Concept cars are often just that, concepts, with little or no link to any car, past, present or future, just the fevered imagination of a car designer’s mind. Not so at Kia, we were told by Tom Kearns, Kia Motors America’s design honcho, at the 2011 North American International Auto Show going on in Detroit. Which was Kearns’ way of saying the Kia KV7 concept was a preview of what was to come.
“Other (Kia ) vehicles have looked like concepts that preceded them,” Kerns noted rather emphatically, in fact. In other words, don’t blow off the Kia KV7 concept as the automotive equivalent of vapor ware. The KV7 is a look into the future.
Since we’ve seen the future, and at least for Kia is includes something that Kearns insists is not a minivan. Instead, he says, the Kia KV7 should be called simply a van. “Embrace the box,” he said, disparaging those who try to portray minivans as “sporty”, with raked hood and windshield.
The Kia KV7 concept, on the other hand, draws inspiration from the hot selling Kia Soul, but it’s larger, at 191.85 inches long enough for three rows of seating. The KV7, however, has an interior designed for what Kia calls “Ringleaders.” That’s demographer–or phychographer–speak for those who organized “road trips, social outings and new adventures for themselves and friends to experience together.”
That requires wrap-around lounge-type seating for three with the driver and front passenger seat that swivel to make a conversation area, complete with a “floating tabletop touch-screen computer display.” The Kia KV7 concept, naturally, has WiFi and the ability for multiple passengers “to connect their smart phones to the vehicle at one time and sign on to social networking sites.”
The dashboard of the KV7 moves six inches towards the driver when the push button start is activated, including “the large multi-use display which integrates infotainment, climate and navigation systems in one simple-to-use interface controlled by trackball mouse mounted in the dash.”
The Kia KV7 incorporates the concept car staple, the gullwing door which, along with a pillarless front passenger door opens the entire side of the vehicle for easy access. Less dramatic are the more-vertical than usual A-pillar and windshield angle and the box-like overall shape, which Kia compares to “sleek smart phones and classic pieces of luggage.”
The exterior design of the Kia KV7 features Kia’s “tabbed grille” that’s also reflected in the windshield, also tabbed as with the Kia Sportage crossover SUV and Kia Optima sedan. Kia’s design team is said to be evaluating several LED lighting elements from the KV7 for future production, particularly a band of foglights running across the entire front of the vehicle and turn signals that sweep in the direction of the turn incorporated into the side rear view mirrors.
Popularity of LED lighting suggests that the fog light and turn signal ideas might make it to production, however the gullwing side and pillarless front passenger doors can’t be anything but fodder for car show attendees and not, if one considers garages with low overheads and side impact safety requirements, likely to see production. Similarly, the KV7’s lounge seating, another concept car regular since at least the 1950s is also likely to succumb to reality, victim of safety requirements.
The Kia KV7 itself is bound for production, though certain to lose its concept car alphanumeric designation in favor of a name. For what it is, Kearns may prefer “activity van”, or simply “van”, to the deadly toxic “minivan”, the latter sure to be rejected by Ringleaders. But the boxy van pioneer was the original minivan, the 1985 Dodge Caravan, which at 175.9 inches long is closer to the recently expired Kia Rondo (179.0 inches) than the 191.85 inch long Kia KV7, which in turn is shorter than the 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan, at 202.8 inches.
Add conventional seating and doors, dial back on the electronics and infotainment but keep the overall all shape and dimensions for a close approximation to the Kia KV7 concept’s production progeny. You’ll just have to figure out what to call it when it comes.
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