Kia Motors’ K5 has produced many topics with its stylish design since its first generation. This is because they showcased a variety of fresh and diverse attempts that were not found in midsize cars, such as sleek and wide headlamps, radiator grilles, speed lines, and dynamic silhouettes.
The K5’s design has attracted worldwide attention and has revolutionized the conservative global mid-size sedan market. The third generation new K5 wants to continue this design innovation demonstrated by the first and second generation K5. Overcoming the burden of surpassing the design achievements of the first generation model must be overcome. We met with Kia Motors’ exterior design team 2, who was in charge of exterior design of the new K5.
Q. The K5 represents Kia’s design innovation. It seems that the burden of inheriting and developing the meaning and identity of K5 was not too low.
Sung Wook Kim / Principal Researcher | K5 is one of Kia Motors’ representative models that value design management. In particular, the design of the first generation K5 was so influential that it also affected other sedans. In developing the follow-up model, the burden was to go beyond a good evaluation of the existing model. This is why the 2nd generation K5 could not change the 1st generation design significantly. The new K5, on the other hand, made a lot of effort to get out of the traditional style while keeping its unique features. The process of completing the design with everyone’s sympathy while maintaining its freshness was particularly difficult.
The biggest change in the new K5 is the evolved Tiger Nose. If you look closely, you can see that Chrome is very limited in the front view. Previously, the chrome moldings used to connect the headlamps and the outside of the radiator grille, but this time, the three-dimensional curvature naturally integrated the two elements. I also pulled the bonnet longer and removed the parting line that abuts the bumper. It was the choice to focus the gaze on the daytime running lights (DRL) while keeping the front part composed of bumpers in the form of various strings and hydrofoils (wings attached to the bottom of the hull). A variety of design devices were mobilized to deliver a simple and sporty image.
Q. The trend of the midsize sedan market has changed. Overseas competition models also adhere to the sporty image. I want to know the K5’s design strategy that distinguishes it from other cars.
Kyu-Hwan Kim | In the case of medium-sized sedans, different models are sold in different regions to match customer preferences by continent, such as the United States and Europe. Volkswagen Passat and the old Honda Accord are typical. The K5, however, has one model sold in many parts of the world. Therefore, it was necessary to accommodate the needs of various customers around the world and to reflect the changed market trends.
Recently, as design preferences of customers have changed, major overseas competition models are showing styles closer to the coupe. Therefore, they decided to appeal with more advanced and refined style than the competition model. To this end, the company developed and reflected the opinions of overseas and domestic product teams at the design development stage. The more this process was repeated, the steadier the design was.
Seung-Tae Kim / Senior Researcher | The design theme of K5 can be summarized as ‘combination’. It is a combination of elements such as rear lamps connected to the left and right, wrap around chrome moldings that surround the rear deck. As a result, I am confident that the combination of slick and dynamic images with the intense details gives it a competitive edge in design. In particular, fastback style, solid body volume, intense headlamps and three-dimensional bumpers, and a cool stretch of character line will be loved by many.
Q. The shape of the headlamp and daytime running light (DRL) is very unique. Where did you find inspiration?
Sung Wook Kim / Principal Researcher | Headlamps convey the design direction and identity of the automaker. K5’s headlamps are thin and sleek, emphasizing high-tech images. The development process was not so smooth. Once the case was small, the halogen lamps normally used could not be used. Therefore, LED lamp with small size of light source is applied. It was a burden on the cost side, but it was a key design element and could not be given up. Daytime Running Lights (DRL) are inspired by heart rate graphs. It is a visual representation of the pulse and velocity of the heart rate graph. Particularly challenging was the process of detailing to match other elements and reviewing productivity to avoid problems due to the unique headlamp shape during mass production. Thankfully, the person designing the lamps actively helped us to the actual mass production.
Q. The new K5 has a good balance. What specific changes have you made?
Sung Wook Kim / Principal Researcher | The longer the distance between the front wheel and the steering wheel, the dash to axle, the more elegant and dynamic the lateral proportions. However, the front-wheeled vehicle has a structure that is difficult to implement this layout. The new K5 uses a third generation platform. This reduced the front overhang by 20mm and increased the dash-to-axle. In other words, it is more visually harmonious and elegant.
Seung-Tae Kim / Researcher | At the same time, the length and wheelbase are increased by 50mm and 45mm, respectively, and the height is 20mm lower, which gives the side a more stable impression. In addition, the cowl points (bonnet and windshield border) were pulled back 40 mm to emphasize the dynamic image. In other words, it increased the area occupied by the bonnet and reduced the weight of the rear deck to give a sense of speed. Note that if the front overhang is short, it may look dull when viewed from above. Therefore, the headlamps were diagonally trimmed to give a dynamic impression even when viewed from various angles. This is why the new K5 looks more dynamic.
Q. What did you like best about the K5 exterior design?
Sung Wook Kim / Principal Researcher | New attempts always involve difficulties. The same is true of design. Unique attempts not seen in other cars, such as the front fenders facing the pointed ends of the headlamps, the face forming of the C-pillar, and the wrap-around chrome molding, have been a stumbling block in crash compliance, press molding and injection. These challenges were solved with the help of the relevant departments and engineers. As a designer, I also worked hard to improve the parts that other cars don’t care about. As a designer, the overall elements of the rear lamp taillights, the three-dimensional bumper and the volume of the wheel arches are harmoniously combined.
The new K5 is presenting a style with high presence in line with the changing trend of the mid-size sedan market. Evolved tiger nose, unconventional headlamps, dynamic fastback style, finely trimmed details, harmonious and elegant proportions. The attractive appearance of the K5 was enough to get the attention of the people. It is hoped that the K5, which has evolved into the third generation, will raise the standard of global midsize cars once again.