There’s a dearth of attractive small cars with distinct personalities. Automakers have focused most of their design energy on more expensive cars for the last few years.

It made fiscal sense – high interest rates meant wealthier buyers were more likely to shop for new cars. Those looking for something affordable tended to cluster at used car lots.

But it was disappointing all the same. And it’s coming to an end.

The 2025 Kia K4 seen from a rear quarter angle

Today, Kia revealed the design of its next compact car, and frankly – this thing looks great. The 2025 Kia K4 will replace the Kia Forte on dealer lots. The current Forte is a quiet favorite of critics, known for great space, a long warranty, and more sprightly handling than you might expect.

There’s nothing quiet about the K4. We don’t know anything about the car’s performance or specifications yet – that’ll be revealed at next week’s New York International Auto Show – but the design is a stand-out.

It borrows a bit of the design language of the Kia EV9, with sharp creases standing out from gentle curves. Bold lines catch dramatic light over the fenders. Kia says its designers get the look “by twisting the connections of logically aligned squares in a seemingly illogical fashion.” However they reach the aesthetic, we like it.

A sharp front end adds to the creased look. Kia’s “star-map” linear lighting style looks good here, not overdone like on its big brother K5. But we can’t help but cringe at the thought of all the curbs that sharp lower air damn will scrape.

The interior of the 2025 Kia K4The interior of the 2025 Kia K4

Inside, a similar theme shows angular geometry emerging from organic curves. Two screens in a single bezel look like one wide screen surface. A flat-bottomed steering wheel lends a hint of sport.  

Car designers today struggle to balance a trend toward touchscreen-everything with driver demand for actual buttons. Kia says, “Physical buttons and controls are deliberately kept to a minimum” in the K4. But “a line of beautifully designed and elegantly integrated physical buttons for functions such as ‘Home,’ ‘Map’ and ‘Search’ plus a rotary controller enable quick, intuitive interaction with the car’s functions. Below that, four further buttons provide seamless control of the heating, air-con, and ventilation system.”

We expect to learn more next week. For now, photos are all we get. But they’re promising and suggest that the K4 could stand out in a reasonably staid segment.

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