Cutesy electric concept could turn into the spiritual successor of the Nissan Leaf

About a decade ago, Nissan struck gold with the Nissan Leaf. The compact five-door hatchback was the automaker’s first-ever electric car, and it also happened to be one of the first mass-produced electric cars in the world. The Nissan Leaf was a pioneer, but now that it’s almost 10 years old, it’s also transitioned into a relic of sorts as newer and more advanced EVs have started hitting the market.

With the aging Leaf nearing its end date, Nissan is revisiting the successful blueprint it created a decade ago by introducing the IMk Concept, a small electric hatchback concept that’s pegged as a full-blown electric city commuter that packs a lot of Nissan’s new technologies. Does the concept point to Nissan’s future plans in the EV sphere? Could Nissan trap lightning in a bottle for a second time with the IMk Concept? We’ll find the answers to these questions at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show when the IMk Concept makes its world debut.

Exterior

  • Short in length, tall in height
  • Looks like a shrunken van
  • Iluminated details throughout
  • Side-mirror cameras

I can’t decide if the Nissan IMk is a small concept car or an oversized Hot Wheels toy. By the standards of actual vehicles, it’s small, as in really small. It only measures 3,434 mm (135 inches) long, 1,512 mm (59.5 inches) wide, and 1,644 mm (64.7 inches) tall. By comparison, the Nissan Leaf is 25 inches longer and 10 inches wider. The IMk is taller, sure, but not by much — only 3.7 inches — over the Leaf.

There’s a reason Nissan created the IMk Concept to be as small as it is.

The concept is a proposal of sorts for what the Japanese automaker envisions to be a fully electric city car that can shuttle people in and around the world’s metropolitan areas.

More importantly, the IMk serves as a preview of Nissan’s next-generation electric cars and all the driver assistance technologies that come with them.

2019 Nissan IMk Concept Exterior
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But before we get into all of that, let’s take a look at the IMk Concept’s design. If for nothing else, it’s a good place to start. The IMk Concept abides by Nissan’s new “Timeless Japanese Futurism” design philosophy. There’s nothing outwardly specific about the intricacies of the new design language. What we do know is that the IMk looks a shrunken van. Notwithstanding its size, the profile gives off the van vibe with the short overhangs in the front, the taller-than-expected height, and the flat rear section. Stylistically, the IMk gets by with its quirky size, but the actual design leaves a bit to be desired. The front section, for example, gives off a grouchy profile. The side and rear profiles aren’t eye-popping themselves. That said, props on the wheel design, the stretched rear LEDs acting as the taillight, and the illuminated Nissan logo at the back. If for nothing else, those details will catch your attention.

2019 Nissan IMk Concept Exterior
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Speaking of illumination, that’s one of this concept’s claims to fame. The front grille is illuminated and so are the roof slats.

The side mirrors are next-level tech, too, in part because they’re a pair of cameras that work in concert with in-car screens located at the base of the A-pillars.

If this tech looks and sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same one we saw in what could be a concept rival for the IMk: the Honda E. The full glass roof is another nice touch and Nissan’s choice to use a rose gold paint finish speaks to its desire to catch the attention of young car buyers, a lot of whom are exposed to the fancy color through their smartphones. Oh, and those wheels. Those are probably the understated highlights of the concept, particularly in how different they look with the rose gold application.

2019 Nissan IMk Concept Exterior
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It’s unlikely that we’ll get to see these design cues in future Nissan models, but don’t lose hope that it won’t happen, either. We are talking about a future defined largely by electrification and autonomous driving technology.

If you’ve seen some of the concepts that have been launched by automakers touting such technologies for future applications, there’s no reason Nissan can’t do the same with the IMk Concept.

I’m not necessarily a fan of how it looks, but with a few nips here and a few tucks there, the IMk Concept could pave the way to a production model that might follow in the Nissan Leaf’s electric footsteps.

Interior

  • Holographic display
  • Lots of touchscreen features
  • Bench seats
  • Tight on space
  • Fancy trim pieces
2019 Nissan IMk Concept Interior
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The interior of the Nissan IMk Concept is what you’d expect from a futuristic concept. Upfront, there’s a massive holographic display sitting in the middle section of the layered dashboard. There’s a standard steering wheel on one side, but for the most part, the interior carries a minimalist vibe. There aren’t that many controls and the controls that are included are of the touchscreen variety.

This design treatment isn’t entirely new in the auto industry, especially when it comes to a lot of the recent EV concepts that have come out in recent years.

A minimalistic interior is a tried-and-tested design method in this concept space. Nissan isn’t alone in adopting the “less junk, less clutter” design principle when it comes to the cabin of these EV concepts. That’s not a bad thing, either. A minimalistic interior design with touchscreen controls creates a tech-savvy vibe, and there’s a lot of that when it comes to the IMk Concept. Without actually showing them off, Nissan equipped the IMk with several tech features that could prove to be useful in the event the concept evolves into a production model.

