sporty styling. It is essentially a fastback/ hatchback and the long roof is accentuated by the signature Kia bright trim flowing up the A-Pillar along the roof and all the way down the C-Pillar to the base of the back lite. The ‘dog bone’ grille gives the impression of a snarling animal and the numerous black intakes and vents add to the sporty impression. If it were ours, we would prefer the car in a darker colour to minimize the intrusiveness of all the vents. The rather simplistic extension of the tail lamp into the quarter panel is one jarring element in an otherwise attractive design. The rear headroom is good, in spite of the low roof, but the entry/egress is somewhat difficult. The interior is well executed and suitably Germanic. With 365 hp, the twin turbo 3.3 L V6 should provide more than adequate performance.

NAIAS 2016 | Part IV : The Other brands

Naias 2016-4

Volvo seems to be regaining its footing under Chinese ownership. The acclaimed XC90 SUV has helped drive US sales from 56,000 in 2014 to 70,000 in 2015, so the addition of the all-new S90 sedan should accelerate that volume growth.  The S90 shares a bold front-end theme with its SUV partner, featuring cool headlamps.  The car has a bold “substantial” look that reinforces the Volvo trademark emphasis on safety.  The interior is pleasing and the whole car seems to be well executed.  Whether they can really go it alone in this market and maintain a viable presence remains to be seen.

Kia unveiled the refreshed Forte and Forte5 sedans and hatchbacks.   The designs are competent, but not striking.

The big news on the stand was the Telluride concept.  It is a rather boxy SUV and yet another example of the pillar-less, suicide door fad.  The design was widely acclaimed, but frankly we are not sure why!  The front end is blunt and rather dated and the bodyside heavily sculptured.  The rear view is perhaps the best, clean and simple with sophisticated vertical taillamps accentuating the width.  The Telluride received quite a few votes for best concept at the show – but not from us – especially not in that shade of dark olive green!
Hyundai launched the newest luxury car brand “Genesis” at the show announcing the G90, a Mercedes S-Class sized rear wheel drive sedan, which is be followed by smaller G80 and G70 models and perhaps an SUV. The G90 looks like a serious contender in the class with a full complement of leather and wood on the inside and a dominating exterior.  The grille is a bit too much like an Audi in our opinion, but the strong crease lines on the body side and on the hood flowing up the A-Pillar provide some individual character.
To provide some additional excitement at the Genesis launch, the Vision G Concept was unveiled. This is yet another large two-door coupe, but it is certainly a beautiful car.  A strong bodyside crease flows all the way from the front grille to the tailamp.  A second feature line extends the belt line onto the hood, where it joins two more creases that are continued over the roof.  The rear surfaces are quite complex, but skillfully drawn.   One oddity is the door release handle that is on the quarter panel rather than the door itself.
The interior was luxurious as you might expect, although the instrument panel is rather simplistic. Overall we liked the car (in spite of the fact that several features seem to be “borrowed” from competitor designs) and it would make a great flagship for this new brand.  No doubt that the arrival of Luc Donckerwolke will make Genesis a successful brand.
VL Automotive was founded by Bob Lutz and Gilbert Villareal with a business plan to take incomplete Fisker Karmas (Fisker is now owned by Wanxiang) and replace the hybrid propulsion system with a conventional Corvette powertrain producing the Destino. Of the exterior body panels, only the doors are common with the original Karma.  The Destino is clearly better looking than the already striking Karma – both inside and out.  Even if VL runs out of Karma gliders, there appears to be a good opportunity in converting customer owned Karmas to Corvette power.
It was announced at the show that Henrik Fisker has now joined VL and the company has been renamed VLF Automotive to incorporate his initial. To signal Henrik’s involvement VLF revealed a stunning new design based on the Viper chassis and powertrain called the Force 1 V10.  This car (a prototype) which was built in about 6 weeks, is about 8 inches wider than a Viper.  It uses the Viper rear tyres on the front and even bigger rubber at the rear.  What’s not to like about this monster?  Well not much really, perhaps the funny “wing thing” at the trailing edge of the roof and perhaps the overly small and “squinty” headlamps, but overall we really hope that they are able to produce this baby for some lucky customers.
And so what seemed like a fairly ordinary show in the beginning actually had quite a few gems to keep us excited. The industry remains creative and vibrant, always bringing us back for more.  On to Geneva………….

