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Kia Futuron SUV concept lights the way for a new design language

Kia says this design will influence future electric cars, but the new grille should become a brand staple.

Kia Futuron concept
It's a safe bet to say that grille is coming to a production Kia near you soon.

The future, right now, appears to be electric for the auto industry and Kia is ready to embrace the zero-emissions lifestyle in slick fashion. The Korean brand took the wraps off the Futuron electric SUV coupe concept at the China International Import Expo on Tuesday and said this design hints at what we'll see from the brand in the near future.

Notably, the familiar "tiger nose" grille Kia adopted more than a decade ago gets a big overhaul. While the company talked the new look up in the announcement, it's hard to get a good look at the front with the photos provided. You can tell it's wider than today's grille style, though, and I particularly like how it incorporates the front's lighting elements.

Kia called it the "Star Cloud" design that takes inspiration from the night sky. At night, the constellation of LED matrix lights gives this coupe SUV a highly identifiable look. Slap some production headlights in there and it's easy to see how this look could become Kia's new LED signature in the years to come. The same kind of pattern is present at the rear where the taillights also evoke the space-like style. The move to cover most of the front and rear light elements with the body color comes from Chinese myth. Kia named this look "Dragon Skin" and it's meant as a nod to the fantastical reptiles' scaled armor.

If you're not keeping score, we have space and dragons that influence this design so far.

Taking in the entire SUV, Kia wanted the Futuron to present a feeling of purity (space, dragons, purity) and said this is supposed to be a sports car with an SUV's ground clearance. This isn't a tiny vehicle, though. At 190 inches long, it's nearly the same length as a Kia Sorento, though it's significantly shorter at 61 inches tall. The Sorento is about 66 inches tall, but then again, this is supposed to be a very tall coupe.

Kia worked to make the entire design revolve around the cockpit area, which helped envision the incredibly clean lines that create its aerodynamic profile. The electric SUV's battery placement also helps, with the component housed underneath the floor. It juices four in-wheel electric motors -- a highly conceptual way of integrating e-motors that's nowhere near ready for production.

Sitting atop the swanky front glass (which helps make an elegant diamond shape on the roof) is an array of lidar sensors that give this concept Level 4 self-driving capability. Translation: It'll drive itself without any input from humans. Since the Futuron drives itself, the cabin gets a rethink, too. The two seats offer both an upright position and a reclined mode for relaxation (and when the computers do the driving). That same Star Cloud design finds its way inside, too, on the doors for an elegant ambient lighting organization.

The one-piece infotainment and cockpit area runs on artificial intelligence, and again, the Star Cloud look extends to the front of the cabin as its cockpit arcs toward the road ahead.

At the end of the day, this is a concept vehicle. What we can take away are some overarching design elements that will almost certainly influence the production cars designers are working on today. Scale down the drama a bit, sprinkle some production lights, mirrors and other doo-dads, and the future of Kia design looks pretty darn bright.

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