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Seoul show: Kia finds Naimo with another EV concept

Pastel: The Kia Naimo, which fittingly translates to 'square shape', is green in more ways than one.

Kia presents edgy Naimo electric crossover concept on home turf at Seoul

Kia logo31 Mar 2011

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

KIA’S latest EV concept – and the third in the space of a year – premiered at the Seoul motor show this week in the shape of a compact SUV that could provide hints as to the look of the next-generation Soul.

The Naimo, (pronounced Neh-mo and appropriately translating to ‘square shape’) shares the Soul’s distinctive wrap-around glasshouse design that tapers towards the rear of the car.

However, Kia Motors Corporation Australia’s national public relations manager Kevin Hepworth told GoAuto that the Naimo is more of a design exercise than a direct look at the next Soul – which Mr Hepworth said is expected to be unveiled in concept form at the New York show on April 22.

At the back the Naimo gets a lot more concept-like, with a fastback style raked tailgate that squares off abruptly to a 60:40-split rear access hatch that forms part of what Kia calls a “three-way split opening trunk”.

Perhaps Kia is inspired by the European market Renault Modus, which featured an optional ‘boot chute’ for loading small items without opening the tailgate, or attempting to outdo Mini’s Rocketman Geneva concept – which debuted a unique drawer-type cargo area.

The Naimo also shares styling themes from Kia’s Pop concept from last year’s Paris motor show, such as the dots on the front bumper in the shape of the brand’s trademark tabbed grille, and a rectangular steering wheel.

17 center imageShorter than the Mini Countryman at 3890mm and slightly wider, the Naimo features Mazda RX-8 style rear-hinged ‘suicide’ doors. Like the aforementioned RX-8 and the Ford B-Max that made its debut at Geneva, the Naimo has no B-pillars.

Kia says the Naimo’s spacious looking interior, featuring hand-crafted materials including Korean oak trim on the interior door panels and ‘Han-ji’ paper headlining, was designed “to evoke a strong sense of tranquillity”.

Juxtaposed against the traditional Korean materials is the futuristic looking, head-up display style instrument panel that uses transparent organic light emitting diodes like the one first seen on the Pop.

Modernity further extends to an iPad slotted into the centre console to function as a central display and infotainment centre, supplemented by another iPad holstered between the two rear seats.

A separate pod rising between the two front seats houses a drive selector and air-conditioning controls while external rear-vision mirrors are eschewed in favour of cameras.

Interestingly the clean exterior look afforded by the absence of door mirrors is further enhanced by a lack of windscreen wipers, which are replaced by a high-intensity air jet emanating from the base of the windscreen, which Kia says acts as an ‘air wiper’.

How effective the air wiper will be at removing snow or bugs and how it will mitigate against the jets being blocked by leaves and other debris will no doubt dictate whether this technology ever reaches production. Pressurising air could also consume more energy than conventional wipers – an important consideration when engineering an EV.

Like the Pop and Venga EV concepts that came before it, the Naimo employs an 80kW electric motor with a maximum power and torque outputs of 80kW 280Nm respectively – good for a 150km/h top speed according to Kia.

The 27kWh twin-pack lithium ion polymer battery pack located under the boot floor provides an extra 4kWh of charge capacity over the Pop and Venga EV concepts.

A claimed driving range of 200km is possible on a single charge, which Kia says is enhanced for the show car by the fitment of special low-drag 20-inch alloy wheels.

It also claims that the Naimo’s battery can be recharged to 80 per cent capacity in just 25 minutes using a 50kW fast charger whereas full replenishment takes between five and six hours using a standard 3.3kW charger.

Kia says the Naimo will join its test fleet of hybrid, electric and fuel-cell vehicles being “extensively driven in widely varying conditions to develop future production models with zero or significantly reduced emissions”.

Mr Hepworth said that Kia has plans to launch a Picanto-based EV in South Korea next year.

Speculation has come out of Europe that Kia is working on a Mazda MX-5 rivalling roadster and a compact SUV, based on the next-generation Soul, to do battle with the likes of Mitsubishi’s ASX and the Nissan Dualis – another potential candidate to take some of the Naimo’s styling themes into production.

Kia is having a slow start to 2011 in Australia, with 3572 sales in to the end of February, up 1.4 per cent on the same period last year.

The Soul has never been a big seller Down Under, racking up just 876 sales since its launch in April 2009. Its sales peak was in August 2009 when 61 Souls found homes in Australia but on average, just 37 Souls roll out of Australian showrooms each month.

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