Kia Motors has revealed its new all-electric concept car, ‘Imagine by Kia’, at the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show. A visual embodiment of Kia’s desire to move forward in the exciting world of electrification, 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. 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 recognizable lighting motif that instantly marks this out as a Kia for the 21st Century.
The human approach to the design is encapsulated by the ruches adorning its front air-curtain and flanks. Each impulse ripple has a different length and is positioned at a different angle to the next so that light falling on the car’s flanks constantly creates the impression of movement. 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 front turn signals, located high up on the sharp-edged bonnet, feature illuminated glowing elements that appear to float in fins of clear acrylic glass. The rear lights are equally compelling. The turn signals are housed within deep-set tunnels to create a three-dimensional effect, with the looped lights extending outwards as they grow in size. Horizontal wrap-around brake light strips create a visual link with the Kia Stinger.
The lighting systems play a key role in underlining the concept car’s friendliness and accessibility. “The flush-fitting Kia script on the front of the concept lights up and glows as the driver approaches the car, followed by the illuminated tiger mask – a welcoming gesture to the driver at the start of the journey,” explains Gregory Guillaume, Vice President of Design for Kia Motors Europe.
Even the wheels contribute to the visual relationship that the car has with the movement of light. Each of the 22-inch alloy wheels has four flush inserts of transparent acrylic glass, polished at the front and diamond cross-cut at the back, to reflect and refract the light, much like a cut diamond would, as the wheels move.
Guillaume and his design team also focused a great deal of their attention on the vehicle’s aerodynamics, ensuring the car sliced as cleanly as possible through the air to reduce turbulence and extend its range. “The front air curtain; the way the double-skin bonnet channels air through the nose, up and over the front screen and roof; the double skinned C-pillar that creates an air spoiler; the completely enclosed underbody; the wind-cheating ‘wingcams’ and the hard-edged break-away around the car’s rear – all these features collectively boost aerodynamic efficiency and reduce turbulence and drag,” Guillaume explains.
“We wanted the interior to have a twinkle in its eye, to be full of surprising and delightful touches that amuse, engage and attract both driver and passenger alike,” explains Ralph Kluge, Kia Motors Europe’s general manager of interior design. 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.
21 individual ultra high-resolution screens curve their synchronized way across the top of the dashboard in a layout that’s at the same time both casual and co-ordinated. It takes just a single glance to understand what Kluge means. “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,” says Kluge.
They may form a striking sculptural feature that neatly ties in with the rippling and light-reflecting exterior design motifs, but this screen-wall is also highly functional. 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 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.