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First look: Honda’s vital new CR-V

Feeling blue: The Honda CR-V has slumped from segment leadership to 10th place in Australia, but the new-look 2012 model will offer a cheaper two-wheel drive option for the first time.

New CR-V compact SUV breaks cover in Japan ahead of crucial 2012 launch in Australia

Honda logo1 Nov 2011

By DAVID HASSALL

HONDA has released photos of its vital new fourth-generation CR-V compact SUV ahead of its official unveiling at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 16.

The new CR-V will go on sale in North America soon after the show and cannot come soon enough to Australia, where sales have slumped in the last three years in particular.

These photos – posted on Honda’s Japanese website this week – show the popular crossover is largely true to the ‘concept’ car that appeared in September at the Orange County International Auto Show, also in California, with the exception of the show car’s big wheels, accentuated skid plates and dark-tinted headlights and glasshouse.

Looking more conservative than the somewhat polarising third-generation vehicle – which came to Australia in February 2007 and was upgraded early last year – the new model sports a bolder and more car-like three-bar chrome grille.

More stylised character lines along the doors and sharper triangular rear windows dominate the vehicle’s side profile.

At the rear, the current model’s signature vertical tail-lights get even more prominent profiles and frame the tailgate, which is not revealed but is expected to be smoother than before.

Honda says the new CR-V will showcase new interior as well as exterior styling.

15 center imageLeft: First official CR-V interior shots. Below: CR-V 'concept' from the Orange Country show.

Although it released no mechanical details, the new CR-V is expected to be powered by essentially the same 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine as the current model, which produces 125kW of power and 218Nm of torque, driving through a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission.

However, Honda promises the new CR-V will be more fuel-efficient, thanks in part to reduced body weight. It may also feature direct injection for the first time, and possibly a six-speed auto.

The CR-V is reportedly built on a completely new platform that promises improved interior space, a lower load floor and lower overall height.

Significantly, the new platform offers a front-wheel drive option for the first time in addition to all-wheel drive, a move that Honda Australia hopes will result in considerably higher sales.

Sales of Honda’s one-time compact SUV leader are down 16.8 per cent in a segment that is up 4.0 per cent to the end of the third quarter this year, despite the release of value-added packs in January and significant price cuts from June 1.

It has dropped to a 4.9 per cent segment share YTD, down from 6.2 per cent in the same period last year and a long way short of its segment-winning share of 17.0 per cent back in 2002.

The current model started strongly after being launched in 2007, taking 14.0 per cent of the segment that year, but has since been in steady decline.

It is now only 10th behind a raft of newer compact SUVs in the segment, which is led by the Subaru Forester (11.2 per cent), Toyota RAV4 and Nissan X-Trail (9.9 per cent each), Hyundai ix35 (9.8 per cent), Mazda CX-7 (7.6 per cent), Nissan Dualis (7.3 per cent), Mitsubishi Outlander (6.3 per cent), Volkswagen Tiguan (5.3 per cent) and Mitsubishi ASX (5.2 per cent).

CR-V is sold in 160 markets globally and sales remain strong in the US – where it is the top-selling compact SUV over the past five years – and Europe, where the new model goes on sale in early 2012.

Australian CR-Vs will continue to be built at Honda’s production facility in Thailand, which was forced to stop production on October 4 due to parts supply problems caused by the country’s floods.

Although Thai production is yet to resume, production of the new CR-V for the US market at Honda’s plants in Ohio and Mexico commenced recently while its facility in Ontario, Canada, is expected to start producing the new model in early 2012.

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