The Soul has been one of Kia’s most successful models, and it has become a consumer favorite crossover. It’s just different and playful while at the same time being an excellent value.
This year, Kia introduced the Soul EV, an electric version of the car that packs all the same perks as the original and offers an environmentally-friendly option for drivers.
But why stop there when there are possibilities for so many fun versions? At the 2015 Chicago Auto Show, Kia brought a variation that many people would definitely like to see in production.
Created at Kia’s design center in Irvine, California, the Trail’ster concept is a Soul for outdoorsy types. It retains the chic presence that makes it such a popular choice for urban living but adds the ability to take things off the pavement as well.
This isn’t the first time that Kia has brought a different iteration of the Soul to one of the major auto shows.
In 2009, they presented the Soul’ster, a flashy, sporty take on the Soul that was rounded out with a little more muscle and a pickup-like rear end.
And more recently, in 2012, Kia brought out the Soul’ster for the Chicago Auto Show. That concept explored possibilities for a track-ready iteration of the Soul.
Surely America wouldn’t mind having a whole fleet of specialized Soul models to choose from at Miami Kia, but alas that just wouldn’t be practical.
However, there’s more reason than ever to send this year’s Trail’ster concept to the factory. With other rugged crossovers like the Chevy Trax and Jeep Renegade taking the market in a new direction, it might be the perfect time for Kia to make a move into new territory.
Tom Kearns, chief designer for Kia, said: “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.”
Check out what the totally unique off-road Trail’ster concept has to offer. Maybe it would be just the right ride for you.
Taken Up a Notch
One of the first things you’ll notice about Kia’s Trail’ster concept is that it looks higher and beefier than its predecessors.
That’s because it’s got a more than 2.5-inch lift thanks to Kia’s choice of KSport coilovers. The additional clearance definitely gives the Trail’ster a more capable stance.
And that extra space also allows for 19-inch wheels and heavy duty Winter Carving tires from Pirelli that look ready to take on some pretty tough terrain.
Distinct Power Setup
One of the alterations that lends to the Trail’ster’s recreational abilities is the fact that it’s an all-wheel drive vehicle.
But Kia went about incorporating that capability in an unusual way. The Soul concept is actually powered by a 1.6-liter turbo four which delivers 185 horsepower and 185 lb-ft. It’s paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Now, to get that all-wheel drive power, Kia used a 270-volt AC electric motor to send 35 ponies and 100 .b-ft of torque to the rear in instances where more traction is required.
In a press release from Kia, the company said that “the Trail’ster – thanks to a rear axle-mounted electric all-wheel-drive system – is all about surefootedness in the wild.
Interestingly enough, there’s no actual connection between the front and rear systems. They simply kick in as needed depending on the kind of driving you’re doing. It’s what’s known as a “through-the-road hybrid.”
During normal driving, the rear motor aids the front gasoline-powered engine like in any hybrid. Kia says that in addition, the motor offers “low-speed assist, enhanced launch acceleration and improved traction in inclement weather or off-road situations.”
With the engine and motor combined, the seemingly innocuous Trail’ster pumps out a total of 220 horsepower and 285 lb-ft. Impressive, right?
It’s definitely a big leap from the 2015 Soul’s standard 130 horsepower version of the same engine which doesn’t feature a turbocharger.
The other great thing about the Trail’ster’s electric setup for the rear is that the vehicle can function as an EV at low speeds and can even travel for three miles on electric power only. During that time, the battery also gets some fresh charge from being in regenerative mode.
Another clever trick is that the Trail’ster also has start-stop technology to help conserve fuel. Overall, Kia thinks that the concept’s engineering could increase the crossover’s fuel economy significantly.
Kia asserts that if the system were to be used in a typical Soul model, it has the potential to enhance efficiency by 25 to 30 percent in the city and 5 to 10 percent on the highway.
If that were the case, the Soul, which currently has a combined fuel economy rating of 26 miles per gallon, could see ratings up to 34 miles per gallon on the highway. That would definitely be exciting news for fans of the Soul.
The Trail’ster certainly has the looks to go with its recreational role. It’s dressed in a Polar Pearl Snowdrift finish that’s intended to be reminiscent of a mountain landscape, and the roof is Terra Bronze Metallic.
Inspired by the design of high-performance outdoor gear, anodized fire red trim complements the color scheme.
It gives the Trail’ster’s appearance a bit of a hardcore touch, most noticeably on the model’s wheels. The grille goes across the length of the hood and is thinner than on typical Soul models.
And in terms of lighting, the concept car rocks square projector headlights in the front that are very similar to those on Kia’s K900 luxury model.
You’ll also see large, snazzy LED foglights on the lower fascia, and accent lights that are embedded in the roof and side mirrors.
The interior also comes off just as high-end and just as earthy. Polished aluminum accents keep the level of swankiness up while brown leather upholstery gives the atmosphere a touch of granola.
The cabin is spacious, like all Soul models, and the design is extremely clean. Your attention is immediately drawn to the center console with its bright red start button, solid-looking gear shifter, and all-wheel drive controls.
There are also aluminum inlays in all of the floormats to prevent damage from bringing the outside in after trekking.
Other Off-Road Touches
Kia has included several other details that help the Trail’ster make an impression that’s sure to please outdoor enthusiasts.
Aluminum skid plates deck out the lower end of the vehicle all the way around to provide protection on challenging, uneven terrain.
The Trail’ster also has a full-length roll-back canvas roof for a Jeep-esque feel. Just imagine taking the top off and hitting the trails on a gorgeous sunny day.
And there’s also an integrated roof rack so you can transport all of your gear. It has aluminum cross rails that work with many different carrying setups.
Add on a cargo carrier for a road trip adventure or load up the bikes for some riding time. Whatever your favorite flavor of outdoor fun is, the Trail’ster comes equipped to handle it.
Now let’s just keep our fingers crossed that this baby makes it to the showroom at some point.