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Geneva show: Hyundai favours SUVs over MPVs

Family transport: The new Tucson has a seven-seat option but is unlikely to offer this configuration in Australia, with Hyundai relying instead on the bigger Santa Fe (left) and the commercial vehicle-based iMax.

New-generation SUVs are people-movers of the future, says leading Hyundai designer

Hyundai logo6 Mar 2015

By TIM ROBSON in GENEVA

HYUNDAI will not follow sister company Kia into the passenger car-based people-mover market, preferring instead to rely on its SUV range – including its new-generation Tucson – for general family transport duties.

Kia released the all-new eight-seater Carnival in Australia late last month, a long-awaited volume-selling model for the South Korean brand which is based on the N-platform that also underpins its forthcoming Sorento SUV.

Hyundai’s iMax – essentially a converted commercial vehicle – is currently Hyundai’s only eight-seat offering, while the Santa Fe SUV can carry up to seven occupants.

The head of Hyundai’s European design studio, Thomas Burkle, told GoAuto at the Geneva motor show this week that despite being under the same umbrella, the two brands had their own identities and the people-mover segment was not considered as important to Hyundai as it is to Kia.

“At the moment, the SUV trend is very strong. The housewife, for example, who brings the kids to school, might not want to be seen in a so-called family mover,” Mr Burkle said, adding jokingly: “She might be still young and attractive, so why not be seen in a Tucson instead.”

Mr Burkle also said that Hyundai was focusing heavily on maximising internal space in modern SUV design, such as in the sub-Santa Fe new-generation Tucson which premiered in Geneva.

“If you look at the space inside a Tucson, it has generous knee space and room for luggage,” he said. “I think the segment is moving more to the SUV side.”

Kia Motors Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith told GoAuto at the recent Carnival launch that “when it comes to product design, there is a divergence internally within the HMG (Hyundai Motor Group) family”.

“Hyundai are going one way and Kia are going another, and they both want to be a bit different. So I’m relatively confident that they’ll come up with something great – they always do – but I don’t think they will follow the same set-up as what’s occurred with Carnival.”

To be launched in Australia later this year, the new Tucson will replace the ix35 and move up into the medium SUV category.

Built on an all-new Hyundai platform, it will offer a seven-seat option in overseas markets though it is unlikely to be offered with a third row in Australia.

The new SUV will also herald the return of the ‘Tucson’ nameplate to the Australian market after a six-year absence. The nomenclature change is part of a global decision to move away from an alphanumeric system, and follows the recent i45/Sonata switch.

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