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Kia kicked off the first media preview day of the Chicago Auto Show in true Kia fashion. With a live band performing, Kia unveiled their newest concept vehicle— the Trail’ster— which seemed to be quite popular amongst the crowd of journalists and bloggers, myself included!

Kia Trailster

Looking similar to the popular Kia Soul at first glance, this rugged electric all-wheel drive (e-AWD) concept vehicle took the stage in its beautifully coated Polar Pearl Snowdrift paint. The Trail’ster was more than the Soul, it was an answer for so many seeking adventure without having to compromise fuel economy. 

Powered by an electric motor combined with a 1.6-liter turbocharged gasoline engine, the Trail’ster delivers better fuel economy than an ordinary Kia Soul. According to Kia Motors, there is a 25 to 30 percent increase in city driving and a 5 to 10 percent increase in highway driving.

kia trailster 1

The Kia Trail’ster was designed with adventure in mind. From the anodized fire-red wheel accents and polished billet aluminum sections to the Armored Aluminum Skid Plates, this concept vehicle infuses a purposeful and sophisticated aesthetic to the Trail’ster’s precise design, taking inspiration from high-tech, high-performance outdoor sporting gear.

The Trail’ster enables a wide array of mountain activities, from skiing and snowboarding to camping, hiking and mountain biking. Whether it’s trekking up to a high, snowy summit or traipsing down a muddy fire road to a piney trailhead, the Trail’ster – thanks to a rear axle-mounted electric all-wheel-drive system – is all about surefootedness in the wild.

Kia Trailster 2

Overhead, the Trail’ster features a stylish full-length, weatherproof rollback canvas roof to create an open-sky environment for occupants to enjoy the outdoors even before reaching their chosen high ground. This fully retractable cover also helps lighten the vehicle and lowers the center of gravity, promoting higher efficiency and improved dynamics. Integrated roof rack fittings with aluminum cross rails allow adventurers to tote mountain bikes or snowboards with ease.


The earthy and upscale interior greets you with its impressive interior color and trim palette which combines brown leather and aluminum accents. The interior features a tactile and sturdy center console which incorporates a thickset gear shifter, AWD controls and a bright red ignition button.

Kia trailster interior

trailster interior

After the unveiling of the Trail’ster, Kia invited me to a private lunch where I got to meet the design team. This was by far one of the most amazing experiences to have been a part of. Because it was informal, we sat around and were able to ask questions many people have always wondered. Where exactly they get their ideas from and where do they go from there.

concept creators, kia

During lunch we learned about how the Kia Soul concept was inspired years ago. In early 2005 Mike Torpey, a member of Kia’s Design Team, went to KIA Korea to brainstorm a new vehicle. Mike became fascinated  with wild boars after watching a television documentary. “They are clever and strong, but a nuisance. They just run wild,” said Torpey during lunch. That is how he got the idea for creating a vehicle that doesn’t fit into a category.  Torpey sketched a caricature of an outdoorsy wild boar with a backpack on him. “He’s tough and interesting.”

With the Trail’ster, they wanted to make the vehicle look a particular way and communicate its additional capabilities. Since they had the original Soul in a 5-door, they asked themselves if they could imagine it in an all wheel drive. A vehicle where people can go skiing and be adventurous, a car that is already compact and has a lot of utilities. So they put it on paper and the rest is history.

We are really hoping the Trail’ster makes it to production so we can take it on an adventure of our own. Where would you take it?

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Huge thanks to our photographer, Angela, for capturing these incredible photos during CAS. View more of Angela’s work at: