A Chinese automotive joint venture between three of the country’s most successful brands is gearing up to launch an all-wheel-drive mini electric SUV set to disrupt the global compact SUV market.
Developed by SAIC-GM-Wuling, the KiWi mini EV SUV, the compact off-roader, enters the relatively new market segment fresh off the heels of its predecessor, the Wuling Hongguang mini EV, which sold a reported one million units since its launch in early 2020.
In particular, the Wuling Hongguang mini EV sold exceedingly well amongst what EV tech publication, Clean Technica, calls non-consumers in second and third tier cities.
These are customers not traditionally targeted by car manufacturers because they are often priced out of purchasing new motor vehicles, according to the site.
The immensely popular EV has since released several limited edition variations of the compact car, including matte-coloured Macaron versions, a Gameboy version and Cabriolets.
Upgraded, sportier iterations of the mini EV – with an extended wheelbase and zippier 26 kilowatt hour battery – also hit showroom floors shortly after the launch.
SAIC-GM-Wuling is also launching the Wuling Air, to be manufactured in Indonesia, and destined for the export market in the coming months.
Having made massive waves with the mini EV, the venture is set to further disrupt the industry with the Bajoun KiWi off-roader.
It sports dual electric motors that put out roughly the equivalent of 110 horsepower with an impressive 31.9 kilowatt battery that should give it a range of 300 kilometres before requiring a recharge, according to motoring website, CarScoops.
The KiWi will face stiff competition from the Suzuki Jimny, an internal combustion engine compact SUV with a comparable 100 horsepower and a naturally aspirated 1.5 litre petrol engine.
The Suzuki Jimny has an interesting history, having been produced since the 1970s and selling over three million units under the Jimny or Samurai moniker in over 190 countries.
The Jimny has also racked up impressive sales figures in South Africa and other smaller markets, where its attractive R300 000 ($20 000) selling point sets it apart from other off-roaders.
The KiWi, which comes standard with twin LCD touchscreen monitors in the driver’s cabin, has a taller ground clearance than the Wuling mini EV.
This makes it better prepared to tackle the uneven and sometimes non-existent roads in developing countries, while its decent 300-kilometre range makes it equally practical as a city runaround.