Stunning Kia Trackster concept unveiled

Updated: 

Once again Kia has unveiled an absolutely stunning concept car. The Trackster is a three-door SUV-coupé based loosely on the Soul but unlike anything else.

Officially called Track'ster (but we'll ignore Kia's trademark piece of superfluous punctuation from now on), it's yet another example of how far the Korean company has come since the early days of the cars like the Clarus.

Revealed officially yesterday at the Chicago Auto Show, the Trackster is something of a sprinter, because it's powered by a 247bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine. For a nice change, Kia has eschewed jumping on the environmental bandwagon by concocting arbitrary 'potential' CO2 and mpg figures.

Nope, this is a high performance SUV-coupé-hatchback-type-thing. It has an electronic four-wheel drive system, a short-shift manual six-speed gearbox, slammed suspension, big wheels and a set of deep, orange bucket seats.

"Concept cars are the icing on the cake," said Kia chief designer Tom Kearns, "[allowing Kia's] design team to dream about what could be. Whether that dream becomes a reality or not is a separate question."

The three-door Trackster shares much of its front end look with the production Soul, but the striking rear is an entirely new design, comprising a complicated rear screen incorporating LED light strips. The twin tailpipes are integrated into the rear bumper in a setup that looks, frankly, too expensive to mass-produce at a typical Kia price point.

Designed to "change people's conceptions of what a sporty Kia could be," according to Kearns, it certainly succeeds in that respect - but in a wider sense it's also another chapter in changing the overall perception of Kia itself, following other stunning concepts like 2007's Kia Kee and, recently, Frankfurt 2011's GT concept.

The cabin appears more production-friendly than the Trackster's bodywork, and is based, again, on the Soul - but with a huge leap in quality and visual flair. The steering wheel is wrapped in suede, and a touch screen panel operates the infotainment and air con controls.

The short gearlever is raised for more comfortable use, and where in the Soul there would be rear seats, in the Trackster are storage compartments for tools and racing attire.

There's no way Kia will make it, although we may find that we're referring back to the Trackster when writing about the next-generation Soul in a few years' time. If it looks anything like this, everyone's happy...