Mike Stevens | Feb 2, 2012

Kia will show a hot new take on its boxy Soul hatch at next week's Chicago Auto Show, dropping two doors - and more than a little of its boxiness.

Following in the footsteps of the early Soul'ster ute concept - and digging again into Kia's big bin of apostrophes - this latest concept is dubbed Track'ster.

"This is not just some wild concept that they just dreamed up. The actual underpinnings are Soul," Kia spokesman James Hope told industry paper Automotive News.

"The idea behind it was, create a vehicle that would convey the ultimate performance Soul could be."

Details for the concept remain a secret for now, but it is clear from today's teaser that the Track'ster will build on the sporty styling of the brand's newest models: the Optima sedan, Rio hatch, Sportage SUV - and even the older Cerato Koup.

But while the carmaker has made great leaps in adopting a go-fast look, it has so far gone without a genuine go-fast engine.

Could the Track'ster change that? Reports of a proper performance model have been circulating for some time now, and in sharing its platforms and powertrains with partner Hyundai, Kia certainly has access to the right bits.

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Recent reports have pointed to a new hot-hatch variant in the Rio line-up - possibly drawing power from the new 1.6 litre turbo engine that powers the top-shelf Hyundai Veloster.

With 152kW up its sleeve - and the looks to match - a performance Rio would leave Volkswagen's 132kW (but slightly lighter) Polo GTI for dead. It would also give the 147kW Renault Clio RS200 a run for its money.

A production version of the long-and-low Kia GT concept could also be on the cards, with Kia design boss Peter Schreyer openly speaking of his hopes for the car at last year's Frankfurt Motor Show.

He describes the GT as "a strong statement from Kia, we are ready to fast-forward to an all-new chapter." Whether that chapter will open with the GT remains to be seen.

We could instead see a hot version of the Rio in showrooms in the coming year, or a Golf R-rivalling version of the Track'ster concept, propelled by the 204kW turbocharged 2.0 litre engine offered in the US market's Kia Optima Turbo.

All that's known for now is that Kia has made its intentions clear: it's ready for the next step, and that includes corner-carving performance cars.

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