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Kia Trail'ster Concept First Look

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 2/12/2015 Kelly Pleskot
Kia Trailster Concept With Snow Kia Trail'ster Concept First Look

Kia's latest debut, set to roll out this week in Chicago, isn't just a regular Soul hatchback with some extra-funky styling. Add hybrid power, all-wheel drive, and off-road capability, and you have the Trail'ster concept.

Kia says the Trail'ster can tackle off-roading adventures thanks to a number of mechanical and exterior upgrades. Armored aluminum skidplates protect the undercarriage from jagged rocks and ice, and coil-over shocks allow for stability on uneven surfaces. A rear-axle-mounted, electric all-wheel-drive system brings enhanced traction and improved acceleration at launch. To accommodate the outdoor lifestyle, the Trail'ster features Pirelli snow tires. It also has roof rack fittings with aluminum cross rails for carrying snowboards or mountain bikes. Foglights up front aren't for show; they provide extra illumination for excursions off the beaten path.

Kia Trailster Concept© Provided by MotorTrend Kia Trailster Concept

But the real action happens inside the hybrid drivetrain. The Trail'ster experiments with turbocharging in the form of a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder engine with 185 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. Also powering the Trail'ster is a 27-kilowatt hour, 270-volt electric motor with 35 hp and 100 lb-ft of torque paired with a 1.2-liter lithium-ion battery located stored under the cargo floor. This provides a combined total of 220 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque, which is significantly more than the traditional Soul's 130-hp, 1.6-liter engine or 164-hp, 2.0-liter engine.

Related Link: Research the 2015 Kia Sportage

Unlike other hybrid systems that are joined through the transmission, there is no mechanical connection between the Trail'ster engine, which is located in the front, and the electric motor in the rear. This creates two separate power sources for a "through-the-road" hybrid system. The electric motor plays the role of assisting the gasoline engine during heavy loads or while off-roading.

Kia Trailster Concept© Provided by MotorTrend Kia Trailster Concept Kia Trailster Concept© Provided by MotorTrend Kia Trailster Concept

Kia says that the "through-the-road" hybrid system and a downsized turbo engine will increase torque and traction while improving fuel economy. The automaker postulates that should this concept reach production, it would ideally achieve 25-30 percent better fuel economy in the city and 5-10 percent improvement on the highway over the traditional 2.0-liter, gas-powered Soul.

Related Link: Research the 2015 Kia Soul

And unlike the Track'ster and GT4 Stinger concepts that have faded into the background, it looks like there could actually be a future for the Trail'ster on the not too distant horizon. Tom Kearns, chief designer at Kia's design center in California, deemed the Trail'ster 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."

Kia says that because the model is based on the Soul, it should provide plenty of space for gear and passengers. The interior, which promotes subtlety, differs from the rest of the Soul lineup. Brown, leather-trimmed seats and aluminum accents flood the cabin, as do high-gloss paint, a thick, tactile gearshift, and all-wheel-drive controls.

Kia Trailster Concept© Provided by MotorTrend Kia Trailster Concept

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