Kia Provo Looks Kind Of Saabish

Remember that Saab 9x that Saab fans got soooooooo excited about a decade+ ago only to have our hopes snuffed out by the realities of the automotive business?

The Saab 9x had 4WD, a potent turbocharged engine, a wedgy SUV-style body (well before small SUV’s were seriously considered anything other than utilitarian) and a futuristic interior. We drooled over the body shape and the promise of comfort, sporty driving and practicality. We got excited at the massive leap the Saab 9x would have represented not just for Saab, but for the automotive industry in general.

Small premium coupe SUV’s aren’t so unusual anymore, but the market is a long, long way from being saturated.

Kia has plans to get into the small-performance game: their production version Pro_Cee’d GT will show at Geneva. They will also show a concept car at Geneva that hints at what they’d like to do in the small SUV/lifestyle segment. It’s distinctly futuristic and decidedly upmarket. It wouldn’t look like this in production form, of course (850 LED’s per headlamp!), but the intention is pretty self-evident: Mini Paceman – we have an eye on you.

The car is called the Kia Provo and this is what it looks like. Click to enlarge.

Ok, so the nose is quite a bit smaller than the Saab 9x but the general shape is there, as is the futuristic styling (albeit in a much busier fashion) and it has a massive tip to Saab in the form of the wraparound windscreen.

It uses the same 1.6 litre turbo engine as the Hyundai Veloster Turbo to pump out just over 200hp to the front wheels but it complements this with a 45hp rear-wheel electric motor that can be called to action in corners, or allow an electric-only ‘creep mode’ for shorter distances. You can make your own jokes about putting your Kia into creep mode…….. now.

It’s not a Saab by any means, even if it reminds me of one (that admittedly, never actually existed in production form). What it is, though, is hope for those who really liked some of what the Saab 9x represented. In fact, one could argue that by using a 4-cylinder turbo to put out more than 100hp per litre it’s being more Saabish than the 9x’s proposed 100hp per litre 3.0l V6. Not only does it have more power per unit of displacement, it would also have much lighter weight which leads to greater agility.

Yes, it looks too fussy and sharp and yes it’s only a concept, but it’s a concept that I like. Hyundai might be the better selling Korean but sister company Kia is turning out to be the more interesting Korean. If they have to adopt some Saabish design cues and principles to do it, then all the better.


A final question – if I’d airbrushed the Kia badge off the rear and off the steering wheel, who would you think had made this car? Would it change what might have been a negative opinion simply because it’s a Kia?


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  1. I would honestly think it was a small BMW coupe/hatch based on the Mini Coupe… and when I saw the Mini Coupe introduced and heard about the BMW/SAAB affiliation I thought for sure the intended Phoenix was going to be built, using the Mini as a starting point. It would certainly have been a better base than anything GM had to offer…

  2. With the orange accents, I might have wondered if it was one Victor Muller’s ideas for a small Saab. 🙂

  3. I like it. Airbrushing badges would not have made a difference to me as I don’t have a particularly negative view towards KIA.
    It does have a certain Saab look and I would love to see them develop this further.
    One thing however; if they are going to develop this and put it into production, they might want to rethink the name, especially if they intend to sell it in Northern Ireland!

  4. When I first saw the pics of it (before reading your article) I had the same reaction, and entirely because of the straight, but angled down roof/side glass interface line. Maybe the fact that the roof is a different color draws your eye to it more.

    I quite like it – its good looking.

  5. I’m quite impressed with Kia. Their only remaining issue is the suspension, which is still no where near as good as VW or Ford so when they are 2 grand within price, I won’t buy them. Five grand difference and you’ve got my attention.

  6. Hi Steven,

    To compare this Kia concept to (my eternal beloved! ) Saab 9X, the concept I remember as the most scandinavian stylish Saab concept is (to MY opinion of course) amazing. I am afraid this kind of “dressing-style” a car with insignificant details or exuberant colors does not meet (at all) my search of soul, mind, human and/ or (at least) functional design like Saab built for generations of us. I do not hear or see anything expressing “the car history” there…
    I would better wait for what Volvo prepares : I have seen some nice teasing pictures from them… But of course, this is a matter of personnal taste after all : I admit that smart discussion is difficult on this way.
    Anyway, for sure Hyundai and Kia do well from a commercial point of view, meaning they really do hurt brands like Peugeot, Opel or Chevrolet. I would even say people at Peugeot should be scary by this brands. Japanese brands seems asleep here in Europe. Korea has definitly come out.

  7. I really liked the 9X concept and the 9-3X Crossover Coupe concept that followed it. They both displayed that Saab could produce products were very interesting and innovative, and showed some promise of what might eventuate from GM’s total ownership of Saab. Unfortunately GM tightened the reins after that and all we got was somewhat conservative (and slightly boring) 9-3 SS and 9-3 SC when it (belatedly) arrived.

    I don’t think the Kia Provo concept is attractive as either of the Saab concepts, but I have found Kia’s cars becoming a lot more interesting lately and even recommended a Kia model to a friend recently.
    A crossover coupe would be a good way for Kia to go. Preferable to an SUV. There are already far too many of those!

  8. The Saab 9x is a exceptional design and how it’s still saabish but very square rear design makes me long for straight lines. Whats wrong with straight lines?

  9. I mean just because modern technology makes it possible to bend metal any way you want it don’t mean you should bend it just for the sake of bending.