Exclusive: Hyundai India to Unveil New Subcompact SUV in February 2016

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Not one, not two, but a whole family of SUVs - that's the strategy breaking at Hyundai Motor India. I would imagine the idea is to emulate what market leader Maruti Suzuki has mastered in the small car space - one product at every price point that the consumer is operating in - but with SUVs which would earn the company much higher margins.

The love for SUVs is now well established, and it is also a well-known fact that they are the fastest growing segment in the car space. There is also a greater appetite for SUVs now, with consumers ditching logic and moving from hatchbacks and sedans to the sports ute. So what is Hyundai's play you ask? By the end of 2016, the Korean carmaker will make an SUV/crossover available from ₹ 6 lakh all the way to ₹ 30 lakh. And it will be a 5 member family of vehicles - by far the most comprehensive.

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At the lower-end of that new family will be the existing i20 Active crossover, which has been well received. While the Creta starts under ₹ 9 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) it is largely seen as operating in the ₹ 11-13 lakh band given most buyers opt for the better loaded variants. This leaves a fairly big gap which Hyundai will fill with a subcompact SUV that will be priced slightly higher than the i20 Active crossover.

Hyundai Creta

The car will be front wheel drive, and will share the small car platform which spawns the i20, Active and Creta. It is also likely to share engines with the i20 Active, and the smaller 1.4-litre diesel from the Creta. Expect prices to stay between ₹ 7.5 to 10 lakh. We expect the car to break cover with a world debut in India - either at the Delhi Auto Expo in February or at an event just prior to it.

The third member of the family will naturally be the Creta, which currently tops off at ₹ 13.8 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). And that then leaves not a gap, but a wide chasm between it and the much larger and more premium Santa Fe which starts at ₹ 27 lakh and goes to over ₹ 30 lakh for the 4WD variant.

Hyundai knows that while the Santa Fe is ammunition enough to take on the mighty Toyota Fortuner and others like the Chevrolet Trailblazer or Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, it still needs a sub ₹ 20 lakh option. Enter the Tucson - the car I originally pegged as being ideal for India and now a cinch to launch in this market.

Hyundai Tucson

While we used to have the first generation of the Tucson from 2005-10, we never did get the second gen that was sold globally from 2009-2015. The 3rd generation car is fully fluidic, and is the baby Santa Fe in terms of looks. The car has been very well received when it first made its debut in Europe at the Geneva show last year, and its subsequent market launch.

It is sold as the ix35 in Europe, and the Tucson in the USA - which is what it will be called here too. It will share engines with the Elantra on which it is based, and prices are likely to start at an aggressive ₹ 18 lakh and top off at under ₹ 24 lakh for all the bells and whistles. Hyundai is looking at the feasibility of launching the AWD version, but for starters we will get the front wheel drive, with the 2.0-litre petrol and 1.6-litre diesel as likely engines. There will be a 6 speed automatic option too.

The Tuscon will definitely debut at the 2016 Auto Expo, and pricing is likely to be announced subsequently. Hyundai would want the car in place for a pre-Diwali launch in the market. The subcompact SUV though will likely arrive only after that - though Hyundai's Korean HQ is excited at the market potential of this product and is pushing to expedite the market introduction. Once the 5 member family is in place, Hyundai will be well positioned to rule the SUV space in India.

Maruti Suuzki will then be hard pressed to offer its array of SUV offerings - starting with the Ignis and S-Cross to the much touted XA Alpha and the larger Grand Vitara. The beneficiary of all this, we have to admit, is the Indian customer. In the past few years, we've seen car manufacturers putting India before the world and the subcompact SUV from Hyundai is yet another example. We can't wait to find out more and tell you all about it, so stay tuned!

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