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2007 Frankfurt Motor Show: Kia Kee

The Key to Kia’s Design Future
Last year, Kia scooped up Volkswagen AG designer Peter Schreyer and opened a European design studio in Frankfurt. Schreyer, during his tenure at Audi and at VW, is credited with the first TT concept, Audi A6, and VW Concept R. With credentials like these, Kia expects Schreyer to liven up their design. In a market filled with many competitive entries and lots of noise, Kia cannot afford bland design.


At the 2007 Frankfurt auto show, Kia showed off one the first efforts to be led by Schreyer, a two-plus-two sports coupe called Kee; the concept is touring upcoming auto shows as well, and this tour will include at least one appearance on the U.S. circuit. Kee’s name was inspired by both the idea that it is key to the brand’s design future and by the Chinese and Korean “cultural concept” for spiritual energy or life force. They’d have been better off spelling it Key or K; while the pronunciation of Kee is pretty obvious and the inspiration strong, it looks odd and contrived.


Names aside, and getting past the lime green exterior color, this small three-door coupe/hatchback also introduces a new 200HP V6, mated to a six-speed automatic, that will surely populate Kia’s international range over the coming years. Combined with the model’s small size, 200HP should be plenty for spirited driving in the real world. In the Kee, Kia offers a vehicle with a realistic personality instead of an extreme sports car that wouldn’t fit in their range.
The Kee tells us that Kia’s new look will mean shorter and wider headlights and grille, unlike the vertical and gaping openmouth look of the current grilles, though it’ll probably lose the cool LEDs that wrap around the headlights and taper into the lower front fascia. The Kee’s face looks more an evolution of the Rio and Optima than Rondo, Soul concept, or especially Amanti and all its borrowed styling cues.



The exterior design is more successful than the interior, of which photos were released. Success with the exterior is critical, as Kee shows off a concept version of the next face of Kia. There is a purposeful face and the notched hatchback helps give it a squat, poised for action look. The shape of the front LEDs mimics that of the crease aft of the door. The short DLO reminds one of the Scion Fuse concept, though the Kee’s rear decklid isn’t as tall. The Kee’s shape, excepting that its C-pillar does not hide structure for a targa, is vaguely reminiscent of the 1993 Honda Civic del Sol, though of course in a more substantial and modern form. Schreyer has been successful in coaxing a design that can work with Kia’s range, and on that doesn’t look like he just left Audi/VW.


Inside, there is too much chrome and bright metal, and it unnecessarily borrows a flip-switch look from the Mini Cooper for several controls. Those flip switches don’t look great in the Mini Cooper, you just accept them as part of the quirky personality. The Kee should be more businesslike in that regard. The steering wheel shape and size look as though they’d be satisfying in your hands, and the seats look well-bolstered to keep you in. Otherwise, the long black dash looks cheap and the dials on the center console don’t look particularly well placed for daily use.

Though there was no confirmation of whether the Kee will reach production, according to Schreyer, “Our sports coupe concept is not simply a flight of fancy but represents an affordable dream for sports car lovers.”

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