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Geneva show: Kia Imagines its future

Imagine by Kia points to future EV styling – and perhaps an electric flagship

Kia logo6 Mar 2019

KIA has melded a number of vehicle styles – SUV, luxury sedan, coupe, hatchback and muscle car – into one package in its Geneva motor show concept dubbed Imagine by Kia.
 
The all-electric four-door, four-seat family luxury car concept aims to inject some excitement into the electric car market that, for the most part to date, is stylishly sedate.
 
Although the car is technically a concept and would need significant modifications to make it into production, Kia is not ruling that out.
 
It is possible that it could become the third EV in the Kia range, following on from the e-Niro SUV and Soul EV – both of which are slated for launch in Australia at the Kia Australian Tennis Open in early 2020. 
 
Asked about the possibility of the Imagine making it into the local Kia portfolio, Kia Motors Australia general manager of media and corporate communications Kevin Hepworth said: “The e-Niro and the electric Soul are both cars we are seriously considering for early entrants into the KMAu electric garage. If the Imagine concept continues through to production then it would also be on the wish list. “
 
Kia has said it plans to roll out about four full EVs by 2025 as part of its widespread electrification of its range over more than 40 vehicles.
 
One of those vehicles was said to be a large SUV, which might fit the Imagine description.
 
The first Kia EV to be built on a dedicated electric platform, the Imagine concept is said to be propelled by a low-mounted, induction-charged battery pack that powers a compact drivetrain.
 
No power, range or performance figures were offered, with most of the focus on the design that points to future Kia EVs.
 
Unveiling the Imagine overnight, Kia Motors Europe design vice-president Gregory Guillaume said Kia believed there was no reason why it should step away from attractive automotive design just because a car was electric.
 
“That’s why our all-electric concept is designed to not only get your pulse racing, but to also signpost our holistic and emotional approach to electrification,” he said.
 
“Today’s drivers understandably have many questions about electric cars. They’re concerned about range, the recharging network and whether electric cars will still be dynamic and engaging to drive.
 
“So, when we first started thinking about this concept and imagining what its role would be, we knew that the best way to answer those questions and address those concerns was by approaching electrification purely from an emotional point of view.”
 
Mr Guillaume said Kia had intentionally designed Imagine to not sit within the industry’s predefined vehicle categories.
 
“It’s a large C-segment car – the vehicle size that’s incredibly popular in Europe – but the only things it holds on to are Kia’s brand values,” he said. “It hints at something familiar, but is something entirely new. I think of it as a category-buster, and a disruptor – it’s familiar and understood but at the same time progressive and new.”
 
The designers have come up with an all-electric LED version of Kia’s familiar “tiger nose” grille treatment, this time described as a tiger mask.
 
“The inspiration for the tiger mask was to create the look and feel of the headlamps being suspended within a transparent block of glass,” Mr Guillaume said. “This identifiable lighting signature could potentially be deployed as a unifying design element across Kia’s future electric vehicle range.”
 
Rear-mounted “suicide doors” provide access to the two back seats, while the front doors open conventionally. A pillarless design provides wide access to the cabin when both side doors are open.
 
The vehicle is cloaked in six coats of chrome-like paint with a bronze tint that is supposed to add depth.
 
The windscreen continues over the roof as a single sheet of glass – a delightful design but hardly a practical solution for a production vehicle.
 
Aerodynamics play a big part in the design, with a double-skinned bonnet channelling air through the nose and over the front screen and roof. Similarly, double skinned C-pillars act as spoilers.
 
Like some other advanced EVs entering the market, the LED badges and signature lights illuminate progressively as the driver approaches the car as a form of welcome.
 
The 22-inch wheels have glass inserts to refract light like diamonds because ... they can.
 
One of the most striking features of the Imagine – an array of 21 screens spread across the dash – started as a joke, according to Kia Europe general manager of interior design Ralph Kluge.
 
“These 21 incredibly thin screens are a humorous and irreverent riposte to the on-going competition between some automotive manufacturers to see who can produce the car with the biggest screen,” he said.
 
It might look impractical, but the set up apparently works well, providing a single unified display from the driver’s point of view “without the ever-increasing bulk and rigidity of traditional in-car displays”.
 
A floating centre console and thin-backed seats contribute to the airiness of the cabin.
 
The practicality extends to luggage space, with room for suitcases under the bonnet and rear hatch thanks to the compact electric drivetrain.

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