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Peter Schreyer introduces Kia's new Sportage

Mon, 26 Jul 2010

It's a sign of just how significant the new Sportage is for Kia that rather than flying UK journalists to an international launch location the company instead rented a boutique hotel in London's Notting Hill, created a sketch gallery in the basement and flew in key members of the car's development team to meet the press — who were then lent some the first new Sportage's in the UK to test for a month.

One executive present at the event was Kia's Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer. Car Design News was invited to meet with Peter to talk about his role at Kia and for him to talk us through a vehicle Kia is billing as the first to be designed entirely under his tenure.

When did the program begin?

"The program began just three years ago. We started with different proposals from the California and Frankfurt studios. Initially, we were tempted to do a kind of more rugged, off-road type of car but fairly quickly we decided to go in the direction of a more sleek, urban crossover — even though I don't like that word much."

During the time of the car's development, attitudes to the SUV shifted a lot — did this influence the direction you took?

"Yes, I think so. We did a lot of workshops at the beginning talking about what direction we should go in. And you can see from some of the sketches, there is a more chunky, off-road scheme — which was nice too, but you cannot do two cars!" "We showed the Kue Concept at Detroit in 2007, which was never originally considered to be the Sportage. But we looked at it and made a model that was kind of a resemblance of the Kue, and it's that theme which made it to production. In the end, I think you can tell a lot of the character of Kue has carried through into the Sportage."

This is a world car and you have design teams in the USA, Germany and Korea — were different studios responsible for the interior and exterior?

"We always work as a team, and the upper management from each studio meet every month in Korea. But with this car, the exterior theme originates from the California studio, while the interior started in Frankfurt."

What aspect of the design are you most pleased about — that this car has a flavor of the Kue...?

"In a way, yes. I think also when you see it on the street outside; it's the proportion of the sheet metal to the glass. The car looks sporty, kind of compact and has a good stance — but you still get a lot of space inside." "Another thing that's a nice detail is the line on the top of the windshield [the top edge of the screen isn't a straight line, having higher, rounded edges], which you can see on both the Sportage and the Magentis — it's not straight, which I think is unique. I was really surprised we were able to do this, because I asked for it and without moaning the engineers did it!"

On the show stand at Geneva, the thing that really struck me about this car was the quality of the interior

"We tried to get away from this stereotype T-shape interior that everybody is doing, to make it feel a little bit more sporty with a wide, high centre console. We have this central inlay element, which can be done in different colors and materials. It also means you don't feel like you're sitting in front of a vast expanse of plastic, the IP has sculpture and architecture." "After a long struggle, we also managed to get the dashboard made from soft material. We took a lot of care to develop these things."

In comparison to the previous generation vehicle, the level of quality and attention to detail apparent in the new Sportage is in an entirely different sphere. The company is clearly using design as a differentiator and a means to change customer perception about its image, something that we can only applaud and will continue to follow with some interest.

Stay tuned for a full designer interview with Peter Schreyer on CDN in the coming weeks.

By Joe Simpson