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Baby Jeep SUV to take on hatchbacks

The smallest Jeep 4WD yet will become a competitor for the likes of the Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf.

Jeep Wrangler spare tyre

Jeep CEO Mike Manley has told US motoring media the yet-to-be-named model will be 4.2 metres long, making it about the size of a Golf and nearly half a metre smaller than the Jeep Cherokee.

Manley told US website Edmunds he expects buyers to cross-shop the junior Jeep with hatchbacks and small sedans.

“From a ride and fuel economy perspective, it will be competitive [with small cars],” said Manley. “[And it will offer] the utility that you get in an SUV in terms of cabin space and everything else.”

The baby Jeep has been in the planning since 2010, not long after Jeep’s parent company Chrysler formed an alliance with Italian automotive giant Fiat.

[caption id="attachment_240127" align="alignnone" width="625"]Jeep Patriot Baby Jeep will replace 4.4m-long Patriot as Jeep's smallest offering.[/caption]

It will be built in Italy from 2014 and sold globally, sharing its platform with the Fiat 500X rather than the Fiat Panda as originally planned.

There will be both front- and all-wheel-drive versions available, and Manley has said the 4WD version of the baby Jeep will have greater off-roading ability than its Fiat twin. The company has promised to make sure at least one variant is 'trail rated' - meaning a model that has hardcore off-roading ability.

City-sized SUVs have become the new trend, with the likes of the Ford EcoSport, Peugeot 2008, Chevrolet/Holden Trax and Renault Captur all emerging in 2013.

Jeep’s entrant will help boost the brand’s annual sales to 800,000 by the end of 2014 after posting record sales in 2012 of just over 700,000.

[caption id="attachment_240128" align="alignnone" width="625"]Jeep Cherokee 2014 New-generation Jeep Cherokee lands here in early 2014.[/caption]

It will be preceded by a new-generation Jeep Cherokee – which reaches Australia in early 2014 – while a facelifted version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee has just gone on sale in Australia.

A new, seven-seater Jeep is also expected in 2015.

Chrysler's vehicle line executive for international products and programs, John Mrozowski, wouldn't officially acknowledge the city-sized Jeep at the local launch of the Grand Cherokee but admitted it was a segment to be targeted.

"There's a huge market for a small, B-segment SUV," he said. "[There's many of them coming out] ... but they're not Jeeps.

"American buyers have [also] come to the conclusion that from a fuel economy perspective and total cost of ownership, if you don't need to drive some big land barge around, why do it."

Mrozowski, however, was quick to add that the company's biggest SUV, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, was improving its fuel efficiency all the time.

"Our new Grand Cherokee is competitive [for fuel economy], and the diesel is best in class."