A jacked-up version of Hyundai’s new i20 hatch has been spied in India this week, wearing a badge that identifies it as the ‘i20 Active’.
Following in the footsteps of models like the Subaru XV and Volkswagen’s CrossPolo, among others, Hyundai has promoted its new hatch to crossover status by adding taller suspension, new bumpers and protective cladding.
And with the new ix25 already confirmed as a China-only offering, the i20 Active could be just the ticket for Hyundai’s Indian arm to charge into the hugely popular compact SUV segment.
But what about Australia?
Hyundai’s local arm has already confirmed that it will not take up the costly option of importing the European version of the new i20, and the Indian-market version of the i20 is simply not up to snuff for Australian buyers.
Instead, it will continue with the older i20 we already source from India, built specifically to western standards.
This likely means that the i20 Active, also developed specifically for the Indian market, will not meet Hyundai Australia’s requirements for quality and safety.
"There are similar issues to what we’d find if we were to source the new i20 out of India," Hyundai Australia product planner Andrew Tuitahi told TMR earlier this month, speaking of China's new ix25.
"But a car of its size is definitely interesting for us. That small SUV segment has seen huge growth of 230 percent or so over the last few years."
And while it could open the door to a ‘Frankenstein’ version of the i20 Active - taking parts and technology from the European model to build an Australia-specific i20 Active in India, it appears unlikely.
Instead, Hyundai’s Australian and European branches are likely to wait for a more premium and more purpose-specific compact SUV, which reports suggest will draw inspiration from the Juke-rivalling Intrado concept.
Whether it looks to the Intrado for inspiration or not, we can at least be sure that Hyundai’s west-bound compact SUV will carry a more adventurous and youth-oriented design than the big Santa Fe and the new Tucson.
Whatever Hyundai is planning, it likely won’t hit market until around 2017 - just in time for a new Nissan Juke to defend its title as the edgiest of compact SUVs.