Skip to main content

Kia turned 21 phone screens into a concept car dashboard

When you can’t afford a flexible screen, but you really want a curve in your instrument cluster

Share this story

Ralph Kluge, head of Kia’s interior design team, thinks EVs up until now have been too logical, appealing to customers’ reason instead of their emotion. So, in a deliberate move to troll the Geneva Motor Show — or “to polarize a little bit,” as Kluge puts it — Kia has unveiled its Imagine concept car. Its absolute highlight is an array of 21 smartphone-sized LCDs that form the dashboard / instrument cluster for the driver. They don’t do a damn thing for the passenger, other than look like a deliberately distorted mess.

Maybe I’m supposed to be turned off by the sheer lunacy of what Kia’s brought to Geneva, but I actually like it. There’s a total clash between the gentle wave-like arrangement of the screens and the jagged, zigzaggy sharpness of their corners. It creates a busier visual than any functional information display should ever aspire to, but, again, I’m enjoying the uniqueness of the whole thing. We need concept designers to explore further than merely deciding between variants of rounded-off parallelograms, and I applaud Kia for letting go of any sensible restraints. “We took our liberties with this one,” Kluge admits.

Beyond the multiscreen dashboard, the Kia Imagine has a few other intriguing design ideas. The seats are inspired by the form of crumpled paper, and Kia calls their shape a shockwave design; it’s at once slim and strong, comfortable and characterful. The carpeted floor of the cabin extends up to nearly halfway on the doors’ interior, lending a stronger sense of an enclosed space when traveling in the car, as if in a cocoon. The upper part of the doors is dressed in a metallic fabric, which is literally metal threads woven together. Kluge says his team loved the way that material interacted with light as soon as they tried it, and there’s an unevenness to it, which he classifies as dramatic, engaging, and livelier than more conventional materials.

On the outside, the wheels have plexiglass elements to echo the interior, and the side skirts have been decorated with an embossed pattern, which is supposed to connote the goosebumps you get when you’re particularly excited. The panoramic sunroof is cut off by a sharp-angled line, which falls toward the rear wheels. The headlights are a predictably ornamental single lighting unit with additional thin lights above it, while the taillights are thin, elongated slabs hanging in the space above another angular decorative opening.

This entire car is truly a designer’s indulgence, and Kluge says that it’s a “pure concept” without any sort of timeline, feasibility testing, or plans for a production vehicle. Serving as a show car, the Kia Imagine is meant to get conversations going and attract some attention for its brand, and on the evidence of the interest it’s attracted in Geneva, I’d say it has definitely accomplished its design goal.

A small suggestion for the next iteration of this concept, if I may: use OLED screens. Not only are they prettier than LCDs, but I hear they’re even foldable now.


Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge

Photography by Vlad Savov / The Verge