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New York show: Korean car-makers think small SUVs

Small fry: This image of a Hyundai small SUV – dubbed ix25 – first appeared on Italian blog jokeforblog.blogspot.fi (pictured below is Hyundai's 2014 Intrado concept).

Hyundai and Kia are eyeing the city SUV segment, and not just in China: Schreyer

17 Apr 2014


SOUTH Korean partners Hyundai and Kia both appear to be gearing up to launch a global assault on the fast-growing small SUV market currently dominated by European, Japanese and American rivals, thus closing a gap in the armoury of both brands.

The move was foreshadowed by Hyundai Group president and chief design officer for Hyundai and Kia, Peter Schreyer, when speaking with Australian journalists at the New York motor show where the Korean conglomerate is showing the new Hyundai Sonata and Kia Carnival/Sedona.

Hyundai reportedly is planning to show a mini SUV – dubbed ix25 by journalists – at this weekend's Beijing motor show, but Mr Schreyer indicated this might be just the tip of the iceberg, raising the possibility of such a vehicle for mature markets too.

“I think B-segment SUV is an upcoming segment, not just for emerging markets and also for the European and American markets, as a lifestyle statement,” he said.

“So I think it is a very attractive segment. And why should there not be enough space for Kia and Hyundai? “If we don't do it, some other ones will do it anyway.”

1 center imageLeft: Kia Niro concept from 2013.

While the image of the 'ix25' shows a conservative vehicle with a strong family appearance to the ix35, Hyundai has another possibility up its sleeve for western markets with potential for a small SUV based on the Intrado SUV concept revealed at the recent Geneva motor.

Suggestions that the Intrado might foreshadow an ix35 replacement were slapped down by Hyundai Motor Europe senior vice president and chief operating officer Allan Rushforth who said: “It’s a smaller vehicle than an ix35, more a B-segment crossover which gives us opportunity to extend SUV competence into smaller vehicles, specifically smaller, lower CO2-emitting vehicles with the European market in mind.” Reports suggest the 'ix25' is based on the Hyundai i20, and slots into the Hyundai range below the ix35.

The Chinese car is said to be a co-operative effort between the Hyundai and its Chinese joint venture partner, Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation (BAIC).

But unless Hyundai is suddenly planning to start exports from China, a separate version – or perhaps totally different car such as Intrado – is probably under development to take on the likes of the Peugeot 2008, Holden/Chevrolet Trax, Ford EcoSport and Nissan Juke.

Hyundai signalled its interest in such small city SUVs when it showed the Curb concept SUV at the Detroit motor show in 2011. The 'urban activity vehicle' was powered by a turbo-charged 1.6-litre engine with a six-speed manual gearbox, but so far has failed to materialise.

Kia meanwhile showed off the Niro concept crossover in Frankfurt last September.

Unveiling the all-new Sonata in New York overnight, Hyundai's American subsidiary set tongues wagging about the possibility of such a vehicle for showrooms when executives announced Hyundai was planning to introduce 12 new models over the next three years “including one in a segment that Hyundai currently does not compete in”.

Apart from the sub-ix35 SUV market, Hyundai does not compete in the one-tonne pick-up arena – an area that is costing Hyundai any chance of import market sales leadership in Australia where such vehicles score big numbers.

But Mr Schreyer quashed any hopes for a Hyundai ute any time soon, saying he had not seen any plans for such a vehicle.

If Hyundai Group is developing a city SUV, Hyundai's subsidiary Kia is likely to slap its own body on the common underpinnings, as it has done in the Hyundai/Kia model and technology sharing arrangement. The vehicle would sit below the Sportage in the Kia line-up.

In Australia, small SUV sales have jumped 5.5 per cent in the first three months of 2014, while the medium and large SUV segments have taken a small, uncharacteristic hit after consistent growth, down 0.5 and 0.8 per cent respectively.

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