Kia Motors has revealed its new all-electric concept four-door car called ‘Imagine by Kia’ at this week’s Geneva International Motor Show. Unveiling the car, Gregory Guillaume, Vice President of Design for Kia Motors Europe, explained “Automotive design is about capturing the heart and making it beat that bit faster for that bit longer. We believe that there’s absolutely no reason why that should change simply because the car is 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.
“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.”
This human-centric attitude is perfectly aligned with Kia’s attitude on automotive design, as Guillaume explains. “When they talk about their electric cars, many carmakers promote the same rational and empirical data-driven messages as they do with their internal combustion engined cars, such as range, economy and performance criteria.
“Kia prides itself on its power to surprise, which is why we wanted to move away from the rational and focus on the emotional, and embrace a warmer and more human approach to electrification. After all, electricity is found within every atom, it’s the energy that flows within us and around us on our planet. Harnessing its potential has propelled us forward from one innovation to the next.”
‘Imagine by Kia’ is the company’s first pure electric four-door passenger car. Unlike the award-winning e-Niro electric crossover, which is based on the existing architecture of the hybrid-powered Niro, ‘Imagine by Kia’ is underpinned by a low-mounted, induction-charged battery pack that powers a compact drivetrain.
Coherently drawing together elements of a muscular sports utility vehicle, a sleek and athletic family saloon, and a versatile and spacious crossover, ‘Imagine by Kia’ is intentionally designed 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,” explains Guillaume.
Intelligently reinterpreting Kia’s iconic ‘tiger nose’ grille, ‘Imagine by Kia’ features a bold new illuminated ‘tiger mask’ that encircles the main LED headlamp units. Separated by horizontal ‘eyelids’, the dipped and main beam units are housed with a single block of clear acrylic glass, creating the effect of piercing eyes floating free of visible support. This striking ‘tiger mask’ creates a distinctive and recognisable lighting motif that instantly marks this out as a Kia for the 21st Century.
The paintwork is a further example of warmth and approachability. Six hand-applied layers of chrome-effect silver paint are covered in a tanned bronze tint that looks warm and inviting to the touch. Highly sensitive to changing light conditions, the depth and sheen further enhances the concept’s curves and contours.
A single sheet of glass is used for both the windscreen and roof, flowing from the base of the A-pillar and over the cabin to create a vast sky-window, before tapering into a double-bubble over the rear passenger compartment. The rakishness of the car’s high shoulders and narrow glasshouse are further enhanced by an illuminated dynamic streak that draws the eye from the A-pillar into the C-pillar, ending with an integrated lateral turn signal.
The layout of the powertrain created a chassis architecture that is distinctly different to that of a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine. It’s a layout that Guillaume and his team fully exploited to maximise cabin space and create an airy and spacious interior – and one with a wry sense of humour, too.
There are 21 individual ultra-high-resolution screens that curve their synchronised way across the top of the dashboard in a layout that’s at the same time both casual and co-ordinated. It effectively creates a single unified display from the driver’s point of view, without the ever-increasing bulk and rigidity of traditional in-car displays – a fresh and witty approach on how to move away from traditional fixed screens.
The cabin’s sense of light-heartedness is underpinned by the striking shockwave design of the four leather and silk-covered seats, plus the floating centre console that, like a wing, hovers independently above the low and flat floor. The doors – rear-hinged at the back for greater access – are swathed in a metallic fabric and leather, visually splitting the cabin into two distinct upper and lower levels.
The versatility of the all-electric architecture has not only enabled the Kia design team to create this open and spacious interior for passengers, but also for their luggage. ‘Imagine by Kia’ boasts two capacious loadbays: a ‘frunk’ front trunk and a traditional rear storage area accessed through the glass hatch.
“As you all know, Kia prides itself on our power to surprise, and it’s this unorthodox approach that fired our collective imagination, moving us away from the rational, to embrace a warmer and more human approach to electrification,” said Guillaume.
“We imagined designing an all-electric car that not only answered consumer concerns around range, performance, recharging networks and driving dynamism, but one that also gave you goose bumps when you looked at it, and made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you drove it.”