Maruti Udyog, the Indian subsidiary of Suzuki, launched the SX4 saloon here this week and plans a new hatchback model for export, some of which will be badged 'Nissan'.

The new SX4 is significant for Maruti as it is its first new sedan model in a decade - the company's strategy has been centred around small hatchbacks of late.

The SX4 comes with a 102bhp, 1.6 litre petrol engine and is sold with two trim variants. Top of the segment features include climate control, audio controls on the steering wheel and dual airbags for front passengers.

By 2008 a diesel variant is expected, powered by the 1.3 CRDI engine already used in the Swift hatchback, with the addition of a variable geometry turbocharger which pushes power up to 90bhp for the larger SX4.

Maruti plans a major export push for its cars in the future. Exports of the small Alto hatchback to Europe stopped three years ago but continue to non-European countries such as Algeria, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

Export volume last year was 39,295 units, with projections of 50,000 units in the current year.

But the real growth of export volumes, currently meagre at around 7% of the company's total production, will come from 2008 onwards when Maruti begins exports of a new small hatchback world-wide.

The hatchback, which may be named Alto for Europe, is currently under joint development in India and Japan.

The company plans to build 200,000 units annually by 2010 (20% of Maruti's total output), with 50,000 units shipped under the Nissan brand.

The new hatchback, sized between the current 800 and Swift models, will be produced at the automaker's Manesar facility with introduction in India also planned.

India will in fact be this car's global hub - it will be produced solely here.

Deepesh Rathore/Tilak Swarup