Kia Trailster Concept-05

Kia has took the wraps off the Kia Trail’ster e-AWD Concept at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show. Penned by Kia’s California design studio, the Trail’ster is an adventurous Soul for those who look to venture beyond the city. Kia’s American studio has previously come up with the cool Track’ster and GT4 Stinger concepts.

“The Trail’ster 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. It takes the go-anywhere capability of an SUV and reimagines it within a compact and sporty package with an expressive design to match,” said Tom Kearns, chief designer at Kia Design Center of America.

The Trail’ster is powered by a 1.6 litre turbocharged engine with 185 hp and 250 Nm paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. An electric AWD system on the rear axle provides low-speed assist, enhanced launch acceleration and improved traction when needed. In addition, this approach helps mitigate turbo lag by providing instant torque. Combined, the Kia has 220 hp and 386 Nm.

Kia Trailster Concept-02

Kia calls this hybrid system “Through-the-Road” – both the ICE and e-motor meet “through the road,” as opposed to inside the transmission with a common driveline connection. It requires all four wheels being driven in careful coordination, but there’s no mechanical link between both propulsion sources.

Despite having AWD capability, Kia says that should the Trail’ster find its way to production, fuel economy would be 25-30% better in the city and 5-10% improved on the highway over the normally-aspirated 2.0 litre petrol Soul.

The 27 kW, 270 volt AC synchronous permanent magnet electric motor draws power from a 1.2 kWh lithium ion polymer battery stored under the cargo floor. The system also utilises a Hybrid Starter Generator to start/stop the engine as needed (and to feed energy to the high voltage battery), and an electrically driven A/C compressor, which can run when the engine is shut off. The electric motor can power the car solely for a range of up to five km on a gentle throttle.

Kia Trailster Concept-18

The cool-looking Trail’ster features a full-length, weatherproof rollback canvas roof, an arrangement also seen on the Fiat 500C and Citroen DS3 Cabrio. Integrated roof rack fittings with aluminium cross rails allow adventurers to tote mountain bikes or snowboards with ease.

Speaking of adventure, the Trail’ster sports aluminium skidplates around the entire vehicle. It has been raised more than 64 mm over a regular Soul and sits on Pirelli Winter Carving 245/45 R19 snow tyres. KSport coilover shocks help absorb the impact of rough ground and rocky surfaces.

Inside, the Soul’s cabin gets plenty of brown leather and aluminium accents. “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,” Kearns said. Looks good, doesn’t it?