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Hyundai steps up new model push

Mon, 11 Sep 2006

By Phil McNamara

Motor Industry

11 September 2006 10:45

Hyundai's bid to gatecrash the world's top five car-makers will continue with two crucial new models: a seven-seat SUV and a mid-size hatch.

In 2007, the aggressive Korean car maker will wade into Europe's biggest market – the C-segment – with a family hatch, and launch a big, seven-seat crossover SUV Stateside. The crossover – captured here by our spy photographers – will be named Veracruz, continuing Hyundai's habit of adopting Mexican names. Longer and wider than the 5+2-seater Santa Fe, the Veracruz will be a rival for big, seven-seat 4x4s such as the Mercedes GL-class and Mazda CX-7. The Veracruz runs a 3.8-litre V6, sending power to all four wheels via a six-speed auto 'box. It shares components with the new Santa Fe. Expect good versatility thanks to fold flat seating, and plenty of safety kit including stability control and front, side and curtain airbags.

While the Veracruz is not planned to hit the UK, the all-new family hatch will. This photo provides a sneak preview of the Arnejs concept, to be unveiled at the Paris motor show later this month (September). The production car shares its front-wheel drive platform with sister brand Kia's Ceed hatchback. The Kia will be on sale first in December 2006.

Both models will come out of Hyundai-Kia's eastern European production base. Hyundai is putting the finishing touches to a Czech Republic plant, while the Ceed will be built in Slovakia. Aside from its big wheels, bodyskit and chrome embellishments, this is the funky five-door that hits the UK market in summer 2007. At launch, the engine line up comprises 1.4-, 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrols and a 1.6-litre diesel. Expect class-leading interior space, a big improvement in quality over the outgoing Accent and a likely starting price around £10,000. Hyundai expects to be building around 300,000 cars at its Czech plant by 2008. Aside from the five-door hatch, a wagon and MPV will also be spun off the platform.

The Koreans are currently the seventh biggest car making group. But with 3.7m units produced in 2005, Hyundai-Kia is catching up with DaimlerChrysler (4.8m) and Renault-Nissan (6m).

By Phil McNamara