When designers at Kia’s Southern California design studio set out to "reimagine" the van, the task of designing a vehicle that combated the notion that vans are strictly for family transportation initially proved to be a bit more of a challenge than expected.
“This vehicle has to be aggressive but not intimidating, more welcoming. It’s a really difficult balancing act,” said Joey Mo, Lead Exterior Designer of Kia’s KV7 concept, unveiled at the 2011 North American International Auto Show. “When you design a sports car, it’s low, sleek, fast, big wheels, a big engine; the recipe is already there. [In] a vehicle like this, it’s a little bit challenging because there’s a bad image of a soccer mom’s car.”
The KV7 was designed as a “modern-day activity van,” able to transport a large number of people and their belongings while also serving as a connected social hub.
“The van has this image of a family vehicle, but when I first designed the car, I designed the car for myself—a ‘man van,’” Mo said. “They told us to create something that was not ordinary, something radical, but do not lose the function of it.”
Following in the footsteps of the Kia Soul compact CUV, designers embraced the box shape, giving the KV7 a wide stance and an A-pillar and windshield design that is more vertical than traditional minivans. On the passenger side, a gull-wing door and pillar-less front passenger door combine to create an expansive opening for the lounge-like interior.
The exterior was designed to be sleek and clean, with a beltline that travels the entire length of the car, a bold tabbed grille with vertical LED headlamps, and a continuous line of LED fog lights that spans the entire front end of the vehicle.
“I tried to create one single string,” Mo said. “When you look at some other cars, there are so many lines and so many twists. This was very simplified; almost more of a timeless classic.”
The interior features four custom-built swiveling seats, including the driver’s seat, and a rear-corner bench with seating for three and integrated storage compartments. The floor features reclaimed teak wood and flush-to-the-floor LED accent lights.
Interactive displays can be found in the front and rear, with a large, multi-use display spanning the front dash and an adjustable, floating tabletop touch screen in the rear. Upon pushing the start button, the entire front dash panel moves 6 in (152 mm) toward the driver and retracts when the ignition is turned off.
The concept is powered by the new Theta II 2.0-L GDI turbocharged engine capable of delivering 285 hp (213 kW) and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
As for this concept eventually reaching production, Mo could neither confirm nor deny but did offer: “When you look at our Kia history of concept vehicles, you can guess.”