One of India’s lesser known automakers – Premier – has attracted attention at Delhi Auto Expo 2012 as it shows what will soon be India’s first compact SUV, the Rio, a name Kia also uses in some markets.

The automaker formerly known as Premier Automobiles has previously operated joint ventures with Peugeot and Fiat but returned to independence in 2004. Many old Premier-built Fiat taxis are still in use on Indian roads.

“We have made an investment of INR250 crore (about US$50m) to build a flexi platform for the Rio SUV, 1.5 tonne Roadstar light commercial and Sigma minivan,” said Rakesh Mehta, who heads Premier’s auto division.

The SUV will be sold with Peugeot diesel and AVL Austria petrol engines.

“Rio’s compact size provides the driveablity of a car and the safety of an SUV. Moreover, compact SUV is an untapped segment,” added Mehta.

Premier’s Chinchwad, Pune plant can make up to 50,000 units a year. The Rio will be launched next April.