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Future models - Hyundai - MAV - 4WD

Hyundai has high hopes for cross-over

Styling: The Crosstour is an example of the sort of European styling the MAV originally had.

Hyundai's cross-over wagon will attack Toyota's RAV4 and Honda's CR-V

Hyundai logo19 Nov 2001

By BRUCE NEWTON

FROM being nowhere in the booming four-wheel drive market, Hyundai should have three contenders early in 2003 when the "cross-over" codenamed MAV is expected to join the com-pany's increasingly comprehensive line-up.

Based on the Elantra platform, the MAV will sit under the compact Santa Fe and just-launched Terracan medium contender in size and price.

Hyundai Automotive Distributors Australia executives have just returned from viewing the latest version of the concept at Hyundai Motor Company in South Korea and are excited by what they saw.

"It has moved quite a lot in concept," said HADA general marketing manager Peter Evans, who viewed four clays in South Korea.

"It's moved much more towards a SUV - a Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V - and further away from a Forester, which in our market we are very happy about because here you sell 600 Foresters and 800 or 900 CR-Vs and RAV4s."While most of us would not make a distinction between a Forester and the RAV4 and CR-V, Mr Evans said there were important differences which had registered with HMC.

"The Forester is basically a two-wheel drive wagon with four-wheel drive, or an Impreza sedan with a four-wheel drive wagon body, whereas CR-V doesn't have a passenger car equivalent or passenger car roots, and neither does a RAV," he said.

"But a Forester and some American models have passenger car roots."The American reference is significant because that has been the driving force for the MAV's change in styling direction from car-like wagon to more upright, high-riding and body-cladded off-roader.

Hyundai sales are booming in the US with the company forecast to sell a record 320,000 units there this year. Combine that with its strong SUV sales in the US and the reason for the direction change for the car is clear.

In Australia the MAV is expected to be powered by a 2.0-litre engine, probably the 104kW unit already seen in the Elantra small-medium range and could share the Santa Fe's 4WD underpinnings.

In typical Hyundai style, pricing can be expected to be very keen and the car well equipped when it does arrive here.

"The MAV/SUV should give us the ability to undercut RAV and CR-V and take sales off them and the Foresters of this world," said Mr Evans.

"Our MAV/SUV will be a true RAV/CR-V competitor, but with the traditional value advantage that we have in other model categories."But he does not believe it would damage Santa Fe sales, because it is smaller with a smaller engine.

"I see a new segment emerging in the Australian all-terrain category and it's probably being led by ourselves, Mazda Tribute and Ford Escape," Mr Evans said.

"They are not true military seven-seat competitors to Pajero, Prado, Jackaroo and Terracan and they are not true 2.0-litre, four-cylinder competitors to RAV and CR-V in price, engine capacity or size. They have created a new sub-category which you would call small-medium 4WD. Santa Fe sits right in the middle of that segment."

Hyundai hot hatches more than a pipedream

PRESSURE from European importers has boosted HADA's confidence that hot hatch Hyundais are on the way as early as 2003.

Feedback from HMC during a visit by HADA executives two weeks ago to review upcoming product brought an indication that performance versions of the Accent, Elantra and yet-to-be released TB mini-car were on the agenda.

"The Europeans are pushing pretty hard and while we are pretty small-volume, I think the 18 European distributors are pushing them for the GTis of this world, so I'm pretty confident," HADA general marketing manager Peter Evans said.

"I don't think they are pipedreams. It's just a case of engineering resources.

I don't think HMC denies the need for them, it's just a matter of developing priorities and also what will fit - which engines will fit in which cars."Meanwhile, Trevi will not be the name of the Excel-replacing mini-car which goes on sale in Australia mid-2002. The name has been canned because of legal complications with registering the name in some countries, although not in Australia.

Both Mr Croker and Mr Evans stressed the car, revealed in lightly disguised concept form at the Tokyo motor show as the "TB", would not be called Excel in Australia. There are thought to be two alternatives under consideration.

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