Hyundai’s premium arm is using an extended Santa Fe to develop larger underpinnings for a luxury SUV

Hyundai luxury brand Genesis is using an extended Santa Fe mule to develop underpinnings for a premium SUV model that could rival the Range Rover Velar.

Spotted testing in the Arctic Circle, the mule is expected to form the basis of a production car that will be the first of two confirmed SUV models on their way by 2020.

It will be larger than the Hyundai Santa Fe, as evident by the cut-and-shut body of the test mule that gives it an extended wheelbase and stretched body, suggesting it will share much of its base with the G80 saloon. It is likely to be offered in two- and four-wheel drive forms and could get up to three rows of seating.

This fits the bill for an SUV production car that takes inspiration from the GV80 concept. Genesis first showed the concept, which featured a swept-back roofline and spacious four-seat interior, at New York motor show last April.

It’s likely that Genesis engineers are using the Sante Fe mule in Scandinavia to put new suspension and driveline settings through their paces before a more comprehensive pre-production car is produced. This is common practice in the earlier stages of a car’s development.

Genesis’ production SUV will almost certainly be offered with electrified powertrains in order to conform to increasingly stringent emissions limits. The GV80 concept featured a plug-in hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, although the final car may stick to a more conventional battery-powered system to maximise the car’s infrastructure compatibility.

The production SUV model will be key to Genesis’s global growth plans, which are focused on regions where SUV demand dominates new car sales. A brand spokesman told Autocar that America, China, Korea and the Middle East have remained first priorities for the brand since it launched as an independent division in 2015.

Since then, Genesis has launched the G80 and G90 saloons, with the recently revealed G70 due on roads in the aforementioned markets at the end of 2018. Following this, the brand will launch the first of two SUV models, before adding a sports coupé to the range.

Europe is on the brand’s radar, but a spokesman told Autocar that “there’s more of a heritage in the other markets”, so Europe won’t become a priority until Genesis has made a real mark in areas it is already established in.

It’s probable that Genesis will use the launch of its sports coupé, expected in 2020, as a catalyst to enter the European market in the early part of the next decade. Such a strategy would ensure that Genesis arrives here with enough of a differentiation from Hyundai, which is already a well-known brand in the region.

Hyundai recently culled a saloon it sold with the Genesis name from its UK line-up, clearing space for the Genesis brand to be introduced here in the future.

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