The Trail'ster concept acts as a prelude to a new AWD version of the Soul EV
Kia's Trail'ster concept will be revealed at the Chicago motor show later this month
Kia says the concept - described as a "uniquely compelling vehicle for the city dweller turned outdoor adventurer" - features a fully retractable canvas roof, a 1.6-litre petrol engine and a rear-mounted electric all-wheel drive system. The model is based on the Soul hatchback, but adds the roll-top roof, front and rear aluminium skid plates and a bespoke white exterior paint scheme with a bronze roof. Integrated roof rack fittings are designed to help carry mountain bikes or snowboards.
Inside it gets a brown leather and aluminium cabin, the design of which Kia says was inspired by snow sports gear such as ski goggles and snowboarding clothing.
The Trail'ster sits almost 6.5cm higher than a standard Soul and comes with Pirelli snow tyres.
The concept is a powered by a 185bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. It also comes with a rear axle-mounted electric all-wheel drive system, which features a 36bhp electric motor that sends 100lb ft of torque to the rear wheels. This system is intended to boost traction in low-grip situations and help with launch acceleration, making the Kia a hybrid, albeit one with no link between the engine and the electric motor.
Kia says that should it make it to production, this system will result in a 25-30% improvement in fuel economy around town, and a 5-10% improvement on the motorway versus a 2.0-litre petrol-engined Soul.
The electric motor is capable of powering the Trail'ster for two or three miles on battery alone at light throttle loads, while at other times it is intended to act as a supplementary power source to the engine
Although billed as a concept, the Trail'ster is very likely to make production, slotting in as a new model in the Soul EV range.
Both Kia and sister brand Hyundai have so far been slow to embrace hybrid technology. Using an electrically powered rear axle to offer all-wheel drive could be a starting point for future hybrid models. Adapting the technology to be used with conventionally powered Soul models is also a possibility.
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