Lee Wolstenholme's blog: 26 May - Go get 'em, tiger-nose
26 May 2016
Prestige brands still dominate the car leasing market particularly amongst business customers, with Mercedes perennially topping the leaderboard. I love underdogs, though, and it warms my heart to witness impressive brand transformations. In the automotive world, a car marque epitomising such is Kia.
This year marks a decade at Kia for car designer Peter Schreyer, the man behind the original Audi TT, which some regard as a work of art. When interviewed by Bloomberg in 2006, Schreyer, speaking about the firm's aspirations in Europe, labelled Kia a newcomer, candidly adding: "People don't know the brand. It is anonymous. Design is important to overcoming that."
Over the last 10 years, Kia's line-up has become decidedly sexy, which at one time would have been a laughable observation. The 2002-2005 first generation UK Magentis wasn't a looker, to say the very least. Even the 2005-2010 Sportage was largely judged as either aesthetically awkward or simply bland.
Granted, the Soul, Ceed and second generation Sportage moved the brand's game on enormously; but for me, the two Kia models that took my breath away were the Optima, which came to the UK in 2012, and the 2015 Sorento, which is butch and stylish enough to attract double-takes from the German SUV fraternity. Our office having recently reviewed both models from Kia's press fleet, it's clear that the brand's products are now oozing in modern flair and are abundantly equipped with a wealth of comfort, entertainment and safety technology.
The real darling in the UK is the new Sportage. With strong road presence, generous equipment levels, that seven-year warranty and keen pricing, it's no surprise that it has bagged a raft of accolades. Our own data shows the Sportage as shifting the same volume of contract hire units as the Nissan Qashqai, which effectively created the segment.
With the hybrid Niro on the way, Kia's future looks rosy and I sincerely hope Schreyer's tiger-nose grille ends up on something akin to the Hyundai Genesis-rivalling K900 luxury saloon that Kia sells in the US. I don't believe that Kia needs a rebrand, as perceptions are changing slowly but surely. The firm definitely needs to differentiate itself from Hyundai, though, as the siblings competing in the same market seems nonsensical.