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First drive: Kia Kee concept

This Kia’s called the Kee. Is it the key to a bright future?

If you talk to the firm’s design chief Peter Schreyer it is. That grille is the future look of all Kias.

He wants the company’s cars to be instantly recognisable from 100 metres away, rather like BMWs or Audis are. And he believes the Kee’s front end will do that.

On other cars it won’t necessarily have the recessed element that the Kee does and he claims it could be less rectangular or maybe even body coloured but it’ll be essentially the same shape.

That’s why the front grille is echoed in the lines at the rear too; he wants to get the message across.

It’s an interesting look. What’s it like in the metal?

The Kee’s dimensions make it about the same size as an Audi TT (the car that helped Schreyer make his name). And the Korean car wouldn’t look out of place parked alongside a TT or Mazda RX-8.

There are plenty of nice details on it. Schreyer claims the LED running lights were one of the last details they came up with but they still look brilliant, giving the car a grin but without making it look cheesy. It’s good from the rear too, especially those twin centre-mounted exhausts.

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What’s that side window all about, then?

That’s the only part of the design that we’re not sure about. The glass actually covers a piece of aluminium whose shape again echoes the front grille.

In isolation it’s beautiful. But to our eyes it doesn’t quite work alongside the back window. But at least it gives the car an eye-catching profile and that unusual shape ensures rear-seat passengers have plenty of head room.

The designers have also built in a novel double head lining. It means when you raise the hatchback the roof lining inside stays in place so the tailgate doesn’t get slammed on your bonce.

Any other clever features?

For a concept car this is remarkably straightforward and sensible. It’s got everything you’d expect on a production car – including functioning electric windows – and it promises to be very practical with a boot that’s easily large enough for two sets of golf clubs.

There’s even sufficient leg room for rear seat passengers with a wide door opening to make access to the back seats easy. But the designers have allowed their collective imagination to run away with them when it comes to the interior.

Yes, tell us about that…

The first thing you notice is the material covering the dash, door panels, steering wheel and gear knob. It looks like plastic but is actually micro velvet. It feels amazing; the most tactile material we’ve come across.

The designers say they spent ages getting the size and thickness of the steering wheel just right and it shows.

Probably the funkiest bit is the gear knob for the auto box. You flip the top open to reveal a red starter button. Thumb this and the engine bursts into life.

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So what’s it like to drive?

The Kia design team are very keen that this car should see the light of day so they’ve made it as realistic as possible. Beneath the bonnet there’s a 2.4-litre V6 and bearing in mind this model has been produced to show off the design it goes remarkably well.

At the moment the ride is overly firm but the driving position is low and sporty and the car is real enough to give the impression of a grand tourer that you’d feel really proud about owning.

Verdict

Kia didn’t want to make the Kee too futuristic; it wanted to make a car people would want to have now. And judging by the attention the car attracted on our test drive it’s succeeded.

If the firm makes this model – and design chief Peter Schreyer told us he was pushing very hard for that to happen – it’ll be the first car in Kia’s range that buyers will really aspire to owning.

Of course there are elements of the design that need work but at least it would prove that the Kia badge was no longer a byword for anonymity. [Source: Carmagazine]

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