Two new battery electric cars. Two vastly different visual offers. Any real difference?
Electrification brooks no resistance. Legislative mandates have made it so, and as successive national governments fall into step, the current is running in one direction only. Nevertheless, for those of us who view the motorcar as a source for common good, we can perhaps witness this once in a lifetime paradigm shift with genuine interest, enthusiasm even. Well we might, if the fare being offered was served in more appetising packaging.
Because in purely aesthetic terms, and with one or two notable exceptions, a majority of cars thus constituted have eschewed the concept of either genuine surprise or delight.
Recently, we have been presented with two new BEV entrants from the Hyundai Motor Group, that mighty South Korean automotive and industrial powerhouse. Both sit at opposing ends of the current EV design spectrum, epitomising the dichotomy facing established car manufacturers as they struggle to establish a robust template for the electrified motor car.
What we appear to be offered at present is a predominantly binary visual proposition. On one hand a reassuring approximation of retro-futurism, and on the other a more dystopian, sterile, product design solution.
“IONIQ 5 will accommodate lifestyles without limits, proactively caring for customers’ needs throughout their journey.” Thomas Schemera – Executive Vice President and Global Chief Marketing Officer.
First out of the blocks and espousing the former visual envelope is Hyundai themselves with their back to the future IONIQ 5 – a name which rolls beautifully off the tongue in all corners of the English speaking world. Clearly named by the same marketing team who wrote Hyundai’s impenetrable press release, so if facts and figures are your wont, I’m afraid you’re on your own.
Claimed by its makers to stylistically evoke the original 1975 Hyundai Pony – designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Ital Design consultancy – the IONIQ 5 carries a vague suggestion of this, a soupçon of that, and if one really concentrates, a tiny screed of the legacy car and its fabled carrozzeria may perhaps be discerned. One has to wonder how many will notice, nor care for that matter?
Being a Hyundai (these days the more visually expressive brand within the stable), the otherwise quite calm looking IONIQ 5 comes with an unnecessary complement of Z-shaped slashes along its flanks, not to mention a cornucopia of fussy, over-mannered detailing. But without them, what would be left?
“The Opposites United design philosophy makes its debut on EV6, and will inform the design of all future Kia models. The philosophy is based on five key design pillars: ‘Bold for Nature’, ‘Joy for Reason’, ‘Power to Progress’, ‘Technology for Life’, and ‘Tension for Serenity’.” Kia Corporation
On the other side of the HMG visual spectrum lies KIA Motors, where not a scintilla of retrospective shoegazing can be found – the equation KIA seeing fit to pursue being an entirely rational, product design-led one.
New car, new design philosophy. New(ish) Design Director too, in the shape of former BMW Chief Designer, Karim Habib – a man who’s imprint remains indelibly upon the current generation of Veirzylinder products – not that it’s in evidence here.
KIA’s EV6 (another memorable name), while sharing HMG’s dedicated EV architecture, or Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) to the uninitiated, appears more overt crossover-based in appearance and layout, but beyond that, all external similarities with its Hyundai-branded stablemate cease.
In marked contrast to Hyundai’s offering, the EV6’s flanks offer clean, unadorned, voluptuous surfaces, a rising beltline and while the body section is both quite pleasing, and well resolved in the modern idiom, the visual extremities leave this observer’s bell unrung.
At the nose, the dictates of aerodynamics and the necessity to do away with a traditional grille motif has left a bland, featureless visage which suggests a composite for advertising purposes, rather than the bold new face for the brand. After all, having spent years and countless millions establishing KIA’s so-called Tiger face, why simply discard it and leave this in its place?
The rear is discordant for similar reasons, yet while it also plays the minimalist card, it over-eggs matters with a now de rigueur light-bar. Furthermore, neither front nor rear really speak to one another, the whole ensemble resembling a less than comfortable melding of three disparate designs – or possibly one which was tinkered with quite late in the process.
Cabin-wise, both cars again offer quite different, if broadly similar solutions. Both are dominated by large slab-like screens, a lack of haptic knobs and controllers and a broadly soulless environment, devoid of warmth. The IONIQ 5 at least makes a virtue of its layout by eschewing a space robbing centre console, making a feature of its uninterrupted footwells. Ironically, it is the KIA’s interior which looks the more normal of the pair, choice it seems, being the HMG leitmotif.
Both are likely to be fully resolved products and given HMG’s track record, are likely to prove excellent consumer durables. But like so many of the current BEV breed, it seems so very hard to feel even the remotest level of enthusiasm.
Admittedly, it’s early in the transition, but it does appear, from this safe distance that the industry remains at a collective loss as how to visually address the BEV design issue. Like any Klondike rush towards a new frontier, it all appears a bit scattergun – and will probably remain so until somebody successfully codifies the template.
Certainly, the Hyundai Motor Group are being quite astute in offering similar products in different wrappings – after all, should one not appeal, perhaps the other will be more to madam’s liking. But meanwhile, the wait for a genuinely new, truly desirable BEV just got that little bit longer.
 What exactly is a lifestyle without limits?
 A slightly half hearted middle ground also exists.
 Given the timelines, it’s unlikely he lent much significant input to the design of the EV6. Habib joined KIA in October 2019.