THE ULTRA-SMALL HATCH market in Australia was bracing for a newcomer when the Hyundai i20 made its Australian debut at the 2009 Melbourne International Motor Show in February, with sales of the diminutive Korean car expected to begin in the third quarter of this year.
Now, with the global financial crisis in full swing, Hyundai's plans for the i20 in Australia have hit a snag.
Speaking with News Limited, Hyundai Australia's Director for Sales and Marketing, Kevin McCann, confirmed that the i20 may now not see Australian shores until the middle of 2010.
McCann pointed to the small gap between production and shipping costs, and the price the i20 can reasonably be expected to sell for, as the main factor in the hold-up.
"It definitely comes down to the very tiny gap between the cost of the car (out of the factory) and the price of the car (in Australia)," McCann told News Limited.
"We have said before that we see it as head to head with the volume end of the segment â€” that being the leading Japanese models (Toyota Yaris, Mazda2 and Honda Jazz) â€” and that continues to be the strategy. The Getz will remain a fixture at the price-leader end of the market."
McCann acknowledged that while the delay is unfortunate, Hyundai does not believe it has missed its opportunity to make the most of its current success with the award-winning i30 hatch.
"There are always new buyers coming into the market and I don't believe a delay of three or four months from the original plan is going to cause us to lose a volume opportunity," McCann told News Ltd.
While little specific information has been made available regarding the i20's engine lineup, the European model offers four engine options: three petrol units measuring 1.2 litres, 1.4 litres, and 1.6 litres making 58kW (78hp), 75kW (100hp), and 94kW (126hp) respectively, and a common-rail 1.6 litre diesel making 85kW (115hp).
The i20 three-door is a short little unit, measuring 3.94 metres long, 1.71m wide, and 1.49m tall. Hyundai says it will comfortably seat five, though how small the test subjects where is anyoneâ€™s guess.
Six air-bags are fitted as standard, and other features include an MP3-capable stereo with a built-in USB connection.
Also arriving in showrooms in 2010 will be the Hyundai ix35, the Korean manufacturer's replacement for the ageing Tucson SUV.
This is expected to debut in production form at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September and is based on the Hyundai ix-onic concept revealed at Geneva last year.