Kia’s first ever dedicated electric vehicle, the EV6, heralds a new design era for the Korean carmaker, says the brand’s chief designer
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
Kia unveiled its new EV6 on 15 March, and while it marks a breakthrough for the brand as its first ever dedicated electric vehicle (EV), the EV6 also heralds the start of a new design era for the South Korean carmaker, according to Karim Habib, Kia’s head of global design.
The EV6 kickstarts what Kia calls its new design philosophy, “Opposites United”, and Habib explains that it represents the contrast between nature and humanity. Under the philosophy, Kia aims to develop designs that, while pointing the way towards a tech-led future, will also be inspired by the natural world, especially as it steps into the world of electrification and automation.
“We want our products to deliver an instinctive and natural experience that improves the daily lives of our customers. Our aim is to design the physical experience of our brand and to create original, inventive, and exciting electric vehicles,” says Habib (above).
On the EV6, this can be evidenced by its clean-cut design, bereft of an excess of overly intricate details that some other carmakers have opted for of late. The thin horizontal ‘grille’ is flanked by large trapezoidal headlights, and accentuated by the haunches on the bonnet to give the car a look that’s reminiscent of a smiling, friendly face. Kia calls this look the “Digital Tiger Face”, a nod to the Tiger Grille that has become a trademark for the brand in recent years.
A car like the EV6, designed as a mid-sized crossover, analogous to Jaguar’s I-Pace, also helps with Kia’s aspiration to move to a more upmarket position in the automotive sphere. The EV6 sits on E-GMP platform that also underpins the recently-unveiled Ioniq 5 from sister brand Hyundai, but while the Ioniq has a more functional style, the Kia opts for a more premium design direction with its sleeker profile.
Being premium though is not just about aesthetics, as Habib points out. “(Premium) design is not just about styling. It’s also about functionality and the user experience,” he says. For Kia, being premium means being modern, and being able to catch on to the latest trends that consumers demand.
Habib notes that Koreans are ‘very forward-looking’, and that consumers demand the very latest in cutting edge technology and trends. He cites the examples of South Korean electronic gadgets and pop culture to demonstrate how the country is ahead of the curve in that aspect, and it’s an attitude that the country’s automakers are trying to cultivate within themselves.
The proliferation of touchscreens is a sign of this adaptation, and cars are expected to be compatible with the consumer devices that folks are now used to today. However, Habib says ergonomics have to remain a priority. “Touchscreens allow for greater customisation, and adaptability for different situations, but we want to strike a balance so that ultimately, the user experience is a comfortable and intuitive one,” he says.
This is played out in the EV6’s large curved screen setup that incorporates both the infotainment display as well as the instrument cluster, and the climate control that is operated via haptic touch controls located lower down the console. This gives the EV6 a futuristic-looking cabin that customers desire, and yet not too unfamiliar such that it requires a huge adaptation process.
Ultimately though, a car’s design has to tie in with the brand’s identity, and the EV6 is illustrative of the type of identity that Kia wants to forge for itself. Habib envisions Kia to be brand that is both inspirational and user-friendly. “Cars are functional consumer products but they are also aspirational, and at the end of the day we want our cars to be able to improve the quality of life for our customers,” he says, “We want our customers to say that, yes, owning this Kia has made my life better.”