Kia Futuron electric SUV concept revealed in China

Kia has unveiled its vision for an all-electric SUV at the China International Import Expo. Whilst very much a static concept at the moment, the Futuron showcases some of the design principles that could see the light of day on future cars from the Korean manufacturer.

We'll take a look at some of the design details that Kia has built into the Futuron, but unfortunately you'll have to use your own imagination when it comes to powertrain. All we do know is that it would be four-wheel drive and capable of level 4 autonomous (hands-off, eyes-off) driving.

SUV coupe with a '360 degree' core

The Kia Futuron concept has a low coupe-like profile, something which Kia is keen to emphasise as it intends for its future cars to be confident, sporty, modern and also elegant. Its body shape is designed to be taut around the cabin space, with the overall appearance made possible thanks to the battery's location low in the floor.

A central part of the Futuron's design is its '360 degree' design concept, which according to Kia is 'free of ornament' – that is to say minimalist and without too much addenda. It also seeks to centralise the most important element of the car – the cabin and thus the passengers. As you can see in the pictures, it uses striking angles across its exterior, which give it a sleek, aerodynamic shape.

The diamond-shape glasshouse sits atop that 'core' which Kia likens to a UFO or flying saucer design. It floods the cabin with natural light and incorporates a network of light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors to inform that level 4 autonomy. Alongside the natural light there is interactive interior ambient lighting which responds to physical gestures outside the car to make a connection before anyone has even entered.

New Kia 'Tiger Face'

Since Kia updated its design language getting on for ten years ago one of its signature features has been the 'tiger nose' grille. On the Futuron, Kia has expanded the basic principle of the tiger nose across the entire face of the car. This follows on from the firs outing of the 'Tiger Face' on the Imagine by Kia Concept which broke cover earlier this year.

Incorporated into the Futuron's face is a grille within which is situated the headlamps which take on a 'Star Cloud' design. This new lighting concept takes inspiration from the night's sky and creates a patchwork of LED lighting both front and back. During the day the Star Cloud concept switches over to dynamic daytime running lights thanks to a 'dragon skin' scaled effect.

Innovative cabin space

Thanks to that level 4 autonomous driving capability which, in most circumstances, allows for hands and eyes-off driving, the cabin space has a high level of flexibility built in. The driver and front passenger seats can be set up in an upright driving position or a relaxed rest position depending if the car is driving itself. Under autonomous control the steering wheel retracts as well – which we can imagine being highly disconcerting the first time that happens.

The star cloud lighting and dragon skin effect continues on the inside of the car and has been used as one of the ways of distributing the ambient light, as well as being part of the ventilation system. For the driver there is a cockpit-style area which surrounds the driver with graphical user interfaces (GUI). These merge into the doors, into the instrument cluster and round into the central audio-visual interface. The steering wheel also has a built-in GUI meaning a totally uninterrupted graphical display.

Will any of this make production?

Of course all of this fancy design language, star clouds, dragon skins, tiger faces and UFOs is great for the purposes of a concept, but whether any of it makes it onto a production car is always the guessing game we have to play. Certainly, things like the tiger face, ambient lighting, GUI and exterior styling could see the light of day in a dialled-back way. The rest is probably exactly what it is meant to be; a concept. But the Futuron is undoubtedly an interesting take on what a future Kia electric SUV could look like – and it doesn't take too much imagination to think of it as a late 2020s replacement for the Sorento...

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