Inspired by steel mills with liquid iron flowing like a waterfall

31 Jan 2017

We caught up with Thomas Bürkle, Chief Designer at Hyundai Motor’s European Design Centre, to discuss aspects of the New Generation i30’s interior and exterior design.

31 January 2017

Inspired by steel mills with liquid iron flowing like a waterfallCan you describe the design process for the New Generation i30?

When we start a new project, we undertake research concerning the current car environment, consumer trends and customer research, before developing a proportional model to determine what the full-size car’s proportions should be. This was a particularly key issue for the i30 because we wanted to make the design cleaner with very rich and fluid shapes, but less ornamental. We decided to focus on proportions, which meant really studying the side-view of the car; having shorter front and rear overhang, extending the wheel base, to achieve a sleeker more premium-oriented design.

The first stage is the concept development phase, defining volumes to set the objectives for the designers, followed by a sketch phase where designers compete with one another. The selected sketches are then digitised and 1/4 scale clay models are created. Eventually, two compete with each other as full-size clay models, and are presented to the design headquarters in South Korea, where one design is chosen.

For the interior design, there was also a sketch competition where we selected a theme, built up an interior mock-up, and studied ergonomics. The refinement of the model was important. We wanted to improve the quality of the interior, focusing on the materials and surface treatment like the fabrics or the leather of the seats and even details like the quality of the stitching. The paint quality was also an issue, so it was a very ambitious project because we wanted to make a big step forward.

What are your personal highlights of the design?

The surfaces of the car are very rich, creating a nice play of light and shadow on the sleek body side. My personal highlight is the three-quarter rear view. I think that the wide shoulder and the tapered roof, together with the black upper spoiler that frames the C-pillar and the lower band between the fog lamps together create a really wide look and a good stance for the car.

The New Generation i30 is the first Hyundai model with the Cascading Grille, which will become the new brand identity. What was the inspiration for this grille?

When we developed the project, it was clear that with the New Generation i30 we had to take a step forward with our brand identity. Therefore we looked at the hexagonal grille, which was a very strong brand icon, but lately other companies had gone in a similar direction, so we decided to develop it further. We also felt that the fluid form language would fit in well with a fluid grille shape. For the Cascading Grille, we were inspired by steel mills where you see the liquid iron flowing down like a waterfall. It’s an evolution of the hexagonal grille, with a more refined and expressive design.

Can you explain how the interior design is different from the previous model and how it has evolved?

We were inspired by the wing of an aeroplane when we designed the interior, and we wanted to have a very slim, sleek dashboard. We wanted to go away from a big centre console that is vertical to a more horizontal layout, which creates a more airy interior. We’re very proud of the free-standing screen, the first time Hyundai has made this step, and it was quite a challenge for the engineers as well. If you look at the steering wheel design, it was really important to have a comfortable seating position, so ergonomics was crucial. We also have an ergonomics engineer on our team supporting the designers, to check the layout for its ergonomic fit.

Finally, in your opinion, what makes the New Generation i30 a car for everyone?

The car is compact and offers high comfort for travelling long distances as well as in the city. It’s roomy inside, it’s very comfortable to drive, it has a touch of sportiness and it’s agile. It also has a decent front space, as we didn’t want to create too much of a wedged body section, so that children can see outside when sitting in the back. All these things make the car appealing to a very big group in society: for single people as well as families.

I think the car is a great all-round package, with different types of efficient engines and the latest connectivity features as well as a wide spectrum of colours and trims. For the interior we also have a fabric and leather combination for the seats, so I think the car is for everyone.

Besides the rational reasons to buy a car, such as safety and having all the features you need for comfortable driving, the emotional aspect of design is very important, that you feel proud as an owner and that the product expresses value and self confidence. Its design is timeless and not polarising. It’s a great looking car and a matured product.

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