Kia Imagine EV tests on public roads | CAR Magazine

Kia Imagine EV tests on public roads

Published: 13 January 2021 Updated: 13 January 2021

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

The Hyundai Motor Group’s electric offensive is in full swing. We’ve just seen the first official pictures of the new Ioniq 5 EV, but now our spy photographers have caught the forthcoming Kia Imagine EV testing on public roads.  

The test car pictured is heavily disguised, but the smart money’s on an EV that looks a lot like the concept we saw just under two years ago. After all, the Ioniq 5 is almost unchanged from the 45 Concept on which it’s based. 

Key to the Kia Imagine, and at least 10 other cars by 2025, is the newly revealed E-GMP platform for electric cars. Designed to be as adaptive and modular as possible, it may even power the Apple car. 

Keep reading for everything you need to know about the Kia Imagine concept. 

Kia Imagine concept: what you need to know

Kia revealed its 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 Soul EV.

The overall look of the concept is almost like a brawny, American muscle car. 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’ and says they 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 let’s 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.’

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By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, gamer, serial Lego-ist, lover of hot hatches