Back in 2007, Kia debuted a funky concept dubbed the Soul, which went into production one year later. Now Kia's Southern California's design studio is enlarging its Soul with a new, larger, funky, cubic concept dubbed the KV7.
With the KV7, Kia is literally supersizing its Soul with the intention of reinventing what a van can be. The new concept features styling cues pulled straight from the 2007 Soul Concept and applied to a vehicle slightly smaller than a Ford Flex, making the concept appear as if it's the love-child of a Flex and the Soul Concept. It features an elongated version of the two-box design of the Soul, but with a new take on Kia's familial face.
"From the outset, we felt the [van] category was in need of an honest reassessment due to the fact that everyone seems so desperate to attach the word 'sporty' to their minivan, even though vans, at their very core, are simply a box," said Tom Kearns, chief designer at Kia Motors America. "Rather than reject the box, we chose to celebrate it, just like we did with the Soul, and the result is a straightforward, yet sophisticated vehicle that retains the functionality vans are known for and meets the changing and diverse needs of today's consumers."
The rounded hood and flared fenders of the KV7 are taken straight from the Soul Concept. Unlike the Soul Concept, which broke the continuous line of the fenders with a fog light surround, the KV7's fender flares flow all the way across the front fascia. The grille and headlights are all modern Kia and almost look as if they were pulled from a 2011 Optima. However, Kia's designers shortened the grille and hid the headlights, coloring both black but surrounding the cluster with an aluminum accent.
The windshield doesn't wrap around, but the lines from the windshield to the side windows appear to flow across the A-pillar and the side windows feature the same tapered styling. The doors are the most interesting design element as they appear to be the same suicide style as the Soul Concept, but the rear passenger door is actually of the gull-wing variety.
Inside, Kia's Southern California design studio tried to make it as comfortable as a lounge and as funky as the exterior. It features four rotating captain's chairs, à la the Volkswagen EuroVan, or more recently Chrysler's Town & Country, and a three-seat mini-lounge in the rear. This allows all the occupants, including the driver (as long he or she isn't actually piloting the vehicle); to face each other as in what Kia calls an "inviting social space ideal for a gathering of friends." Part of that inviting social space includes the ability to connect occupants' personal devices to an integrated Wi-Fi hotspot or use the onboard computers. There are two onboard computers -- one accessed through the rear tabletop-video display and the other accessed through the dashboard infotainment system.
Other interior appointments designed to add to the inviting social space are the moveable dashboard that retracts six inches to allow for more passenger space and integrated storage compartments in the rear mini-lounge. The KV7 also features green LED accent lighting built into the floor, dash, and rear-video display.
Although it's officially a concept, the KV7 uses a completely realistic powertrain rather than some outlandish, and actually non-existent, hybrid system. It's powered by Kia's new, turbocharged, direct-injected, 2.0-liter I-4 as found in the Kia Optima SX. It produces 285 horsepower -- 11 more than in the Optima SX -- and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. According to Kia, this combination is good for over 30 mpg highway.
Will it head to production? We didn't get a promise from Kia, but the brand quickly pointed out that its last three concepts have made it to production virtually unchanged. Stay tuned.