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Future models - Honda - New Small Concept

Honda springs new mini hatchback

Hindi Honda: The Honda New Small Car Concept will go into production in Thailand - Honda's Australia's primary source of product.

‘2CV’ set to launch Honda into the budget mini-car market from 2011

Honda logo12 Jan 2010

By RON HAMMERTON

HONDA has unveiled a new sub-Jazz “Asia car” to go into simultaneous production in India and Thailand from 2011.

Although Honda has not spelled out which export markets it will ultimately be sold in, the five-door, five-seat hatch – apparently codenamed 2CV but called New Small Car Concept at its unveiling at the New Delhi motor show last week – could provide Honda Australia with a competitor for the raft of new Asian-made mini cars, including the Indian-built Suzuki Alto and Hyundai i20.

Honda Australia spokesman Mark Higgins told GoAuto that Honda had only indicated that a car based on the concept would only go on sale in India and Thailand.

But he confirmed that Honda had said the car's future potential for other markets would be studied.

Honda’s current City started out as a basic Asia-only vehicle, aimed at the extreme budget end of the global market by dispensing with previous Honda niceties such as double-wishbone suspension, replaced with rugged but cheaper struts.

15 center imageThe City sedan evolved to the point where Honda Australia was happy to introduce its latest generation in February 2009, selling it alongside its Jazz hatch sibling at the current rate of about 300 a month.

Honda already takes most of the volume sellers in its range from the Thai plant, including CR-V, Civic, Accord and Jazz, as well as City.

The styling of the New Small Concept should not be an impediment to Australian sales – images of the Japanese-designed car at the 2010 Auto Expo in India reveal a handsome hatch with a wide stance and contemporary lines.

Although no mechanical details were revealed, the Indian media speculates the car will have an engine of less than 1.2 litres to comply with local tax rules. However, a Thai-built car would be free to edge that engine size up, perhaps to 1.3 litres.

A petrol engine is a certainty to kick off production, but an executive of Honda’s Indian partner, Honda Siel Cars India Ltd, was quoted as saying a diesel engine was being developed by Honda in Japan for the longer term.

The model is predicted to sell in India for about 500,000 rupees (about $A12,000), compared with the current Jazz price of 698,000 rupees ($A16,000). Jazz went on sale in India in June.

To keep costs down, Honda has committed to sourcing many of the parts from India, where the company has an R&D centre focusing on developing such trade.

While the new hatchback is shorter than the Jazz, Honda says “a wide platform with a stable center of gravity was adopted to create a highly efficient compact size with seating for five people”.

Although there has been no suggestion that the 2CV moniker for the new car is anything but a coincidence, the original Citroen icon was also designed as basic, cost-effective transport when it appeared in post-war France.

Last year, Honda was the fourth-largest car-maker in India, behind Suzuki (and its partner Maruti), Hyundai Motor Co and Tata Motors Ltd.

Mini and compact cars comprise three-quarters of the market volume in India, where sales rose 18.7 per cent last year to 1.43 million units.

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