Design & Technology / Product

Forte (All-new Cerato) & Forte (All-new Cerato) Koup Design Essay July 31st, 2009

John ShimBy Kurt Kahl
Senior Designer
Kia America Design Center

Hi everyone!

My name is Kurt Kahl and I am a Senior Designer at the Kia America Design Center in Irvine, California. I was the Lead Exterior Designer of the Forte (known as ‘All-new Cerato’ in some markets) project.

Back in early 2005 we were handed a brief by Chief Designer Tom Kearns about a new C-segment sedan. I was enthusiastic about this project because the package had an ideal size and proportion. Compact sedans can deliver a good sense of driver involvement while not compromising on everyday practicality.

The image of a bulldog seemed appropriate for a small sedan with an aggressive stance so this became our ideation starting point. A bulldog’s front legs are dominant and more flared out than the rear and this accurately communicated the car’s front wheel drive layout. Having a background in architecture, I am inspired by modern buildings with their geometric shapes and shear surfacing. I wanted this design to be mathematically organized yet have enough natural feeling to keep from being too cold or unfamiliar. During the initial process, a sketch that had a clear checkmark shoulder theme was selected. This shape started at the base of the a-pillar and continued to the rear of the car while at the front, a separate front fender element developed out of the body side.

Forte design process

The first three-dimensional representation of the sketch would be a 1/4 scale clay model. After working with our excellent modeling team for only a few weeks, the Forte (All-new Cerato) had taken shape and was true to the initial sketch. The model had a solid feeling that appeared to be carved and honed rather than organically sculpted.

The profile was stretched rearward giving the car a short deck and a coupe-like image.
Stance was critical in achieving an athletic and agile appearance. The tension in the body side, trapezoidal forms in the front and rear graphics, and focus on fender forms allowed the model to have a planted look.

The decision was made shortly after design work had completed on the Forte (All-new Cerato) sedan to make a coupe variant. This was great opportunity to go a step further with the same theme but exaggerating the look with the flexibility of a sleeker 2-door package.

Forte design sketch

With the Forte (All-new Cerato) Koup, the first thing that we wanted to address was the overall height of the car. We compromised a small amount on head room to achieve a lower overall height but not to the point of encroaching on passenger space.

Next, the wheel flares were exaggerated and rocker areas simplified to visually plant and lower the appearance of the car. A sports coupe should have a sense of aggressiveness and this was further enhanced by enlarging the openings in the front fascia. The outer fog lamp apertures grew to the point that the body appears to stretch out to meet them. In the rear, we wanted the tail lamps to have a more sinister look so they were squeezed down to thin horizontal bars. The lower fascia took on a race inspired look with its vertical finned diffuser and twin exhaust outlets.

Koup sketch

We feel very proud of the Forte (All-new Cerato) and it is only possible because of the dedication and hard work from Kia’s worldwide design and engineering teams. Go Forte (All-New Cerato) brothers!

  • Greg

    Wow, started in 2005? That was just after the debut of the redesigned Spectra. You guys are probably working on the redesigned Forte already, huh?

  • jtz

    I have 745 Miles on my Kia Forte. I get lots of heads turning and the best part of all, it’s rare. It’s easy to find it in the parking lot and I even noticed when I’m away from it, people who walk past looks at the Forte. They don’t look at the Civic or Accord or camry or Corolla because they see them every 30 seconds. I like having something diffrent and not only is it diffrent but it has the quality and performance. If you want to be like everyone else buy a Civic or Corolla. If you want style and quality buy a Forte. Just don’t buy too many because it want be rare anymore. Civics nor Corollas or Cmary’s can’t turn heads. And even if they were to get redesigned, it’ll only be a matter of time when they’re no longer rare. That’s one of the reason I want buy a Toyota or Honda they can’t turn heads.

  • Haleewood
  • J

    But I have one question, many internet users pointing out kia forte design borrowed from honda civic.
    Is it true?
    Forte designed since 2005.
    Which is the more early design? civic or forte?

  • Hello J
    In the world of automotive styling – if you look back over the decades – I’m sure you will realize that with very few exceptions, automotive styling is evolutionary as it follows then currents trends. Almost everything is build on or derived from something in the past.

    Most of the people working in the field of automotive design {styling and engineering} are fully aware of what everyone else is doing, what current styles are a hit with the buying public at the time and they see what all the other participants around the world {individuals and corporations} are forecasting for the future. All of this becomes personal knowledge and it in turn has an impact on what the designer puts forward on his own.

    There is truly “nothing new under the sun” as the old saying goes. Every once in a while – someone will come up with a concept, that while most definitely tied to something in the past – has just enough innovation added, to make it appear quite different from current trends. “Just enough innovation” might appear in the styling itself, or it might take form in the underlying engineering. We used to refer to these vehicles as “Milestone Cars”… Just a couple of recent examples:
    – 1957 Ford Ranchero – styling/engineering innovation – ie a blend of car and truck
    – 1964 Pontiac GTO – engineering innovation ie. Muscle Car
    – 1964 1/2 Mustang – styling and mass production innovation -ie Pony Car
    – 1963 Corvette Sting Ray – styling innovation
    more recent
    – the original 1991 Ford Explorer – the real start of the SUV
    – the Chrysler PT Cruiser – just all round innovative ;-)
    – the Chrysler 300 – styling innovation – quite different for the time
    – the SCION xB – styling innovation – quite different for the American Market

    With the rare exception of these “exceptional vehicles” that result in a significant change in direction – – current styling and engineering in the automotive world seems to be a constant evolution defined by more subtile details of line and overall balance. We humans seem to view harmony of line and balance of form as attractive. We also seem to view conflict of line and lack of balance as unattractive.

