Seoul Motor Show 2009 - Highlights
by CDN Team   

Kia VG concept

The VG is a front-wheel-drive sedan that has been handed the significant task of lowering the manufacturer's median purchasing age in North America, which currently hovers around 50 years old. To achieve this, Kia is making a departure from the current Opirus/Amanti, which the VG is set to replace in less than a year.

Considering its FWD package, the design basics of the 4950mm-long VG - its overall profile, stance and proportions - are outstanding. It displays a healthy DLO-to-bodyside proportion, visually short front overhangs created by a heavy tapering of side surfaces from the wheelarch to the front, and 20-inch alloy wheels anchoring the corners.

True to Kia's new ‘simplicity of straight lines' design philosophy, the main bodyside character line is robust (though somewhat monotonous) with a textbook undercut shoulderline that runs from the taillamps to the front door section, but which ends with a dip, losing its altitude and tension in the process.

At the front, Kia's distinctive family look is prominent, with much of the design language being shared with the Forte and the new Sorento R. The graphic boundaries of the front lower side intake support the slim horizontal headlamps by sharing the same ‘entry point'. However, as on many production-ready concepts, the designers have avoided radical changes to the overall design, doing just enough to enhance the main styling features. Kia designers have also done a poor job of disguising the VG's production status; judging by the concept's door hinge mechanisms and pressed sheet metal body panels, this car is very close to the final product.

Color and trim designers have tried to add some excitement to the interior design by combining high-contrast colors such as milk white and pearl black with a brushed aluminum center console. But design appears to have taken a back seat here, and the overall theme is unclear. Details such as the BMW i-Drive-style rotary control are now outdated, and an inability to gain access to the interior on the press day made it impossible to gauge the VG's true design value.


Renault Samsung eMX concept

Until now, the Renault Samsung Motor Alliance (it would much rather be called RSM) has been largely perceived as a company that does the things the ‘easy way', displaying out-of-date Renault concepts at the last few Seoul shows. This year however, RSM presented not one but two bone-fide world premieres: the SM3 and the tiny eMX.

Executive managing Director of RSM Design, Christophe Dupont, told us that the concept car was first conceived during a blue-sky creative thinking session in which the designers were allowed to think freely without worrying about engineering restrictions. The standout design that emerged from that process was then taken from an initial theme sketch to finished show car in just over four months. Considering that the model has a proper interior - which was developed in an even shorter timeframe - this achievement is quite remarkable.

Penned by two comparatively inexperienced female designers (in automotive terms), the main design concept of eMX was to appeal to the affluent single female in their 30s - an ever growing population segment in Korea that's been dubbed ‘Gold Miss'.

The exterior design of the eMX is round and ‘bubbly', with no hard edges visible anywhere and a friendly demeanor. While some elements - the front face, rocker and the rear skirt in particular - look loose and lack tension, the unusual use of contrasting black-and-white themes and aluminum detailing holds the design elements together.

The interior theme of ‘continuous wave and swirl' also shows plenty of promise. A large chunk of the center fascia - whose main volume is finished in white - is horizontally dissected, giving the driver a visual openness as well as creating significant space for the instrument cluster and upper IP. The lower navigation screen flows in a different direction to other cars, its 'floating' surface angling down and away from the driver. The eMX was the biggest surprise of the show, no question.


Hyundai HND-4 'Blue Will' concept

Albeit a concept, the HND-4 (Hyundai Namyang Design 4) ‘Blue-Will' is the first-ever plug-in hybrid vehicle from Hyundai. At a glance, the overall volume of the car is visually much larger than its dimensions - 4300mm long, 1800mm wide and 1460mm high - indicate. This can be directly attributed to the massive front bumper surface, which begins under the grille and runs all the way to wrap around the wheelarches, and its boxy, solid profile.

While its graphic details are well resolved - three-dimensional taillamp forms extend horizontally like a fighter jet wings - the work done in getting the basics of the stance, proportion and profile correct has been somewhat undone by complex details that lack an anchoring theme. The unique X-graphic, which is meant to be the main bodyside character of the car, generated plenty of interest, but many of the designers we spoke to felt it was too complicated, being an ornament rather than a bona-fide design feature. It appears abruptly around the rear and suddenly nosedives its way to connect to the front wheelarch volume, visually increasing the already heavy frontal aspect. Interesting features such as the thin tapered surface around the rear door shut line and the DLO, which runs up all the way to the roof, could have worked out better had Hyundai's designers spent more time developing them.

With ‘digital flow' as a design keyword, the interior is loaded with hi-tech features, including an ultra-thin Transparent Organic Light Emitting Diode display (TOLED) that reduces the cluster volume to a minimum. But too much focus seems to have been put on technology to the detriment of design: most of the interior is either made up of flat screens or derivative shapes thereof. The Blue-Will's interior might have had worked better had its designers applied the ‘digital flow' theme to the vehicle's form language.