GENEVA 2015 : Springtime, Showtime – PART II

Part II | After seeing earlier ideas and dreams, Volkswagen returns to the pragmatic with the presentation of the new GTE coupe. A slim profile, with a long roof line that is somehow elusive.  Is this also a hint of what we might expect from the new CC in 2016 ?  The Sport Coupe GTE is completely different from the conceptual design of VW sedans. With the addition of a tailgate, it moves closer to its Audi Sportback cousins (A5 and A7). The front is handled with an unusual and expressive aspect: you will notice the linear LED lights extending into a horizontal grill. The rear is designed with a rather muscular look.  This is new from VW and gets our attention. Apparently this style is a precursor for what will be a new Wolfsburg style direction. The cockpit is close to production level and includes a digital cluster like that on the high end Passat.  4 tactile screens are proposed, one centrally located for infotainment and air conditioning controls, one in the center console between the front seat passengers and two on the backs of the front seats. The trend is not only to take care of the driver, but also to provide as much distraction and enjoyment as possible for the rear seat passengers.
VW also revealed the Alltrack version of the Passat, a 4×4 explorer that uses the most powerful engines available in the new Passat.  Journalists chose this elegant, classic sedan as Car of the Year for 2015 from 7 finalists.  The interior, finished like the best VW production, also embraces the best technology of the mark. Pricing will determine if the new Passat can dominate the traditional middle class European market, but buyers may also see it as an alternative for more premium cars without losing quality and image.
Peugeot and Citroen did not show anything new during this show and for a good reason. It was necessary to leave pride of place for the introduction of the new mark: DS Automotive… On the booth as a first debut for the new brand, the DS5 raised its new grill complete with the new logo front and center.
A big surprise for us was the absence of any major news from BMW. The 1 Series does benefit from an important exterior restyling, with a finer front face similar to other BMW sedans.  The rear lights are now in two parts and less intrusive. In summary, the new Series 1 style will permit this entry to continue the fight at this end of the market.
BMW continues to penetrate the front wheel drive monospace market.  For some of us there was a big surprise, with the new Series 2 Grand Tourer, which offers either 7 seats or more space for 5 people and their luggage. BMW wants to cover the needs of every family.
OPEL has some problems on the European market and knows that it is under close observation from the now healthy General Motors headquarters in US. The flashy mark exposed a new entry-level vehicle (Less than 10,000€) the KARL. A small 5 door destined for the city or as a second car, the KARL is really in the Opel tradition with consensual shapes that should please as many people as possible. The interior is sober, but exudes quality with looking rich materials for this price range. Fit and finish is good and we think the KARL will help OPEL to rebuild the brand in Europe.
KIA pleased us by revealing the Sportspace Concept which is a precurser to its future D-class model. The concept was developed by a European styling department, based in Frankfort, Germany and managed by Frenchman Gregory Guillaume. The team, lead by Laurent Boulay, developed simple lines that are sober and elegant; there is no big flourish, no heavily sculptured approach to the design, just simplicity and elegance underlining the sporty yet functional style of the body. The long, long roof-line is underlined by an aluminum insert running from the base of the A-Pillar to the top of D-Pillar. A large integrated carbon surround panel emphasizes the exhaust outlets. The integrated grille and front lights stretch the apparent width of the car as the assembly wraps the front corners of the vehicle. It gives the car a larger look. So, the Sportspace name is really well suited to the vehicle… sporty and distinguished with an elegant simplicity that works perfectly.
To be continued…


The Koreans have made great strides in the US market, steadily increasing market share and delivering excellent quality products.  Their two-pronged dual brand strategy seems to be working as they relentlessly move up market.  The Hyundai Equus and Kia K900 4 door luxury sedan models are priced in the $62,000 to $67,000 range.  This is pretty rarified air and it remains to be seen if this will be a step to far at this point in the brands’ development.
To add some excitement, Kia introduced the GT4 Stinger concept, a two-seat sport coupe with a somewhat retro look.  The forms were smooth and without a lot of the heavy sculpturing that we have seen on many other concepts.  Most striking is the front end.  The grill is bold and open, with a narrow bright surround featuring a subtle version of the Kia look.  More important, however, are the unique headlamps, cleverly styled into the leading edge of the front fenders.  The lights themselves are made up of 6 horizontal LEDs forming a rectangular block.  This breaks new ground and is like nothing we have seen before.
The bodyside has pronounced wheel arches, but remains simple and elegant.  The wheels were ‘different’, but not to our taste.  At the rear, the back window flows into the glossy black back panel which is contained on each side by bold ‘C’-shaped taillamps.  All in all it was a very attractive concept from Kia.  Let’s hope that they bring something like this into production.


IAA 2013 | KIA Niro Concept

The Kia Niro Concept is not a surprise. It is usual for Kia Design Europe, led by Gregory Guillaume, to display a cool looking concept. A cool concept that we would like to see on the road very soon! This mini SUV, however, could preview a serious competitor to the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur or Mini Paceman! The style is very clean and simple (seems to be a new trend…) with very good proportions. The form language is strong and displays what Kia design is today and the direction they want to take in the future. Volumes are very muscular and give the car a good stance on the road.