Sales of compact 4x4s are expected to reach one million per annum in Europe over the next five years and BMW, Mercedes, Renault, VW, Fiat, Saab, Alfa and Volvo all want to cash in.

Sales of compact 4x4s are expected to reach one million per annum in Europe over the next five years and BMW, Mercedes, Renault, VW, Fiat, Saab, Alfa and Volvo all want to cash in.


According to , Renault's Mégane-based H45 will be launched as early as 2006 and the company’s senior alliance partner Nissan will provide the four-wheel-drive for the model, which will be built in South Korea. Volkswagen was planning its own small off-roader equipped with the 4Motion all-wheel system. The model, which will be built on the Golf V platform, has been codenamed Marrakech.


Fiat plans to introduce a Panda-based 4x4, which was first seen in concept form at the Geneva Motor Show, next year. At the other end of the market, Saab and Alfa Romeo are both working on their own rivals to the BMW X3, reported.


Land Rover was apparently thrashing out the design of a model to slot in between the Freelander and Discovery. Audi's A3 will also provide the basis for its own 4x4 offspring, and Volvo's new S40 will underpin a small off-roader by 2006.


Meanwhile, Peter Patrone, the general manager and product manager for SUVs and touring cars at the US division of Mercedes-Benz, said that a CST (Compact Sports Tourer) model would be built off the redesigned A-Class platform, use many of its components and look more like a small version of the R-Class.


The long-wheelbase version of the A-Class will also get a new design and a name: B-Class, sources say. It will be presented at the 2005 Detroit Motor Show and feature a so-called Omega rear axle.