    So Forte or Civic first – really doesn’t matter as both of them are simply extensions of an ever evolving “current trend “.

    Time will tell – but it would seem that the Kia Soul may well be one of the exceptional vehicles – very innovative in its mix of mini-SUV with the sporting personality of the original Mini. Certainly the styling effort alone devoted to an econo-box and the massive amount of current technology included as standard equipment – – – makes it a Stand Out vehicle, if not a Milestone in the evolution of the daily driver.

    Carl B.

  • Colin

    Hi J,

    We are sorry for late reply for your question.
    Before I just answer your question, let me introduce our recent post to help you.

    Please enjoy!

  • john

    nice but I’m not a fan of how the side panals slants downward toward the front. It seems weirdly unbalanced. just my 2c.

  • John Downey

    Cerato is a great car to look at. The designers have done an excellent job with the shape, however the engineers have let them down:
    1. The engine is more powerful than the other contenders and has better Green credentials than its main competitor in Australia. (Holden Cruze) This is one bit the engineers did get right.

    On the other hand:

    1. Put the 6 speed auto from the new Sorento and it would be a fantastic buy.
    2. It is a pity it did not get a 5 star crash rating in Australia like the Cruze and the Kia Soul. maybe when it gets tested in Europe and the USA this will change.
    3. Give the driver’s power window automatic UP AND DOWN like I had in my 1990 Nissan Vector. It seems crazy to me that manufacturers still persist in only fitting Automatic down on the driver’s power window when auto up and down has been available for at least 20 years. The Cruze has it and they also have Auto down on all the other three windows. The Aussie Cruze is built in Korea so some supply company there must make them.

    I wonder if anyone from Kia actually reads these comments and takes them into account when they upgrade their cars. It seems manufacturers are keeping body styles and just upgrading their equipment as the years go by. I wonder if Kia will do this.

    If what I have suggested was changed, I would probably buy one and so would many other Australians. Make it compare with the Cruze and advertise it that way. I feel that Kia vehicles are underrated in Australia as they do not push their product enough.

    Anyhow that’s my bobs worth for what it is worth.

  • Colin

    Hello John,

    We appreciate your time to post a comment on Kia BUZZ.
    1. 6-speed A/T: You will meet the Cerato(Forte)/Cerato(Forte) Koup with 6-speed A/T in next year, 2011 model year.

    2. Australia NCAP test rate: we are considering improving Cerato’s safety strengths.

    3. Safety power window + Automatic up & down feature: we are planning to provide this feature into Cerato.

    I hope these answers help you to be satisfied with your questions, and we are sorry to take so long to answer your questions.


  • The Koup is a fantastic looking car!! the proportions & balance are spot on , I was impressed when I first saw the new Cerato sedan(As it is named in Australia) early this year,as soon as one was at the dealer I told my wife I wanted to check it out.I knew the koup was being worked on too, so have diligently checked out the web all year for the latest news. To finally see the car in the flesh(about 3 weeks back) I was delighted with the built result.So much so My wife & I took one for a drive and placed an order (waiting on a late November delivery). The Koup will replace her mark V GTI golf (which is a fantastic car – just a case of to running up to many miles around 1000km a week).Whilst the Koup dynamically wont match the GTI it is a well equiped style option that is literally half the price of replacing the GTI around $50,000 AD with options, and for the highway duty the car will recive it should do the trick just fine.Friends & family give us a strange look when we tell them we bought a Kia ,but I think their perception will start to change when they see the Koup in the flesh. In the past we have had access to 3 great drivers cars parked in the garage – 2005 GTI golf V,2003 350z track & a 2005 BMW X5 3.0D). There was a time when I would not have been tempted at all by kia’s product line up no matter how good their warranty or build was, but I love the design lead revolution kia is persuing. Its great to see exceptional design at an affordable price.

  • suffi

    hello.. i`m from malaysia.. can i know point why i must buy forte than other car from honda or toyota..

    design? yes i love it..
    safety? yes i know KIA it really safety car..

  • We like the Kia Forte, it’s Kia perfect design recently,
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    here is our design in the plastic injection mold body kit for Kia Forte,
    please visit our website to enjoy with us, here is the front & rear down spoilers
    and ABS blowed mold trunk spoiler

    your help introducing to your partener will be at much appreciated,
    we can go ahead to design more for Kias. Thank you

    Reg Chow

  • Thank You for the post – I thougt it was intuitive. Completely intriguing!

  • Design Medellin

    I want one,
    but, i don have money,
    espectacular this car,
    grettins from colombia