Automotive

Kia presents the bulldog-like 4WD Track'ster concept

Kia's Track'ster concept is a sporty, powerful reinterpretation of the Kia Soul, with racing aspirations
Kia's Track'ster concept is a sporty, powerful reinterpretation of the Kia Soul, with racing aspirations
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Kia's Track'ster concept is a sporty, powerful reinterpretation of the Kia Soul, with racing aspirations
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Kia's Track'ster concept is a sporty, powerful reinterpretation of the Kia Soul, with racing aspirations
Kia's Track'ster concept is a sporty, powerful reinterpretation of the Kia Soul, with racing aspirations
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Kia's Track'ster concept is a sporty, powerful reinterpretation of the Kia Soul, with racing aspirations
Kia's Track'ster concept is a sporty, powerful reinterpretation of the Kia Soul, with racing aspirations
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Kia's Track'ster concept is a sporty, powerful reinterpretation of the Kia Soul, with racing aspirations
The Kia Track'ster is noticeably more aggressive in appearance than the Soul it's based on
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The Kia Track'ster is noticeably more aggressive in appearance than the Soul it's based on
The Track'ster drops the two rear doors in favor of a two-door layout
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The Track'ster drops the two rear doors in favor of a two-door layout
Kia's 'inferno orange' paint helps deliver the Track'ster's aggressive look
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Kia's 'inferno orange' paint helps deliver the Track'ster's aggressive look
Though it would be good for everyday driving, the Track'ster was designed with the track in mind
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Though it would be good for everyday driving, the Track'ster was designed with the track in mind
The Kia Track'ster is noticeably more aggressive in appearance than the Soul it's based on
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The Kia Track'ster is noticeably more aggressive in appearance than the Soul it's based on
The Track'ster is both longer and wider than the Soul
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The Track'ster is both longer and wider than the Soul
The Kia Track'ster is noticeably more aggressive in appearance than the Soul it's based on
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The Kia Track'ster is noticeably more aggressive in appearance than the Soul it's based on
Kia redesigned the headlamps on its new concept
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Kia redesigned the headlamps on its new concept
The Track'ster has 19-inch monoblock wheels built in collaboration with HRE
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The Track'ster has 19-inch monoblock wheels built in collaboration with HRE
The Track'ster is just as aggressive and track-ready inside
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The Track'ster is just as aggressive and track-ready inside
Kia does not plan to move this concept to production
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Kia does not plan to move this concept to production

The Chicago Auto Show got underway on Wednesday, and Kia had one of the noteworthy debuts of day one. The company's Track'ster concept is essentially a race-inspired hot hatch version of its popular Soul. The car gets a potent powertrain and aggressive look. Kia is clearly empowered by its recent success. Once essentially the baby brother of Hyundai, a brand that itself has a historical reputation as a cheap, entry-level automaker, Kia is really starting to come into its own. According to the company's numbers, it launched more new models in the US between 2009 and 2010 than any other automaker and was one of the world's fastest growing auto brands.

That rapid success has given Kia the confidence to experiment with new, higher-end models. At last year's Frankfurt Motor Show, it introduced the 390-hp GT sports car concept, and has now followed suit with the Track'ster. Kia says that it has no plans to commercially launch the Track'ster, but the model hints at possible future directions for the Soul.

"The idea was to make the Track'ster tough looking, like a bulldog," said Tom Kearns, Kia Motor America's chief designer. "But the car had to be approachable as well. We wanted to base the car in reality so people instantly knew it was a Soul, but with a lot of attitude. It had to be a bold interpretation that would change people's conceptions of what a sporty Kia could be."

The Track'ster drops the two rear doors in favor of a two-door layout
The Track'ster drops the two rear doors in favor of a two-door layout

The Track'ster definitely appears more aggressive and 'bulldogish' than the Soul that inspired it. It has a more muscular profile, and its front fascia is defined by new elements like big, round driving lights, a lower intake grill, and carbon fiber accents. The concept sits on 19-inch custom-built HRE-K1 monoblock billet performance wheels rolled in Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 high-performance tires.

Though it gains about an inch in overall length, the Track'ster drops the Soul's two rear doors in favor of larger front doors. When you pop one of those doors open, you realize that the car is every bit as track-ready inside. It has a pair of suede race seats and a suede-wrapped sport steering wheel. Kia pulled the rear seats out to make room for a race-day tool tray and spare tire well. The rear area also has several bins designed to hold gear like a helmet, gloves and emergency supplies.

Kia picked the Whiteout and Inferno Orange paint scheme to accentuate the car's aggressive, race-inspired look. Kia says that the bright orange that's seen on the roof, rear-view mirrors, hatch and other areas was picked out because it's perfectly suited to racing. The white was selected as a sort of blank canvas that helps to bring out the Track'ster's sculpted curves and lines.

This bulldog definitely has the bark to match the bite. Kia upped the power of the Track'ster by 66 percent over the Soul. The concept uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine to deliver up to 250 horses (253 PS). It's equipped with a four-wheel-drive system and six-speed manual transmission.

Maybe if the reaction in Chicago and future shows is strong, we'll see some version of the Track'ster in production. But so far, it looks like Kia just wants to show the Track'ster off as a concept.

Source: Kia Motors America

11 comments
robinyatesuk2003
this new Kia has a definite resemblance to the Juke concept
Theron Sealey
I just love that color scheme. This is one pocket rocket I will buy...
Alan Belardinelli
It reminds me a bit of the R5 Turbo 2s back in the day.
Bill Bennett
Mini killer
DiazBrito
Most beautiful car I have seen in a long time. Not only does this car look great it has the potential to be a cult hop up sensation. This version and a small back seat version for practical use would be a killer 1-2 punch in the market place. I don\'t usually add comments but this car is one I would buy. Kia keep up the good work!
Guy Macher
That C-pillar needs to go to Jenny Craig. Either that or the addition of a camera to spot F-150s boring down on you when backing out of the driveway.
Druid
A Mini kicker!
Mark Keller
Honda had a very similar looking bulldog concept some years ago, but did nothing with it.
chidrbmt
You got to hand it to these two brother/sister Korean auto companies. They were always a generation behind. Now they\'re kicking the Japanese auto companies butts. Hopefully some of this little beauty will trickle down to the real thing.
Nick Herbert
Be very wary of buying any Kia - their Customer Support (in the UK at least), is utterly non-existent. Proof...? I bought a 2-year old Kia and it went very well for a while - until odd noises started emanating from the engine bay. Eventually, this was identified as a fractured Crankshaft - by non-Kia mechanics - but Kia UK refused to accept any responsibility for the failure. The outcome? That Kia had to be written off, as the cost of a replacement engine or having the crankshaft replaced far outweighed the value of the car. Kia Customer Service...? It doesn\'t exist. Kia reliability? Similarly suspect. Would I buy any Kia again? What do you think...!