The Toyota Prius is the undisputed king of the hybrid market, but Hyundai and Kia are hoping to challenge its reign in the coming years with their own dedicated model. However, in all likelihood this is the same technology being shared between them. "We will take the lead in the future by raising the competitiveness of our environment-friendly cars like hybrid-only cars, plug-in hybrid cars and fuel cell hydrogen cars," Hyundai Motor CEO Kim Choong-ho said to Reuters, during the launch of another vehicle in South Korea.
While Kim didn't say when the model would be ready, Autocar in Europe spoke to people at Kia, who said that the company's own hybrid was two years away and codenamed the DE. The initial vehicle is reportedly a five-door hatchback that's about 169-inches long, with more conventional styling than the Prius. Its powertrain is reportedly based around a 1.6-liter engine with electric assist. A plug-in version might follow later, and other bodystyles on the platform are possible. A recently spotted test mule might show the current state of development on the project (pictured above).
According to Reuters, the decision for the new vehicle comes in order to meet tighter emissions in some markets. However, it seems like a challenging move for the US market. Hyundai already sells its Tucson fuel cell in limited quantities and the Sonata hybrid, and Kia has the Optima hybrid and Soul EV. Industry analysts are also predicting that hybrids might have a hard time versus internal combustion engines in the coming years. In addition, Toyota is rumored to get fuel economy close to 60 miles per gallon for some versions of the next Prius. All of these factors make selling the models here a potentially difficult undertaking.