LOS ANGELES — Hyundai Motor Co. is nearing a decision to bring a small car sized between the Smart ForTwo and the Honda Fit to the United States — and may source it from India.

Company insiders say the car will be the i10, a five-door hatchback produced in Chennai, India, that gets up to 56 mpg. The i10 went on sale last October and is sold in about 70 countries.

The car could be marketed here as a Hyundai or Kia or both.

"We're really watching sales of the Smart car," said a Hyundai source who asked not to be identified. "If the Smart does well, we will probably definitely get this car."

The i10 is 140 inches long — 21 inches shorter than the Fit and 34 inches longer than the Smart ForTwo. Hyundai sources say the i10 would need beefing up for the United States.

Short set

Hyundai may slot its little India-built i10 between the Smart ForTwo and Honda Fit.
Smart ForTwo 106.1 in.
Hyundai i10 140.4 in.
Honda Fit 161.6 in.

"We will put about 400 or so pounds into it and bring it up to U.S. safety standards," said the Hyundai source. "This is a real working prototype. When we get cars at this stage, there's a good chance they're a go."

The five-speed manual version weighs 1,892 pounds, and the four-speed automatic is 2,094 pounds. The 1.5-liter Fit hatchback weighs 2,432 pounds; the Smart weighs 1,808 pounds.

Hyundai engineers in the United States have been charged with pumping up the engine.

The i10's 80-hp, 1.2-liter engine is more powerful than the Smart's engine and delivers a combined 47 mpg. The 66-hp, 1.1-liter version gets about 56 mpg.

Standard features on the most upscale version include keyless entry, antilock brakes, fog lamps and dual airbags. Prices in India range from about $7,800 to $11,200.

Kathy Jackson Automotive News