Kia pulled the wraps off of a new concept car in Chicago today, previewing a possible off-road capable version of the Soul.
The Trail’ster concept is based on the Soul, but with an extra 2.5 inches of ground clearance, aluminum skid plates to protect the under-body and an unusual powertrain that offers highly capable, but efficient all-wheel drive. It wears Pirelli Winter Carving tires that are 245 millimeters wide all around and meant for offering traction over sketchy surfaces like snow and mud.
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Kia refers to its newest concept as a means for people who live in cities to escape their crowded environment in favor of spending time outside. Accordingly, the roof has a retractable cloth panel that offers some of the characteristics you might expect in a convertible.
But what really makes this concept special isn’t visible from the outside, although it does carry a tougher look than the standard Soul.
Instead, it has Kia’s 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the hood to make 185 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque that it sends to the front wheels. Meanwhile, there’s also an electric motor that can power the rear wheels under acceleration and as a regenerative brake to recoup power while the car is slowing down. The electric motor can carry the car under light acceleration without using any gasoline for an admittedly meager two to three miles, but otherwise it works beside the internal combustion engine for a total system output of 220 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque.
The two systems aren’t mechanically linked and operate independently, which is something that Kia says will enhance fuel efficiency. While the Korean manufacturer didn’t release specific fuel economy estimates, it said the concept can return approximately 25 to 30 percent better city fuel economy and 10 to 15 percent better highway consumption than the 2.0-liter gasoline-powered Soul.
Kia is keeping quiet about production plans for now, but it also looks much closer to being production ready than to other recent concept vehicles like the GT4 Stinger and Track’ster.
GALLERY: Kia Trail’ster Concept
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