Kia concept provokes Provo buzz from Geneva

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Provo is a well-known name in many industries such as entrepreneurship and music — and now the international automotive industry.

The Kia provo could unintentionally provide some promotion for the city and Mayor Curtis is excited about it. (Photo courtesy Kia Motors)
The Kia provo could unintentionally provide some promotion for the city, and Mayor Curtis is excited about the prospect. (Photo courtesy Kia Motors)

As Kia Motors unveiled its new provo concept last week at the Geneva Motor Show, the name choice has left some in the auto industry scratching their heads, while champions of Provo’s reputation bask in the international attention.

“So, is provo thought-provoking or curse-invoking?” asked Edward Loh, Motor Trend executive editor. What does the word “provo” stand for, exactly?

The car

Most car names are capitalized, but Kia has called this its provo concept (not Provo). While this may help to distinguish the car from the town, mingling descriptions of provo and Provo lend to confusion in print.

The confusion is exacerbated by Europeans who are upset by the name and its affiliation with Irish terrorism. “Provo” is a nickname for the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the dominant branch of the outlawed IRA.

In sharp contrast, Kia’s provo (read: car) concept is all about “fun, pure and simple,” according to Kia. Gregory Guillaume, chief designer for Kia in Frankfurt, Germany, described the provo as “an emotional and muscular car aimed at delivering pure fun and performance for today’s city-based driver who longs for the curves of the open road.”

The provo’s proportions, performance and European styling prove that Kia is focused on offering enthusiasts a Korean-styled alternative to the Mini Cooper. With just over 200 horsepower directed to the front wheels from a turbo-charged 1.6 liter engine, Kia might simply have copied the Mini Cooper S spec sheet.

However, Kia developed a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox and smart four-wheel drive hybrid system, which automatically adds a boost of up to 45 horsepower at the rear wheels when needed during hard acceleration and cornering. This hybrid system could make the Kia provo a top performer in the segment.

What, then, of the name? It seems to fit with Kia’s current culture of unique hatchback names beginning with the “pro” prefix. Kia recently produced the pro_cee’d and pro_cee’d GT, aimed to compete with Volkwagen’s ubiquitous Golf GTI. Though there is obviously a town and even a former terrorist organization named Provo, Kia insists the name is short for “provoke.” In January, Kia announced that it would be bringing a “provocative and racy new urban concept car” to Geneva in March.

The town

Provo got its name from a French-Canadian fur trapper who came to the Wasatch region more than two decades before Brigham Young. The vibrant city of Provo today would have seemed as foreign to Etienne Provost as the turbo hot-hatch that seemingly also bears his name.

According to Merriam-Webster online, the origin of the word provost is an Anglo-French word meaning “one in charge, director” — a fitting name for a city that provokes worldwide attention and a car whose name is, well, provocative.

“Who wouldn’t want to name a car after Provo? The big question is, ‘What’s next?'” Provo Mayor John Curtis said. “The Provo motorcycle, Provo airplane or perhaps people will start naming their firstborn Provo.”

Curtis thinks Provo provokes growth. Recently recognized by Forbes magazine as the best place for business and careers for the second year in a row, Provo has become a beacon for companies to prosper and for professionals to raise their families.

According to the mayor’s blog, Curtis also believes Provo is provoking change, which is why he made a trip to Washington, D.C., to talk about budget cuts and how the sequester will affect commerce in towns like Provo across the country.

“Three years ago as a city we cut roughly 8 percent of the budget and residents didn’t perceive any drop-off in service,” Curtis wrote. “I’d actually argue that we’ve been able to organize better and become more efficient to the point that residents have received better attention than ever. That’s what we are asking of Washington.”

Curtis, enthusiastic about everything Provo, said he would love to know how to own a Kia provo. Without knowing much about the car’s performance, Curtis said, “I’d be very tempted to buy a provo, but I don’t know enough to say absolutely.”

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