The Chicago Auto Show is the industry equivalent of third base. As Matras said in Part I: first comes LA, then NAIAS, then Chicago, and finally New York; these four make up the top shows in the country. And while Chicago news and reveals may not match the glitz and glamour of Detroit, we love it because it’s easy to maneuver and we can actually spend time with the cars instead of fighting off the hoards of international journalists who will never see these cars on their shores. Plus, having great pizza in a beautiful city setting doesn’t hurt, either. Three Buzzards attended the show, so we divided and conquered. Click here to read what John Matras spotted from the bleachers, and check out Ron Moorhead’s report as well.
Kia Trail’ster Concept
When Kia introduced the Soul some years back, we don’t think even it knew how popular that little CUV would become. But now that the Soul is the superstar in the lineup, Kia is going to exploit it to the max, and that’s okay with us. One example was the Track’ster concept that made the rounds a few years ago. Now comes the Trail’ster concept, a beefed up version of the Soul. The decision on the Trail’ster has yet to be made, pending consumer feedback. But we know it will get a lot of looks, and a lot of likes, because, seriously, what’s not to like about this all-wheel-drive adventure taker?
The Trail’ster is more than body panels. First, it sits two inches higher off the ground than the regular Soul, as it was designed with the outdoors in mind. It features KSport coilover shocks, Pirelli Winter Carving 245/45R19 rubber, a roll-top canvas roof, armored aluminum skidplates, really cool roof-mounted LED lights, and headlights with a style reminiscent of those on the luxury Kia K900. Exterior colors also were chosen to highlight the rugged capabilities of the CUV, with a two-tone selection in Polar Pearl Snowdrift for the body and Terra Bronze Metallic for the accent shade. Inside is more of the same treatment, featuring a lot of brown leather and aluminum accents on the dash and floormats to highlight both the warmth and ruggedness of nature.
Powering this baby beast is a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine good for 185 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. But because this is a concept, Kia also has added an electric all-wheel-drive system on the rear axle that comes in during low-speed launching for added traction and torque. It works only when needed, and also can recover lost energy to throw back into the electric motor through regenerative braking. The lithium-ion battery is small, at 1.2 kWh, but it adds 35 horsepower and 100 lb-ft of torque to really beef up initial launch, light throttle needs (it can remain in electric mode only for two to three miles), and for providing grip when the front drive wheels don’t have any.
2016 Kia Rio Hatchback and Sedan
While the Trail’ster was the main event on stage, the refreshed Kia Rio hatch and sedan were relegated to a waved hand and a sentence that was akin to “oh, yeah, we brought the redesigned Rio also; it’s somewhere over there.” While the off-roading Soul concept was cool, it was painful to see Kia brushing aside the compact vehicles that helped get the company where it is today. Mostly because the little Rio hatch and sedan are great vehicles for those on a tighter budget, but also because they are still cute and economically friendly.
What’s new for 2016 are redesigned front and rear fascias, including a new lower grille that matches the nose of other Kias. There are new foglight surrounds and more aggressive headlamps. Inside the Rio, Kia has improved sound deadening for better NVH, and added higher-quality materials and an available two-tone Designer Package for EX trim models that includes unique black cloth with faux gray leather trim. The Designer Package also incorporates gray padded door panel trim and unique gray stitching on the steering wheel, armrest and shifter boot to up the feeling of luxury inside this little runabout.
The entry LX offers a nice array of features: four-wheel disc brakes, air conditioning, USB input, satellite radio, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and more. Power will continue with the 1.6-liter inline four powerplant with 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque. Transmission choices are a standard six-speed manual on the sedan and a six-speed automatic on the hatch. The six-speed manual has been removed from the hatchback permanently.