First Look: Kia Provo Concept

Kia Provo Concept

Once the butt of automotive jokes, Kia has in the past decade demonstrated that it can build high-quality, competent everyday cars, as well as entry-luxury models. Not content to rest on its laurels, though, Kia plans to expand into even more automotive segments. With the Provo concept shown at the Geneva Motor Show, Kia is announcing its intentions to eventually build a small, fun, premium hatchback.

The Kia Provo is a small, B-segment hatchback with a steep rear window and abbreviated roofline that produce the appearance of a coupe body style. Its contrasting roof, frameless windows, and swept-back wraparound windshield instantly recall the look of the Mini Coupe -- which is probably no accident. The stubby nose bears a version of Kia's tiger-nose grille hidden behind a glass panel; triangular housings hold headlights composed of 850 individual LEDs that can be configured to act as running lights, low- and high-beam headlights, and even animated displays. Below is a black mesh grille with orange-accented carbon-fiber surrounds.

Where the angled rear windshield creates an acute angle with sheetmetal, full-width taillights reprise the same rectangle-and-triangles shape as the headlights and front grille. Two large round exhaust tips peek out from the lower fascia, while and adjustable diffuser panel hides below.

With a footprint measuring just 152.8 inches by 69.7 inches, the Kia Provo is within spitting distance of a Mini Coupe's dimensions (147 inches by 66.3 inches). More important, the concept car's stated purpose makes it clear that Kia wants a slice of the automotive pie that Mini so enjoys. Designed in Frankfurt, Germany, for the European market, Kia Europe chief designer Gregory Guillaume says the Provo is, "aimed at delivering pure fun and performance for today's city-based enthusiast driver."

As to performance, the Kia Provo uses a 1.6-liter turbo-four engine with 201 hp. It drives the front wheels (19-inch alloys shod in low-profile tires) through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. In addition, a mild hybrid system that operates on the rear wheels can provide up to 44 hp of extra push under acceleration. Alternatively, pushing a button can allow the Provo to drive solely on electrical power for short distances.

After opening the doors by way of pop-up handles, drivers enjoy a cabin composed of carbon-fiber and aluminum. The former material is used for the inner door panels and dashboard, with real aluminum is used for the car's toggle switches and door handles. Red LEDs in the doors, air vents, and roof provide ambient lighting. The instrument cluster is a configurable LCD screen that by default shows a speedometer, tachometer, and navigation directions. Switching to cruise mode means the display shows only a large navigation map and speedometer, while the track option results in a giant tachometer, a lap timer, and a track map. An aluminum bracket atop the center console is home to a red engine start-stop button, a swiveling transmission selector, and a joystick to control the infotainment system.

The Provo's quilted-leather seats are, unusually, fixed in place, and instead the steering wheel and pedals adjust electrically. The seatbacks swivel out of the way, rather than folding, to permit access to the rear seats -- although Kia admits they are cramped and for "occasional-use" only.

Kia says that the Provo concept is only meant as a show car for now, but it's clear the company wants to explore the performance, premium, B-segment market. Hinting that it is "committed" to delivering cars just like the Provo concept, Kia will probably try to launch a vehicle that looks something like this Provo concept within the next few years.

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