A Glimpse into the Hush-Hush World of Automotive Proving Grounds July 13th, 2012

Car manufacturers often boast that vehicles can handle all sorts of driving conditions. These circumstances may range from strange weather, crazy terrain, bumpy roads, and even certain types of collisions. Have you ever wondered how the people who put your car together know precisely what it will stand up to? Did they drive it through a multitude of possible road and environmental conditions at some secret Area 51 like testing facility to make sure?

The short answer is yes, we did. Today on Kia-Buzz we’re going to introduce some of our most notable ‘proving grounds,’ which is the term for the special tracks where Kia puts its cars to the test against extreme and unpredictable conditions at different speeds with all-kinds of passenger loads.

The Proving Grounds

Our proving grounds put vehicles through an exhausting array of tests at various speeds and under diverse road conditions. Our testing grounds cover an area of 4,940 acres (~20 million square meters) and are located in South Korea at our Namyang R&D Center and Kia’s Hwasung plant. In addition, our most sprawling 4,329 acres (17.52 million square meters) testing area is located in California’s Mohave Desert.

Hwasung & Namyang Proving Grounds

Our Hwasung proving ground, which is adjacent to our factory that currently produces the Cerato (Forte), Optima, Sorento, Borrego (Mohave) and Cadenza was completed in 1993 and features 16 test drive tracks.

Satellite shot of our Hwasung, South Korea proving ground (Image Source: Google Maps)

Opened in 1995, the proving ground at our Namyang R&D Center is of international standards and features no less than 34 roads including a Belgian road, and a high-speed track that is 2.8 miles (4.5 km) long. In all, the site features a total road length of 43.5 miles (70 km).

Aerial shot of Kia’s Namyang R&D center’s proving ground

California Proving Ground

The Hyundai-Kia Motors California Proving Ground site is located 100 miles north of Los Angeles in the Mojave Desert. Construction began in February 2004 and was largely completed by October 2004.

The California proving ground boasts an impressive total road length of 72 miles (116 km) and top speed of 155 miles/hour (250 km/h). Constructed with a total investment of US$60 million, the test site is approximately 10 times the size of the proving ground at Namyang R&D Center and is the third largest in the US operated by a foreign automaker. Eight test roads combine to form a total length of 72 miles (116 km). The longest track is the 6.4 mile (10.4 km) oval, a three-lane high speed track which allows a top speed of up to 155 miles/hour (250 km/h).

The facility supports high-speed and endurance tests, and also include a 2 million square foot Vehicle Dynamics Area (VDA); 2.75-mile winding track; 3.3-mile hill road; and various special surface roads constructed to duplicate U.S. highways. The proving ground also includes a 30,000 square-foot office complex for its 50+ staff members.

Our massive 4,300-acre, $60-million California proving ground that looks kind of ‘Area 51-ish’

To put the California proving ground’s size into perspective here’s an approximation of how much of New York’s Central Park and surrounding city blocks can fit inside of it (Image Source: Google Maps).

Kia Proving Grounds by the Numbers

Metric Namyang Hwasung California
Total length 43.5 miles 12.4 miles 72 miles
Types of test tracks 34 16 8
Types of roads 71 36 18
High-speed circuit

– Length

– Top speed

2.8 miles 2.5 miles 6.4 miles
155 mph 155 mph 155 mph
Total area 408 acres 203 acres 4329 acres

Types of Proving Ground Tests

Our cars are truly born after withstanding some of the most rigorous road tests:

Multi-purpose road

This universal and all around test road it is used to conduct a diverse range of automotive performance tests and comparative trial runs with rival cars.

High-speed track

True to its name, this track tests vehicle performance when drivers put the pedal to the metal and for those situations that call for the need for speed.

Belgian road

Many European countries like Belgium have very old roads. Due to their uneven, cobble-stoned surfaces, the roads deliver shock levels to cars that are approximately 100 times greater than regular roads. Accordingly, the Belgian road offers a chance to test the strength and durability of new cars and its parts within a short period of time.

Low friction road

When sprinklers shower water on road surfaces made of materials like epoxy, the friction coefficient of the road becomes equivalent to that of roads covered by rain, snow or ice. This enables tests for driving and braking performance on icy roads regardless of actual weather conditions.

Dust tunnel

Man-made dust is used to recreate road conditions which generate large amounts of dust. It tests the driver’s visibility and seal quality of the car body and parts.

Various condition roads

Diverse road conditions that can be found all over the world are recreated to ensure the same levels of ride comfort and noise levels regardless of the location. Recreated roads include pebbly roads, cracked surface roads, Seongbuk-dong road (Seoul), wavy roads, European asphalt road, long wave pitch road and the West Coast Highway.

Additional tests include:

  • Winds up to 124 miles/hr (200 km/hr) at our world-class US$ 45M wind-tunnel
  • Driving on 71 different road surfaces
  • Road simulators
  • Electromagnetic wave tests
  • Heavy rain/snow tests
  • High & low temperatures
  • And the list goes on and on
  • Kia’s Wind Tunnel at the Namyang R&D Center (Image Source: Motor Trend)

    Proving grounds take the guess work out of how cars will hold up and help to make sure that no manufacturing defects or design miscalculations will cause it to be unsafe or behave in unpredictable ways. We hope this post has shed some light on piece of automotive world many don’t often hear about, and rest assured that you can trust proven and tested cars will keep you and your passenger’s safe.

    Share your thoughts

    Do you have a particular Kia model that you would like to put to the test at one our proving grounds? If so, which model and what kind tests would like to run? Leave your answers in the comments section below.

  • Schauerangel

    I have a 2012 KIA Forte Koup with low profile tires – for the summer months.  These tires give me some grief when navigating bumpy conditions – forcing me to grip the wheel tighter to feel more in control.  Any tips or suggestions?  Other than that, I LOVE my KIA.  It is truly a fun car and great fuel.

  • Jedatojusa

    excelentes coches estan barriendo con marcas tradicionales que se quedaron sin imnovar y en lo viejo creyendo que el mundo comeria siempre lo mismo