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The Battle of Crossover SUVs

Auto Policy 2016-21 which is heading towards its expiration, opened up doors for many new entrants to explore Pakistani market. Though in the process many ventures faded into the dark, while one may as well argue that there hasn’t been much for mass market middle-class buyers in shape of small hatchbacks or sedans, but the policy has certainly brought an ample flavor to the crossover SUV segment ranging from PKR 3.7 million to up to PKR 5.6 million.

Kia-Lucky was the first to tap this segment in 2019 with the introduction of local assembled Sportage. At the time of launch, Asif Rizvi the CEO of Kia-Lucky Motors mentioned that Sportage will fill a huge gap in the auto market since there was no local assembled vehicle with 2.0 liter engine as well as no local assembled product available between PKR 4.0 to 7.0 million price range (back then), thus the Sportage filled this huge gap. The CEO further added that they had positioned the Sportage exactly where they wanted.

Related: Why Kia Sportage? Asif Rizvi Explains

The result was outstanding since Kia Sportage received an overwhelming response, while denting sales of higher priced vehicles in the market. The company also introduced a base variant called Sportage Alpha earlier this year priced even lower than Honda Civic turbo, while further tightening its grip in the market. Although Kia isn’t part of PAMA (Pakistan Automobile Manufacturers Association), official sales stats of the Sportage aren’t available at PAMA website, however according to analysts the company is enjoying sales of around 1,500 units a month which includes the Picanto hatchback too.

Hyundai-Nishat in August this year, introduced the local assembled Tucson in similar price league as that of Kia Sportage. Despite a quick price bump, Hyundai has sold 819 units of Tucson since its introduction hardly 4 months ago averaging 235 odd units a month which is impressive for a vehicle of this price and renders handsome demand of crossover SUVs in the market. Bear in mind Suzuki Swift sells at an average of around 180 units a month.

The two above mentioned South Korean cousins are set to face competition from Chinese crossover SUVs. Regal Automobiles which introduced the DFSK Glory 580 as CBU import back in 2018 have started to assemble the vehicle at its plant in Lahore from September 2020. And just yesterday the company has introduced the flagship Glory 580 Pro which is not only competitively priced but is also touted as the most equipped & the only 7-seat crossover SUV with intelligent i-Talk voice command function available in our market.

Just a couple of days before the launch of Glory 580 Pro, Al-Haj Automotive having teamed up with Malaysian automaker Proton introduced the X70 SUV in Pakistan, which also boasts the voice command function, however the X70 is a 5-seater as opposed to the Glory 580 Pro which has 7 seats. Though Proton is a Malaysian brand, the X70 is in fact based on Geely Boyue since the Chinese auto giant has acquired a controlling stake in Proton in 2017 and is now leading the technological development & revival of Proton brand.

The 5th of this segment is the MG HS which received an extra ordinary response during its booking phase. Backed by renowned businessman Javed Afridi, MG Motors which is the British marque now under the influence of Chinese SAIC Motors is in process of introducing an array of vehicles in Pakistan including the ZS EV, Extender pickup, RX8 and MG6, in addition to the HS crossover SUV.

Related: Can an Onslaught of SUVs Outdo Conventional Sedans in Pakistan?

But things won’t just settle here. There are reports regarding Master Changan’s plans to introduce a crossover SUV before June 2021. Kia is also in process of launching the Sorento in January 2021 which will be their 3rd local assembled product, however with a 3.5L V6 engine it will be obviously priced higher. However the company may also introduce the Niro hybrid crossover in Pakistan which was part of their 4-vehicle convoy doing rounds across the country.

The existing Japanese automakers are literally out from this crossover SUV game. Although Toyota Rush which is classified as a mini SUV with 7-seats is there as a CBU import but the vehicle hasn’t been able to attract buyers in considerable numbers. Plus there is no intent on company’s end to produce the vehicle locally. Indus Motor Company (Toyota) is supposed to introduce the imported Corolla Cross hybrid towards the end of this month however it is speculated to be priced around PKR 8.0 million or more, so it won’t be creating any worries for our aforementioned crossover SUVs. On the other hand, Honda lost the plot with the discontinuation of HR-V long ago, imported CR-V with a price tag of over 10 million is out of equation whereas Pak Suzuki with their PKR 6.5 million Vitara is watching this battle from the sidelines.

Related: On Papers: Kia Sportage vs Toyota Corolla Cross

In terms of prices, the crossover SUV segment has the following offering listed below, arranged from the least expensive to the priciest one available in the market.

Glory 580 1.5T MT PKR 37.5 lac
Glory 580 1.5T CVT PKR 40.0 lac
Glory 580 1.8L CVT PKR 41.5 lac
Kia Sportage Alpha 2.0L AT PKR 43.99 lac
Glory 580 Pro 1.5T CVT PKR 45.49 lac
Proton X70 1.5T DCT Executive AWD PKR 48.9 lac
Kia Sportage 2.0L AT FWD PKR 48.99 lac
Hyundai Tucson 2.0L AT GLS Sport FWD PKR 50.99 lac
Proton X70 1.5T DCT Premium FWD PKR 53.9 lac
Kia Sportage 2.0L AT AWD PKR 53.99 lac
MG HS 1.5T AT PKR 55.0 lac
Hyundai Tucson 2.0L AT Ultimate AWD PKR 55.99 lac

The above table will give you a good understanding on how these crossover SUVs are positioned in the market. The least expensive yet popular Sportage Alpha only has the Glory 580 trio as cheaper options, which are there for a while now but not yet able to trouble the South Korean rival.

Then it’s the clash between Kia Sportage FWD, Proton X70 AWD and Glory 580 Pro in the sub 5 million price bracket. This will sure be interesting since the Sportage FWD is expected to face stiff competition from Proton & Glory due to similar price but higher set of features on offer.  Then from PKR 5.0 to 5.6 million onwards price range, the segment gets an interesting mix of Hyundai Tucson FWD, Proton X70 Premium FWD, Kia Sportage AWD, MG HS and the Tucson Ultimate AWD battling against each other.

So far the South Korean brands have a considerable grip on this segment whereas Chinese options of late, are becoming increasingly dense in numbers. Whether they will be able to topple the Koreans in this crossover SUV confrontation, we will have to wait to find out. However one thing is clear, the Japanese are almost out of this contest.

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