DETROIT – Kia Motors America Inc. is “embracing…the box” in a minivan concept dubbed the KV7 rolling out today at the North American International Auto Show.

“From the outset, we felt the category was in need of an honest reassessment due to the fact that everyone seems so desperate to attach the word ‘sporty’ to their minivan, even though vans, at their very core, are simply a box,” KMA Chief Designer Tom Kearns says in a statement.

Thus, the KV7 is a “celebration” by Kia of the box on wheels, echoing the C-segment and squared Soul cross/utility vehicle, now Kia’s third best-selling model in the U.S.

The KV7 aims to bridge sophistication with renowned van functionality, Kearns says.

Designers drew inspiration from the “elegant box shapes” of smartphones and classic luggage pieces in crafting the KV7’s sheetmetal, Kia says.

The concept has a wide stance, A-pillars and a windshield design that are less upright than those of other minivans and 20-in. wheels.

A passenger-side gullwing door is a key design element. When it and the pillar-less front door are opened, there is a “massive point-of-entry” to the “lounge-like” interior, Kia says.

A variation of Kia’s signature tiger-nose grille can be found on the KV7’s face.

Also present on the concept van’s exterior are a raft of light-emitting diodes, including vertical headlamps, a line of LED fog lights that run the width of the KV7’s front end and “directional turn indicators on the outside mirrors and the rear of the vehicle that pulse in the direction being signaled.”

Inside, the KV7 aims to meet the needs of “ringleaders,” those who are more social with friends than chauffeurs of small children, via four swivel seats, a 3-seat mini lounge in the rear corner of the van and integrated storage compartments.

Soft beige and green tones are used to color the interior, where “green” materials such as reclaimed-teak-wood flooring and sustainable wool can be found.

Tech elements of the KV7 include a front dash that moves 6 ins. (15 cm) toward the driver when the vehicle is started. The dash contains a large multi-use display where drivers can access climate controls, infotainment and navigation features via a trackball mouse.

A separate display is available for rear passengers, in the form of a floating tabletop touch-screen, Kia says.

Wi-Fi means front and rear passengers both can access the Internet, as well as connect their smartphones to the vehicle.

Green LED lighting illuminates the inside of the KV7.

The concept van is powered by Kia’s 2.0L turbocharged and direct-injected 4-cyl., found in the new Optima Turbo sedan, producing up to 285 hp.

Dimensionally, the KV7 is roughly 10 ins. (25 cm) shorter than Kia’s Sedona minivan in overall length but is slightly wider with a longer wheelbase.

There’s no word on whether the KV7 is a hint at a future Sedona. Kia officials last summer spoke less assuredly to Ward’s about a next-generation minivan than they did two years ago.

However, the Sedona will remain part of Kia’s U.S. lineup, with an ’11 version planned.

The current model debuted in 2006, and, while traditionally one of Kia’s better-selling models, its volume trails competing minivans by a wide margin.

Kia sold 21,823 Sedonas in 2010, a 20.3% decline from 2009 and far below the 100,000-unit volume enjoyed by the Chrysler Town & Country, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com