New ‘Imagine by Kia’ concept: silly name, a serious EV forebear

Published: 07 March 2019

► American muscle car looks
► South Korean EV underneath
► Shown at Geneva 2019

Kia revealed it’s full-electric concept at the 2019 Geneva motor show, named ‘Imagine by Kia.’ The slightly silly named concept car is the Korean brand’s signal of how it wants to continue with electrification beyond the likes of the e-Niro and E-Soul.

The overall look of the concept is almost like a brawny, American muscle-car look. Of course, that’s helped by the jutting front splitter, wide wheelarches and bulging bonnet – which doesn’t have a V8 under it, obviously.

Imagine by Kia at the 2019 Geneva motor show - with the big cheeses

Gone is the ‘tiger nose’ seen on almost every Kia in recent history, instead replaced by the ‘tiger mask, which just so happens to be illuminated. The whole ‘mask’ wraps around the front headlights, which are housed in acrylic glass. On start-up, the mask comes to life with animations similar to those seen on new Audi models.

Look closely and you’ll even see a pair of wing-mounted cameras, Audi e-Tron-style. Kia calls them ‘wingcams’ that are designed to cheat the air.

‘Automotive design is about capturing the heart and making it beat that bit faster for that bit longer,’ said Gregory Guillaume, vice president of design for Kia Europe. ‘And we believe that there’s absolutely no reason why that should change simply because the car is electric.

‘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 goosebumps when you looked at it, and made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you drove it,’ explained Guillaume.

‘I think of it as a category-buster, and a disruptor – it’s familiar and understood but at the same time progressive and new’, Guillaume added.

But seriously, will any of this design become a reality?

'I find it a waste of energy, time and money if you do show cars that have nothing to do with the real future. We are basically preparing here', Hyundau Motor Group's chief design director, Luc Donckerwolke, told CAR at the Geneva show.

'It's not a shot in the water, and we are going to do something else after this,' he added, 'this is definitely something real from Kia that you'll remember in a couple of years when real things are coming.

'Now what we’re saying is cooling isn’t quite that important [with an EV] – why should we keep the 'tiger nose' as it is? Why don’t we supplement the functions that we have with lighting. Light signatures are becoming more dominant, so we are implementing and making that face different by also changing the relationship between the levels. We’re saying lets change the orchestration of the different elements. I think It has a good potential of coming.'

Why is it this tall four-door thing?

It seems to have been a minor trend at the 2019 show. The Polestar 2 is a tall, four-door 'fastback', as is the Audi e-Tron Fastback teased in camo on Ingolstadt's stand. Is the world turning away from SUVs?

'Suvs in some markets have killed sedans. If we all go for a single type of archictecture, we are going to create a loss of interest from the customer,' said Donckerwolke, 'we are going to see an incredible amount of gain in sales from SUVs in the short term, but we have to start preparing the post-SUV phase.'

And the interior?

While much of the outside design could lend itself to a later production car, the inside of Kia’s new EV goes maximum concept car. Featuring a minimalist wheel and 21 individual shards of infotainment screen, the inside of the Kia looks like something from Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. And probably won’t come with a five-star NCAP rating. Still, Kia says that, from the driver’s point of view, the individual screens come together in perspective as one giant display.

'There are some things on this car that are a little bit of a provocation', argues Donckerwolke regarding the screen overload, 'it’s almost like it doesn’t matter what furniture is in your living room as long as you have a big screen. It’s the idea that the bigger the screen, the better your living room is. We’ve taken that liberty here to try different things.'

Any specs, or is this vaporware?

Well, other than calling it Kia’s first pure-electric four-door car, there aren’t a huge amount of nailed down specs, in fairness. But Kia says it is underpinned by a low-mounted EV powertrain capable of induction charging.

Check out our Kia reviews

By Jake Groves

CAR's staff writer, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches