Trail'ster concept previews a new all-wheel-drive version of the Soul EV
12 February 2015

The Kia Trail'ster concept has been revealed at the Chicago motor show, previewing a future all-wheel-drive version of the Soul EV.

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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Our Verdict

Kia Soul

Kia adds refinement and maturity to its funky crossover without leaching out the charm. Still flawed dynamically

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29 January 2015
Given the motorists never-ending desire for the SUVs, Kia would be well advised to hasten to the market an SUV based on the Rio to compete with the Juke/Captur/2008.

29 January 2015
fadyady wrote:

Given the motorists never-ending desire for the SUVs, Kia would be well advised to hasten to the market an SUV based on the Rio to compete with the Juke/Captur/2008.

possibly but would take a quite bit of a restyle.

The Soul is already half chunky in a low key Skoda Yeti fashion so is begging for a couple more bits of stick on cladding and 4wd. Old fogeys who buy the Soul to try to deny being old fogeys love 4wd as it some how reassures them that they can get to B&Q or go round to annoy their sons and daughters no matter what the weather.

Hence why a Honda CR-V leaves a dealership every 86 seconds on average for a sheltered housing allocated parking space.

30 January 2015
Looks nice but it wont go far in the snow with only an inch gap between the tyre and the wheelarch.

currently a happy owner of a Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin :)

12 February 2015
This - for those who have never driven one, is in fact a corker of a little chap. Its not intended to be a A class Merc or X1 - but as someone pointed out - nearest flashpoint is the Yeti (another great car) and I said at the beginning this car should never have been launched as FWD but 4WD with cheaper FWD version. They have gone a strange way of Hybriding it - but if it has Kia (Hyundai) stamped on it expect it not to break fall to bits and simply deliver whats written on the box

what's life without imagination

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