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Kia’s small SUV expected in 2018

Rio preparation: Rumoured to be built on the same platform as the next-generation Rio (pictured), Kia’s new small SUV is expected to surface in the second half of 2017.

Small-sized SUV seen testing, but no official reveal until next year for Kia

26 Aug 2016

KIA Motors Australia (KMAu) is expected to solider on without its as-yet unnamed compact crossover until 2018 despite recent spy photos showing the Korean car-maker’s disguised small SUV contender undergoing hot weather testing in the desert.

The photos feature a heavily disguised SUV with small details including a large front grille, split headlights – with turn indicators positioned high along the bonnet and mid-mounted headlights –and a boxy rear end with sleek tail lights peeking through the extensive camouflage wrapping.

Initially thought to be called the Niro, until that nameplate was adopted by a Korean and US-spec hybrid SUV, Kia’s new compact crossover will sit below the Sportage and will be the car-maker’s first foray into the booming small SUV market.

Although no other information is available on the new model, it is expected to the built on the same platform as the upcoming fourth-generation Rio five-door hatchback that will be revealed at next month’s Paris motor show.

KMAu general manager of media and corporate communications Kevin Hepworth said the company was “keen to take one if it was available” but stressed that this was not a confirmation the vehicle would arrive in local showrooms.

“We have had no confirmation of that vehicle,” he said. “You’d be silly not to want one (a vehicle) in that segment if it was suitable, but that’s the key, it has to be suitable.”

The suitability of the small SUV will come down to powertrain options available, sticker price, packaging, sourcing and timing.

Mr Hepworth said Kia’s small SUV is still a while away, adding that he would be “surprised if there was anything official released by KMC before next year”.

“I would not be expecting to see that car first half of next year, so it would be second half at least, if it is suitable for our market,” he said.

A reveal in the latter half of 2017 could see Kia unveiling its Rio-based small SUV at the Frankfurt motor show, exactly one year after uncovering its Rio small car, and would mean a local launch sometime in 2018.

Kia is currently the 10th-best selling brand in Australia, ahead of Mercedes-Benz and Honda who sit at 11th and 12th place respectively, with 24,841 new vehicle registrations to the end of July – a 28.1 per cent increase over the same period in 2015.

The introduction of a small SUV could boost sales even further and steal customers away from segment leaders such as the Mazda CX-3 that has found 11,116 homes so far this year, the Mitsubishi ASX on 9905 sales, Nissan Qashqai with 7477 and Honda HR-V on 7435 sales.

Last year, the small-SUV market recorded 111,275 registrations, accounting for 9.6 per cent of all new vehicles sold in Australia, and in the first seven months of 2016, the segment is up by 6.3 per cent year on year.

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