With the auto show circus getting ready to move on to Chicago, Kia decided to tease a concept car it plans to unveil in the Windy City. The Cross GT is, as the name implies, some kind of crossover, and it’s scheduled for a full unveiling in February.
Although the teaser image is darkened and looks like it was rendered by a 1990s videogame designer, we can make out a few styling details. Kia’s signature “tiger grille” is upfront as usual, but this version is more upright and formal than what we’ve seen on previous Kias. The roof also slopes back to an almost vertical tailgate with a slight kink in the rear side window, as on the Sportage.
One design touch that isn’t stock Kia is the silver trim around the leading edge of the front door. It looks like Kia is trying to copy the non-functional vents on the 2013 Land Rover Range Rover’s doors. The huge wheels also look like something one would find on a pimped-out luxury SUV, although they’ll probably be toned down for production.
Kia says the Cross GT will preview a larger and more luxurious crossover that would sit above the Sorento in Kia’s lineup. However, that strategy didn’t work for parent company Hyundai. The Hyundai Veracruz offered more space and a comparable amount of amenities to a Lexus RX, all at a lower price. Still, the Veracruz was axed and will be replaced by a long-wheelbase version of the Santa Fe.
Kia’s own efforts to move upmarket have also been less than successful. It’s rear-wheel drive luxury sedan still hasn’t made it to U.S. showrooms, so buyers have to settle for an Optima with extra chrome trim.
Positioning a production Cross GT as a premium model might be a good strategy, though. Unlike a luxury sedan, a big crossover wouldn’t poach sales from Hyundai’s Genesis. Hyundai and Kia would have two premium products targeting different market segments.
Kia could take the Cross GT in another less, glamorous direction. It could serve as a minivan surrogate, like the Chevrolet Traverse and Ford Flex. Kia is getting rid of its Sedona minivan, so it could use a three-row school bus.
Volkswagen is thinking the same thing. Its CrossBlue concept, shown in Detroit earlier this month, previews a crossover that will replace the Chrysler-based Routan minivan.
We’ll learn more about Kia’s plans, and get a full look at the Cross GT, when the Chicago Auto Show opens February 7.