Park it somewhere picturesque, unbolt the wheels, dispense with the dash and Kia's KV7 Concept Van would become a comfy little lounge-room retreat ... throw in a decent coffee machine and I'd move in. Unveiled at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show today, the KV7 was developed by Kia’s Southern California design team as a re-think of the segment that attempts to go beyond the notion of a van as simply an A-to-B family troop carrier. The design influences of Kia's recent offering like the Soul is clear, but what really grabs you about the KV7 is the interior – floating tabletop touch-screen computer display, four swiveling single-seats plus a three-seater corner mini-lounge, clever storage compartments, Wi-Fi connectivity and ... what every lounge-room needs ... a grand entrance courtesy of a long gullwing door and pillarless front door on the passenger side.

A box is a box

The KV7 is a deliberate move away from the angled fronts and heavily raked windscreens that have become commonplace in the minivan segment in recent times according to Kia.

“From the outset, we felt the 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, 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.”

Design highlights

Under the KV7's bonnet is Kia’s new Theta II 2.0-liter GDI turbocharged engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission which puts out 285 horsepower and can get better than 30 miles per gallon on the highway according to Kia.

The Concept is really about design experimentation though, and there are some interesting elements thrown into the mix.

The KV7 is awash with LEDs. One continuous line of LED fog lights spans the front end, vertical LEDs are smoothly integrated into the main headlamps and LED indicators on the side-mirrors and rear pulse in the direction being signaled. Inside there's also multiple flush-to-the-floor lights throughout and lashings of green LEDs across the front dash.

Aside from the sociable seating configuration (even the driver's seat swivels), the KV7 has a moving dash that shifts six-inches toward the driver when its needed, a Wi-Fi connected tabletop touch-screen computer interface in the rear and a track-ball operated display in the front for access to climate control and infotainment systems (we're not sure why the driver doesn't get his own touchscreen). The interior decor is notable for the use of reclaimed teak wood flooring and sustainable wool and felt materials.

Social Hub

So who buys a van that's built for "activity" rather than utility? According to Kia the Concept is targeted at an entirely new group of consumers – "a group of people referred to as 'Ringleaders'" who are looking for a platform from which to launch their "road trips, social outings and new adventures."

I'm not sure I fit the bill, but we'd love to see some of the design elements seen in the KV7 on the showroom floor (it would make one very handy mobile office for starters) and given Kia's track record of bringing its concepts to market, there's a better than even chance we will.

Kia KV7 Concept dimensions:

  • Length: 191.85 in. (4873mm)
  • Width: 80.0 in. (2033mm)
  • Height: 68.1 in. (1729mm)
  • Wheelbase: 122.0 in. (3100mm)
  • Wheels: P255/45R20
  • Tires: 20-in.