These days, it’s an SUV, crossover, and pickup truck world. The sedans are just living in it. Sure, the classic four-box (or even five-door hatchback) is represented in the electric world by entries like the Polestar 2, Hyundai Ioniq 6, BMW i4, and, of course, the Tesla Model 3 and Model S, but the new EVs coming to market have been overwhelmingly SUVs and even trucks as of late. That’s why the Kia EV4 Concept is so refreshing. It proves that not every automaker is ready to give up on sedans yet, and Kia hopes it may even win over some converts.
Unveiled at Kia’s EV Day event in Seoul this week, the EV4 Concept is one of two new vehicles seen for the very first time from the Korean automaker – the EV3 Concept was the other. But when paired alongside that and the production-spec EV5, I kind of said “Now we’re talking” when I saw it onstage for the first time ever. It’s a sedan and an interesting one at that.
Design-wise, the EV4 Concept heavily resembles the EV6 crossover – hardly a bad thing – just lower and a little smaller. But not that much lower. The EV4 boasts an almost crossover-like ride height. Think something along the lines of the Toyota Crown hybrid or even the aforementioned Polestar 2. Kia’s also quick to evoke the Stinger, its now-retired performance sedan, and it’s good to know that car will get a kind of spiritual replacement. And yes, it does like a different animal than its cousin the Ioniq 6 – it’s quite a bit taller and wider overall.
“Kia has a recent history with performance cars like the Stinger and Stinger GT, driver’s cars, and we don’t want to lose that in the future,” Kia’s design chief Karim Habib told me in Seoul. “It has a fresh, bold, unexpected design, with a focus on performance and visual impact.”
The front end of the EV4 Concept bears a strong resemblance to the EV9 and EV5: tall, narrow, LED-heavy headlights with the “tiger” grille running across the lower end. The hood slopes low (but it does offer a frunk, Kia said) while the back end tapers off to form a true hatchback much like the Stinger. All told, the silhouette definitely evokes the EV6’s shape, but in sporty sedan form. What’s not to like?
Habib said that as with Kia’s other EV offerings, space was the top priority with the EV4 Concept’s design. Going almost SUV-like in ground clearance allowed designers to maximize roominess. “It’s not a low sedan like we know them today,” he said. “We want to find a way to keep lower, sleeker vehicles in the future, not just design-wise but in terms of utility.”
He’s right in implying a kind of fatalism for sedans. Pretty much across the world, sedan sales have been declining and giving way to crossovers and SUVs for years now. But Kia’s executives said many customers still want sedans, and those people aren’t a demographic they want to give up while racing toward a goal of nearly 40% of global sales being electric by 2030. “We believe we can attract customers of sedans as well as crossovers because the space inside is much bigger,” said Teck-Koun Kim, the Head of Next Design at Kia.
In keeping with making this a driver-focused car, Kia’s designers said the EV4 Concept puts its climate controls on a slide-out panel that hides when it’s not needed. It also boasts tiny “pin-style” air vents that can circulate air in novel ways throughout the cabin; the EV4 Concept’s designers said that air vents are getting smaller and smaller (blame bigger and bigger screens for that) so this is a way of thinking outside the box to keep cabins the right temperature.
Habib admitted the sliding climate control console “is more on the concept side.” But the EV4 Concept itself is not. Officials confirmed that it’s headed for production, but that the company is “studying” whether it will come to the US or not. Stinger sales were never anything to write home about at Kia, but I still think there’s a place for interesting cars like this – and sedans in general.