Kia has revealed the Trail’ster concept at this year’s Chicago motor show, the design of which previews a future all-wheel-drive version of the Soul EV.
“The Trail’ster concept is a near-future look at how the production Kia Soul would logically evolve into an AWD-capable version that’s built to escape the city streets and roam into the mountain wilderness,” said Tom Kearns, chief designer, Kia Design Center of America (KDCA). “It takes the go-anywhere capability of an SUV and reimagines it within a compact and sporty package with an expressive design to match.”
Although the design study has been raised more than two-and-a-half inches over the production Soul, the overall shape and size are essentially the same. Highlighting its off-road capabilities, the Trail’ster also wears aluminium skidplates around the entire vehicle.
Overhead, the concept features a full-length, weatherproof rollback canvas roof to create an open-sky environment for occupants. The designers say the retractable cover also helps lighten the vehicle and lowers the centre of gravity, leading to both better efficiency and improved dynamics.
On the inside, the Trail’ster’s colour and trim palette combines brown leather and aluminium accents. Cabin materials are said to have been inspired by snow sports gear and equipment. “We drew from high-quality active lifestyle accessories like snowboarding gloves, boots and helmets to bring a premium level of craftsmanship and character to the interior space,” commented Kearns.
The focal point of the interior is the centre console incorporating a thickset gear shifter, AWD controls and a bright red ignition button.
Underneath, the concept car is primarily powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine outputting 185 bhp and 185 lb-ft of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission, matched to an electric all-wheel-drive system on the rear axle.
“This powertrain strategy of a downsized turbo and ‘Through-the-Road’ hybrid power yields a dual benefit of increased performance – torque and traction – and optimised efficiency,” said Kearns.
Should the Trail’ster find its way to production, Kia says fuel economy would be targeted at a 25-30 per cent improvement in city driving and 5-10 per cent in highway driving over the normally aspirated 2015 2.0-litre petrol Soul.
The electric motor generates 35 bhp and 100 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels, bringing total output to 220 bhp and 285 lb-ft of torque.