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Kia Australia’s much-needed baby crossover SUV rival to the Mazda CX-3 is not expected to appear until around the end of 2017.

With its larger new Sportage now on-sale, it means Kia Australia looks set to be without a dedicated small SUV to compete in one of the market’s fast-growing segments for a few more years yet.

The topic of Kia’s new sub-Sportage crossover emerged again this morning when Kia Global revealed the brand new Niro SUV at the Chicago motor show.

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When the Niro concept was revealed, many of us initially guessed that this car was the said CX-3 rival. This was based on the fact that the outlandish 2013 concept car that also wore the Niro badge very much pointed in that direction.

However, the production Niro rides on a 2700mm wheelbase – 110mm longer than the 2013 Niro concept and also 30mm longer than the all-new Sportage. So this is clearly not that car.

As we reported this morning, the Niro is also going to be a hybrid-only model — a petrol-electric car with 109kW/264Nm, a lithium-ion battery pack and 4.7L/100km fuel consumption. There are no plans to bring it to Australia.

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MORE: 2013 Kia Niro concept revealed

The good news is that Kia Australia spokesman Kevin Hepworth confirmed to us today that there was definitely a market-suitable sub-compact crossover in development — a car that “can’t come soon enough for us”.

Oddly, Kia does currently have a small SUV on sale called the KX3, but as with the Hyundai ix25, it’s made for China only. Hyundai also has the Creta baby SUV, which has likewise been ruled out for Australia.

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Both Hyundai and Kia are understood to be spinning off more western-market-friendly versions of these cars, with the Kia version expected around late 2017 as mentioned.

Small SUV sales grew 27.4 per cent last year, and matched the sales of light cars. Almost 10 per cent of all new vehicles sold is now a baby-sized SUV. If Kia Australia wants to grow from 34,000 to 50,000 units by 2019, it needs one.




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