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Hyundai could preempt Ford’s challenge to the Toyota Prius hybrid with its own dedicated petrol-electric model.

Yesterday we reported on Ford’s alleged plans to bring a dedicated Prius rival to market by 2018, but it’s possible that the Korean giant may beat the blue oval with its own Prius fighter.

AutoGuide has published photos of modified Elantra GT (what we know was the i30) hatchbacks undergoing testing in the American desert. The spy photographers managed to nab pictures of the cars’ underbody, which have plenty of the thick orange cabling found in hybrid drivetrains.

Some of the prototype vehicles don’t look too different to regular Elantra GT/i30s, if you ignore the camouflaged rear quarter windows and the high profile tyres. Other mules, however, sport lengthened body work from the rear wheel arches back indicating, perhaps, that the South Korean company is going to launch an attack on both the Prius and the Prius V. The Toyota Prius and Prius V benchmark vehicles that accompanied this convoy lend credence to these thoughts.

None of the cars seen featured a second “fuel cap”, hinting that Hyundai may be sticking to non-plug-in drivetrains for now. The American publication gave no hint as to when Hyundai plans to launch its Prius challenger.

Currently Hyundai offers two hybridised models, the Sonata and the Grandeur — neither of which are available in Australia. Depending on the market and model, a 35kW electric motor fed by lithium-ion batteries is paired with either a 110kW/179Nm 2.0-litre or a 117kW/206Nm 2.4-litre petrol engine. Regardless of the variant in question, power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

Hyundai last publicly toyed with the idea of a direct Prius competitor with its Blue-Will concept car back in 2009. That car featured a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and mated a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor. The concept’s electric motor was hooked up to a lithium-ion battery pack, which could be recharged via mains power.




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