Hyundai’s Sub-Compact SUV EV Coming Late 2026

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Hyundai

The new vehicle, which has been given the codename HE1i, is set to compete directly with the likes of Punch EV and eC3.

In a strategic move to intensify competition in the mainstream automotive sector, Hyundai Motor India is gearing up to actively contend with Tata Motors in the high-volume electric vehicle (EV) segment over the next 12 to 24 months. Hyundai India is slated to enter the midsize electric SUV arena with the launch of the Creta EV in the first quarter of 2025. Following this, Hyundai has received approval from its Korean headquarters to directly challenge Tata’s Punch EV.

The upcoming compact SUV from Hyundai codenamed HE1i, is expected to be introduced to the market in the latter half of 2026. It will closely follow the design and features exhibited by the Inster EV, which Hyundai showcased at the recently concluded Busan Auto Show in South Korea.

Hyundai Motor India is adopting a dual approach to its EV architecture. While the Creta EV will be based on a modified internal combustion engine (ICE) platform, the HE1i EV will utilize the innovative, globally recognized, and cost-effective E-GMP (K) platform specifically designed for electric vehicles. This model will be manufactured at Hyundai’s facility in Sriperumbudur, incorporating locally sourced batteries from Exide.

The design of the Inster EV builds on the foundation set by Casper, sold in select international markets. The new small SUV has been extended by 230mm compared to the Casper, with 180mm added to the wheelbase to accommodate a more substantial battery pack. The Inster, measuring 3,825mm in length, is positioned closely in size to the Tata Punch EV and the Citroen eC3.

Hyundai has announced two motor options for the international markets: a 97hp and a 115hp motor, both producing 147Nm of torque. Additionally, two nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) battery packs are available—a Standard 42kWh and a Long-Range 49kWh—boasting WLTP-certified ranges of 300km and 355km, respectively. It is anticipated that the Indian-spec HE1i will offer similar battery options upon its release.

Reflecting Hyundai’s commitment to high-end features, the Inster comes equipped with dual 10.25-inch displays for the instrument panel and a touchscreen infotainment system, advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), automatic climate control, and a comprehensive 360-degree camera that includes blind spot monitoring.

Hyundai Motor India has outlined plans to produce approximately 90,000 units annually between the Creta EV and the compact electric SUV, with a significant allocation destined for export markets. The company has earmarked an investment of Rs 20,000 crore for the development of electric vehicles in the Indian market over the next eight years. In its draft hearing red prospectus (DRHP), Hyundai detailed plans to fine-tune its EV strategy according to market demands by introducing suitable models, including a mass-market option among four new electric vehicles.

Hyundai’s strategy involves an initial focus on launching premium, high-end EVs, with a gradual shift toward mass-market models as sales and the ecosystem for EVs in India mature. By the last quarter of fiscal 2025, Hyundai plans to introduce four EV models, including the anticipated Creta EV.

As Hyundai prepares to expand its EV lineup with potential new additions like an electric version of the Venue compact SUV and a Grand i10 Nios-based EV, the company is poised to challenge Tata Motors, which currently leads the electric vehicle market in India with a robust annual sales figure of approximately 75,000 EVs. This competitive landscape is set to evolve as Hyundai and Tata vie for dominance in the burgeoning Indian electric vehicle market.

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