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Kia's gullwing KV7 reinvents the van


January 10, 2011

Kia KV7 Concept at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show

Kia KV7 Concept at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show

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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.
About the Author
Noel McKeegan After a misspent youth at law school, Noel began to dabble in tech research, writing and things with wheels that go fast. This bus dropped him at the door of a freshly sprouted Gizmag.com in 2002. He has been Gizmag's Editor-in-Chief since 2007. All articles by Noel McKeegan

Didn\'t we see Ford do something this stupid a few years back?

Try to park something this wide and then you don\'t have room to open the doors. Minivans have sliding doors for a reason!


I really like this concept. One of our cars currently is the \"swivel and go\" style T&C. My only big question with this is why they still have the rear door? If you are going to re-imagine the platform this far, why keep the rear door when it has lost most of its functionality?


I agree with abe, sliding doors have many benifits, especially motorized ones so moms just push a button.

I agree with Ceridian, I like the seats, its been done but still nice to see.


WHO REALLY CARES. I hate hate hate hate hate hate concept cars. WHY do they waste so much time and money on something they won\'t make. I\'ve never known anyone to go to a dealer and say, I will buy this sedan because the concept car you made last year was great.

Again I hate ALL concept cars, for the simple fact that almost none of the ideas make it to the production line.

Michael Mantion

I can\'t for the life of me see any seatbelts :/


Abe: The gullwing door is there solely for the dramatic effect. It\'s supposed to be a show-car, can you imagine anything more dull than a sliding door in a vehicle presentation to the public/press?

Also, I think the rear door would actually be useful as a loading bay for a car like this. Especially since the seats are likely to be foldable or removable in the production version.

Michael: actually, many concept ideas make it to production line, except that those are never ever the striking features the manufacturers brag about, the shape of these seats and the side door being the prime example. But the design often goes on to production...


Andre Boll

Abe: the gullwing door is there for the sole purpose of being a striking feature. Can you imagine anything as dull as a sliding door in a presentation to the press or the public? I bet they would make the doors explode if they could, just to call attention to the car.

Ceridian: The back door would actually be useful in the production vehicle, as a loading aperture. Especially since the seats will probably be foldable or removable in the production version. Don\'t forget it\'s easier to just slide an oversized object from the back (no pun intended) into the vehicle than to put it into the side door and then twist it to make it go all the way to the back.

Michael: Actually many features of the concept cars do make it into production, except those are not the striking ones we\'d like to see. The seats and the side door are the prime examples in this case, both will never make it. On the other hand the design features of the interior, and more often of the exterior, do make it to production constantly. The Kia Soul\'ster below just being an example.


Andre Boll

This is actually the trend cars will be heading in, especially once automated driving becomes the standard. It might be a little too \"forward friendly\" for most people, but again, most people live in the present, and are unable to forecast, in the slightest, future trend. For KIA\'s sake, keep this a concept, as it is not where it should be yet, but it\'s getting there.

Michael Partridge

I love the idea of celebrating the box. Boxes, although not swoopy and curvey, work well for carrying stuff. And I especially like the styling. Kia has done, on a larger scale of course, what Scion could/should have done with their xB. With a more sane interior and sensible doors, I believe the KV7 would do well in the market.

Bruce H. Anderson
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