Teased twice over the past couple of weeks, the Trail’ster adds an electric motor to the Soul’s rear axle, while the front half is driven by a turbocharged 138kW and 250Nm 2.0 petrol engine.
Kia says the petrol-electric ‘e-AWD’ system delivers an overall 165kW and 386Nm. Which, on bald outputs, makes the Trail’ster something of a high-riding Golf GTI rival…
The e-AWD Trail’ster however isn’t intended as a performance-hatch, that's not the purpose.
It is instead Kia’s take on making the Soul an option for drivers seeking the surefootedness of all-wheel-drive, plus the added eco-benefits of electric drive (which is powerfully compelling in some US states, like California).
This week’s Chicago Auto Show is the perfect place to unveil the California-designed Trail’ster, then, with the city currently in the grips of a heavy and snowy winter.
Drawing its energy from a 1.2kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack, the small electric motor kicks in under light throttle and can drive the car for around 5km without any input from the petrol engine.
Handily, Kia says the Trail’ster’s e-AWD system also improves fuel consumption by around 25 to 30 percent around town, while reducing the small petrol engine’s turbo lag.
The Trail’ster also picks up a 63.5mm taller suspension setup, making the little crossover a little more useful for a spot of light off-roading.
On the styling front, the Trail’ster gets new LED lighting at the front and rear, along with a new brown leather interior and a Fiat 500C-like open roof design.
Kia has yet to confirm the Trail’ster for production, although it has hinted that we could see its e-AWD system in showrooms in the future.
"The Train'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,” Kia designer Tom Kearns says.
“It takes the go-anywhere capability of an SUV and reimagines it within a compact and sporty package with an expressive design to match.”
Watch for news of new electric-assisted AWD Kia models to appear in the future.