By on February 14, 2020

A lofty, high-performance electric vehicle currently headed down the Kia product pipeline is, like all EVs, something of a gamble. For the mainstream Korean automaker, it’s also a departure.

Heralded by last year’s striking Imagine concept, the upcoming coupe-like crossover will clearly be a way for Kia designers to make a name for themselves — and, Kia hopes, a way for big-bucks buyers to get more for their money.

Spurred into EV action by various lawmakers and the emissions mandates they brought forth, Kia announced late last year that the Imagine, or whatever the brand decides to call it, is a go.

At the time, Kia Europe Chief Operating Officer Emilio Herrera was more concerned with the question of how the brand will make money off cheap, small EVs. Profitability likely won’t be as big a concern with the Imagine.

Speaking to Autocar, Kia marketing chief Carlos Lahoz called the model a halo. The Imagine, he said, is “as significant in showing our EV capability for the future as the Stinger was for showing how far Kia had progressed when it was launched.”

Expected to arrive in 2021, the rakish four-door is all about getting consumers to see Kia in a whole new light — while paying a suitable price that still undercuts European rivals. Herrera has talked up the possibility of getting electric supercar builder Rimac on board, thus ensuring an excess of performance.

“We want it to demonstrate super-high performance levels but in a package that is different. Today there are lots of A and B-segment electric cars, and many high-end electric cars; we want something different,” Lahoz said.

“We are not a premium brand, we are a mainstream brand, and we have to be true to that heritage. This car will be a halo, and be priced as such, but it will demonstrate that you can get very high performance levels without having to pay the premium prices of, for instance, Tesla, BMW or Mercedes.”

Despite automakers plunging into electrification like a burning man into a crystal-clear lake, much debate exists as to the level of market demand. The assumption in the industry is that there’s an EV for every consumer; when the right one comes along, they’ll pounce. Others feel that automakers are diving into a severely limited pool of buyers.

Design, along with content, range, and power, are the tools at a manufacturer’s disposal, and Kia hopes it has the right recipe. Halos are good, white elephants are not.

[Images: Kia Motors]

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17 Comments on “A Halo With Value: EV Range-topper Carves Out New Role for Kia...”

  • avatar

    Color me confused
    “Range topper”
    I clicked on the article because I thought we would get information on a 450-500 mile full charge range on an EV.
    Silly Me

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah you talk about range and EVs in the same sentence and I think about how far it can go on a charge too. Of course it turns out to mean that it will be the most expensive Kia.

    • 0 avatar

      Do you really want an EV with a ton or more of battery?

      The hill I will die on is that the vast majority of EV customers will do just fine with 200 miles of range, especially once currently planned charging infrastructure is built out. Until they’ve owned EVs, people don’t seem to grasp how much nightly charging changes the equation.

      • 0 avatar

        “especially once currently planned charging infrastructure is built out.”

        That’s a pretty important “once” though.

      • 0 avatar

        I would rather have 5 tons of batteries than a 30-60 minute stop every 200 miles on a road trip. And no, I don’t take road trips every week, but I take a few every year and it makes no sense to me to buy a family car that forces me to spend that much additional time.

        Getting recharging times down to 5 minutes would take care of that, although 200 miles is still pretty poor when even the humblest gas powered car is good for 300 or more.

        • 0 avatar

          It’ll be a 15-minute stop, just like a gas fillup with a bathroom break. And, yes, people will have to stop more often. The flip side of that is no stopping for gas at all during the 95% of your life when you’re not on a road trip.

          I swear if you read this website you’d think everyone has 26 weeks of vacation a year and spends them all road tripping.

          • 0 avatar

            @dal, if I’m spending $50k or more on a family vehicle, it sure as hell isn’t going to come with the compromise of 200 mile range or long recharge times (no one has a 15 min recharge time at the moment, even a Taycan can’t do better than 22 minutes for 80% charge, which is 160 miles). Will that improve? Probably. Until it does, and significantly, I’m out.

            I don’t deny that electric makes sense for some people who do less driving than I do. But just as you (rightfully) call out rural drivers for having blind spots when it comes to the reality of city living/driving, I’m here to tell you that what works in a dense core with charging stations that are ubiquitous and easily accessible does not work in much of the country where long distance traveling is a common thing. 200 mile range is not going to cut it for the majority of drivers, no matter how easy it is to charge at home.

        • 0 avatar

          This is the sort of thing that the BEV market is going to have to work out if they are going to become the dominant propulsion source:

          People don’t go on road trips every day but they generally do it often enough that it is a part of their vehicle purchase decision and it isn’t something that can just get handwaved away.

          • 0 avatar

            This will happen less often when charging infrastructure isn’t at the mercy of one company. As BEV volume builds, we’re going to have more random pay L3 (and L2) chargers from multiple companies scattered all over the place, just like gas stations today.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        The only EV I am currently shopping is the Mini, with like 120 miles of range. No, I don’t want a heavy battery I am never going to use weighing the car down. I have an ICE truck for long trips.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually from the title of the article I thought we were talking about more range with everything else the same. With same old same old battery technology EV will remain somewhat niche as long as ICE vehicles remain affordable.

      • 0 avatar

        I hope that hill isn’t someplace cold.
        While I agree with your sentiment, there is still work to be done before E.V.s are an easy transition for most car owners.
        A 200 mile range with 15 minute charges to 80% would be fine for me usually, but when that 200 miles becomes 120 (a reasonable expectation for a 2017 Bolt on the highway in the cold) and that charge time to 80% ( now down to 96 miles) is nearly an hour (once again a reasonable expectation for a used Bolt, the only long-distance E.V. that I could conceivably afford), winter travel becomes a bit daunting.
        We’ll get there, and I can’t wait. But we’re not there quite yet.

      • 0 avatar

        @dal20402: Batteries are getting lighter and that lightness increases efficiency, so increased range doesn’t mean heavier batteries. Increased efficiency also effectively decreases charging times. Look how Tesla keeps increasing range by tweaking battery chemistry. The Model S is now up to 390 miles range EPA.

        However, you do have a point about most people being fine with 200 miles range. I don’t think I’d ever need any sort of public charging with a 200-mile range. Most of the time, I barely use the capability of a 100-mile range car. I think the low-end number for range is rapidly approaching the 300-mile range mark. The Bolt is at 258 miles and is currently in the upper 20’s for price. Right now, I’m looking for a low-end commuter EV and a high-end performance EV. THe low-end one I’ll pick up soon, but the high-end car I’ll wait for the next big jump in battery tech which should be 12 to 24 months. Probably a sub $30k Bolt for the low-end and a Model 3 with the Maxwell Technology for the performance car.

  • avatar

    Is the light show supposed to make this boring turd more exciting?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’m interested, but I’m concerned about internal volume. It resembles a Honda CRX (good), but they weren’t known for their utility.

  • avatar

    The lift gate looks to be nicking the rear end from an Ioniq, the front end looks like RoboCop’s helmet, while the laser background looks to be out of Tron. Call it the RoboTronIq.

    As for EV versus ICE, EVs fit most of my motoring needs since I only work 8 miles from home as the crow flys and a majority of my errands are done in Suburbia USA. However, I have a 200 mile round trip which I take monthly to visity brother and his family in Rural USA. I’d be nervous to risk it without at least a 250-300 range for a bit of a fudge YMMV factor. I’m pretty certain a hybrid is in my future – maybe even a plug-in Hybrid, but I’m not actively looking.

  • avatar

    White elephants with halos are beautiful

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