This design study for a future European-market crossover is the fifth in a series established two years ago by the Hyundai HED-1, which also debuted at Geneva. Our design editor, Robert Cumberford, was impressed enough by the 2006 HED-1 to write a column about it in the pages of Automobile Magazine, but in this latest effort, Hyundai's Russelsheim, Germany-based Euro design center seems to have lost its way. But let's allow Thomas Salzle, a senior designer there, to make his case: "The i-Mode is a solid, sporty looking MPV. It uses typical Hyundai form language - flowing lines, many concave shapes - to send a message about our upcoming vehicle." He also points out the extremely tapered DLO [daylight opening, or side windows] and the "negative" A- and C-pillars, meaning, they slope sharply to meet each other in the center of the roof. The patterned grille is meant to be random; "fractal" rather than a more typical honeycomb pattern.
The effect is of a large, misshapen egg, or perhaps a small beached whale. There's a lot of weird ideas going on here, like the way the headlights and their surrounding sheetmetal bumps eat up most of the hood, although certainly there are some cool touches, like the dual-finish turbine-style wheels, which are canted in different directions on either side of the vehicle. The sliding side door concept is of interest, though, as Eric-Yann Coulouvrat, another designer from Hyundai's German studio, explains: "Most sliding doors are attached to the vehicle via an upper rail, which then defines and limits the size and shape of the roofline. With our design, the only rail is at the bottom of the door, so there is no interference with the top of the vehicle. Our door pivots out, away from the body of the vehicle, and back, leaving maximum room for people to enter the second and third rows of seats."
Inside, the i-Mode is equipped with a second-row bench that rotates on its horizontal axis and slides forward to allow access to the rearmost seats. Since the intent with the interior was "to create something like a lounge inside," as Coulouvrat puts it, the front passenger's seat rotates so that its backrest when it's facing forward becomes the seat bottom, and vice-versa. "The idea is to connect the passengers, to create a social space," adds Coulouvrat. "That's why we have two large LG monitors for the rear seats, plus one in the dash. And you'll see that the dash is completely symmetrical - the front passenger is given as much importance as the driver." As part of the dark, moody club atmosphere, the seats are upholstered in purple leather, and the dash and door panels are fashioned from multiple layers of thick plexiglass, all illuminated with dark blue lighting.
Our take: the sliding door concept has promise, and there are some cool touches to the interior, but the exterior of the Hyundai HED-5 i-Mode should go back to the Hyundai studio.
Click the link below for high-resolution HED-5 i-Mode images.