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First look: Tucson triggers Hyundai expansion

To market: An artists's sketch of the Tucson, which will launch Hyundai into the heart of the compact SUV market.

Hyundai starts a model regeneration and expansion with the Tucson

18 Nov 2003

HYUNDAI Motor Company has revealed a sketched image of the compact soft-roader wagon it will launch around the world in 2004.

Set to appear first in the metal in the US early in 2004, the Tucson will be built in South Korea and go on sale in Australia in the second half of the year.

Codenamed JM, the Tucson will pitch the newly-formed factory-owned local distributor, Hyundai Motor Company Australia, into the heart of the booming compact SUV market, against the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trail, Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester.

It will be based around a car-like monocoque chassis and be offered with the choice of 2.0 and 2.4-litre four-cylinder and 2.7-litre V6 power, mated to either manual or automatic transmission choices.

There will also be the option of turbo-diesel power in some markets.

The 2.4-litre four-cylinder version should be our volume seller, although HMCA is till tossing up our engine optiions.

Front and four-wheel drive will be offered in some markets, but not Australia. Thanks to tariff concessions, we’ll see the all-paw version only.

Hyundai-owned Kia will also get its version of JM, codenamed KM, which will be the next generation Sportage.

HMCA is already preparing for Tucson’s arrival by dropping the four-cylinder variant from the larger Santa Fe wagon, which is now V6 only.

Also classified as a compact SUV, the Santa Fe has not managed to win anywhere near the sales patronage of the class leaders, despite keen pricing and good equipment levels. This year Santa Fe is averaging about 180 sales per month.

Segment leader Nissan X-Trail is averaging 1071 sales per month.

So why should the Tucson – which continues the theme established by Santa Fe of Hyundai naming SUVs after south-western US cities – do any better?"It’s a half segment below Santa Fe so it will be less expensive we will be more established in the all-wheel drive segment by then and it will be new and fresh," said HMCA spokesman Richard Power.

"Tucson will be very important to us and we hope it will kick us on, because it is in the sort of segment we want to progress in."The cheapest Santa Fe – the GL V6 – now comes in at $32,990, leaving room for the Tucson to kick its pricing off under the $30,000 barrier.

Hyundai has released little detail of Tucson. US reports indicate it will seat five adults with room for luggage. The rear seat is expected to fold flat in a 60/40 split configuration. The passenger seat should fold flat as well.

The Tucson will trigger the start of another round of model regeneration and expansion by Hyundai.

A new generation Sonata is expected in late 2004 and a Tiburon convertible in 2005. The new generation Trajet people-mover and a larger replacement for the Terracan medium SUV are not far away either.

A pick-up truck in the style of Ford’s F150 should appear around 2006, but that would probably be a North American market-only proposition.

HMCA is hoping the Tucson will boost the manufacturer’s flagging sales here, which are down 16.3 per cent year-on-year. But October sales were up a massive 49.7 per cent on the same month in 2002.

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