Hyundai HB20 will be Brazils variant of i20

Hyundai HB20 will be Brazil's variant of i20

Strictly following the traditional marketing handbook, Hyundai is slowly unveiling its new compact now called HB20 (HB for Hyundai Brazil and 20 for the compact architecture known in Europe as i20).  A teaser photo has just been issued.

Chang-Kyun, Han, president of the Brazilian subsidiary, astonished journalists given a sneak preview of the car and a look at the almost completed plant in Piracicaba, 100m/160km northwest of São Paulo City.

He said the automaker had decided to set up a dealer network exclusively to sell the three HB versions - hatchback, SUV-look hatch and saloon.

The current, 200-plus dealerships, 75% of them owned by local firm Group CAOA, which assembles the Tucson and, soon, the ix35 SUVs, together with the HR light truck, and handles the full import line, will not be entitled to market or service the HB.

Conversely, the 130 new HB dealers for Hyundai Brazil will not handle the imports and the vehicles assembled by CAOA in Anápolis, Goiás state.

Han said 16 dealership groups (including CAOA Grupo) with experience in different makes had shown interest in the HB franchise. The São Paulo factory will have a capacity of 150,000 units a year which should be reached in 2013.

The strategy of a double dealer network is unusual in Brazil.

No technical information about the Brazil-only HB20 was provided at the preview. Launch dates are 11 and 12 September with first deliveries 30 days later. The SUV-look hatch will be revealed at the motor show in October with the saloon planned for Q1 2013.

The five-door hatchback (no three-door planned) is aggressively yet not exaggerated styled, its interior is well designed with nice finish and materials; room matches that of the segment’s compacts. Boot volume resembles that of the VW Gol or Fiat Palio.

A short drive in a disguised car on a production quality check, two-corner, impeccably surfaced test track was far from ideal. Yet the one-litre/61 cu in engine that also powers the Kia Picanto is peppy and its exhaust sounds nice, albeit clearly perceivable as a three cylinder. The also flexible-fuel 1.6-litre/97.6 cu in engine that powers the Kia Cerato and Soul had healthy punch in the lower rpm range.  It can be matched either to a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission.

The base version has driver airbag only, with no ABS, but higher priced versions will come fully equipped. Our first impression is that it will be a sufficiently strong competitor in the main segment of the Brazilian market.

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