2019 Nissan IMk Concept Interior
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The concept, for example, recognizes the driver through his or her smartphone. More importantly, the concept automatically adjusts parameters such as the seating position, the climate control settings, and the stereo. There’s no need to do all these tasks manually because the IMk has them covered. There are still controls that have to be pushed, though, particularly the shifter and the start button. But the rest is completely touch-enabled.

The rest of the interior includes a front bench that doesn’t look as spacious given the short width of the concept.

Even with the bench-type layout, I don’t imagine three people fitting in that bench. It’s the same story with the rear seats. Nissan’s design approach is top-shelf. The quality of the seats looks nice and you can also point to the fancy trim pieces like the wood slats on the door cards, the texture of the seats, and the woven strands of metallic fiber on the floor carpeting that’s finished in somewhat of a dark brown shade as intriguing design details. There’s a lot to like about the interior of the IMk Concept and what kind of future it portends for Nissan’s lineup of electric vehicles. But outside of the high headroom that’s a byproduct of how tall the concept is, the interior looks like it’s too tight to be comfortable for more than four people.

2019 Nissan IMk Concept Interior
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Maybe there’s more to the interior of the IMk Concept than what we know at the moment. It certainly fits into the category of what a concept interior should look like, especially one that’s attached to an automaker’s future design philosophy. It’s just too tight for my liking.

Drivetrain

  • Yet-to-be identified electric powertrain
  • Smartphone compatibility
  • ProPilot driver assistance
  • Energy Share technology
2019 Nissan IMk Concept Exterior
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While it’s established that the Nissan IMk Concept will rely on electricity to go out and about, Nissan didn’t specify the kind of powertrain that’s going to power its cutesy little concept. Perhaps the Japanese automaker is waiting for the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show to divulge those details. Or maybe the concept doesn’t have a specific powertrain, to begin with. It is, after all, still a concept. It’s not out of the ordinary for automakers to show a concept without any powertrain information.

That said, some of the IMk’s performance features have been revealed, specifically its ability to park by itself and be remotely summoned by a simple push of a button on your smartphone.

The concept can even recognize the owner and driver though his or her smartphone and use that knowledge to apply specific memory settings. On the energy side of things, the IMk can also self-connect to a home energy source where it can charge itself and, in certain situations, share power with the house under the principles of Nissan’s Energy Share technology. If these sound like next-level tech for the future, it’s because they are.

2019 Nissan IMk Concept Exterior
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Autonomy is also a big deal for the IMk Concept, just as it is for a lot of Nissan’s future EV models. As such, the concept is equipped with ProPilot driver-assistance features. How that tech is rolled out in the context of what the concept is capable of remains to be seen, but its availability is a big deal for a concept that’s pegged as an important showcase for Nissan’s future in the spheres of electrification and autonomous driving technology.

If all of these computerized aids and tech features come to pass, we could be looking at the next groundbreaking electric car from Nissan. It’s too early to assume as much for the IMk, but if it can have the same effect on Nissan as the Leaf EV did a decade ago, this concept could go down as one of the most important ones that Nissan has developed in recent years.

Final Thoughts

2019 Nissan IMk Concept Exterior
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For lack of a better word, the Nissan IMk is an intriguing concept. Maybe Nissan intended it that way because the way it’s positioning the IMk makes you wonder if the concept represents more than what Nissan is letting on. I’m most intrigued about the technology that’s being showcased in the concept. There are a lot of talking points here.

The Invisible-to-Visible technology looks promising if executed properly. The Energy Share technology holds a lot of potential, too. If these technologies are indicative of what Nissan has moving forward, then we could be in for a future of endless possibilities for the Japanese automaker. I’m not as bullish on the design of the concept itself, but it’s still a concept so I’m not too worried about it. If the IMk ends up as a production model, it would be interesting to see how Nissan applies elements of the concept into that model. Until then, the IMk Concept holds a lot of possibilities on what could be for Nissan. Let’s hope those possibilities turn into realities.

  • Leave it
    • The actual concept isn’t appealing
    • Interior space looks like a can of sardines
    • No promise of production

Further reading

2020 Nissan IMx Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
- image 747362

Read our full speculative review on the 2020 Nissan IMx.

2017 Nissan IMx Exterior
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Two electric motors

Read our full review on the 2017 Nissan IMx Concept.

2013 Nissan IDx Nismo High Resolution Exterior
- image 532944

Read our full review on the 2013 Nissan IDx Nismo.

2014 Nissan IDx Freeflow High Resolution Exterior
- image 532996

Read our full review on the 2013 Nissan IDx Freeflow.

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