"A concept car like the POP could only have come from us," explains Gregory Guillaume, Kia Europe's Chief Designer, "designers from other companies regularly approach me at motor shows and say 'I would never even be allowed to try and carry that one off' and it's great to be in a position to operate with such freedom."
Being given its world debut at the 2010 Paris Motor Show the Kia POP is a striking vision of future urban electric transport created by the company's European Design Centre in Frankfurt led by Guillaume under the direction of Peter Schreyer, Kia Motors Chief Design Officer.
The chrome-coloured, three-metre-long three-seater with an electric drivetrain, oblong-shaped side windows and front-hinged doors certainly does surprise. Compared to electric-car concepts that have gone before, the Kia POP does indeed appear to start from a very different place.
"Many of the things that influenced this design were non-automotive," Guillaume explains. "We were looking at lightweight, aerodynamic things, such as gliders and high-speed bicycles. We realised that the automotive world wasn't inspiring us to achieve what we wanted to achieve."
The Frenchman enthusiastically describes how the heads of the front passengers are perfectly positioned at the centre of the windows' top ellipses; how at night the grille allows Kia's trademark 'tiger nose' to illuminate the darkness; and how the protrusions at the bottom corners of the doors are actually rear-view cameras that relay images to small screens in the cabin.
He continues; "The inside and outside were always designed together. From the start we looked at the seating on that very short footprint and tried to ensure that passengers would have a perfect view, just like in a helicopter.
"The seats are designed to be non-automotive. They're very pure, very simple, almost furniture-like. The front bench is sculpted, with interesting, flowing lines and, because it's an electric car without a conventional engine, we were able to push the firewall far forward," he explains.
The rear seat is positioned at an offset angle facing out from the rear passenger side across the cabin to the driver-side A pillar. It's a two-part affair with a base that flips up when not in use and a back and headrest integrated into the headlining. The resultant legroom is quite remarkable in a 1,740mm-wide car with a wheelbase of just 2,055mm.
The Kia POP has interior features that wouldn't look out of place on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. On a small piece of plexi-glass in front of the steering wheel sits a Transparent Organic LED (TOLED) display that shows a speedometer, battery charge gauge and the other main readouts when the car is running, but is otherwise totally transparent.
Thanks to its striking overall look and intriguing individual features, it's easy to forget that the Kia POP is also in fact a fully-electric, zero-emissions vehicle with a 50kW, 190Nm motor and a single-charge range of 160km. It's powered by highly efficient, compact lithium polymer gel batteries and is fully rechargeable in just six hours.Published 1 October 2010