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Honda to fight back with 2017 CR-V

Change is coming: The existing CR-V arrived in late 2012 and was followed by a facelift in December 2014.
Digital image: William Vicente.

All-important CR-V set to give Honda a big sales boost in second half of next year

23 Aug 2016

HONDA Australia claims its next-generation CR-V will be a major step up from the current model, with sleeker styling, improved packaging and a sportier flavour set to re-establish it as one of the leaders in the all-important mid-size SUV segment.

The arrival of the fifth-generation CR-V in Australian showrooms in the second half of 2017 forms a key part of Honda’s previously stated plan to reach 50,000 sales in Australia next year – up from 40,000 units last year and 33,000 in 2014.

The launch of the new-generation Civic hatch in the first half of next year is also expected to give Honda a major lift, cementing the Japanese brand’s long-anticipated sales turnaround which has faltered this year with a 3.5 per cent downturn to the end of July.

The smaller HR-V crossover and the freshly launched Civic sedan are its only positive contributors to date, with the current CR-V in negative territory along with Accord, Jazz, City and Odyssey.

Few details are known about the next-generation CR-V, with the model expected to surface in production guise at the Los Angeles auto show in November or, failing that, the Detroit show early in January.

Spy pictures of heavily camouflaged versions testing in Germany and the Unites States reveal that it will feature a much sharper design than the current model with a more steeply raked windscreen and a more aggressive fascia that is in keeping with the latest Civic.

Speaking with journalists in Sydney this week, Honda Australia director Stephen Collins said the company was working hard to ensure the new CR-V comes to market well specified.

15 center imageLeft: Honda Australia managing director Stephen Collins. “We are pushing very hard to put the latest of what’s available in that car,” he said. “We have seen some early images and we are pretty excited about what it’s going to be like.

“I think it is a great-looking thing. What you will see, it is a bit more dynamic, a bit more rugged, more distinctive.” Senior management would not be drawn on whether the next CR-V will be offered with seven seats, but Honda Australia general manager of customer and communications Scott McGregor confirmed this was “certainly part of the discussion”.

GoAuto understands that the next CR-V will definitely be offered with a third row, making it one of only a few offerings in the mid-size SUV segment to be available with seven seats. Others include the Nissan X-Trail and Mitsubishi Outlander.

Mr Collins all but ruled out the return of a diesel powertrain to the CR-V range, saying that the company’s focus was now squarely on petrol engines.

“Our core business now, and we think ongoing, is petrol,” he said. “Diesel is interesting. Diesel is reducing in most segments, so we are looking at diesel but I’ve got to say our core focus for CR-V has been, and will be, petrol.” Up until late last year Honda sold a version of the current CR-V with a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine, sourced from the United Kingdom, but low take-up and fluctuating exchange rates made it hard for the business case to stack up. It followed the demise of the diesel-powered Civic in early 2015.

Honda’s shift to turbocharged petrol engines is also likely to benefit the CR-V, with speculation that one of the powertrains on offer will be a version of the 2.0-litre turbo from the Civic Type R, although Mr Collins was coy when asked about the powertrain.

“I don’t like to speculate on ifs. I think you’ll have to wait and see,” he said.

Mr Collins added that, like the new Civic, there would be an increased focus on offering a sportier, more engaging driving experience in its latest models and that the CR-V would benefit from that.

“Performance is one area, clearly, that we are looking to improve,” he said.

“I think what we are looking for is ‘fun to drive’. I think we delivered that in Civic. When we talk about CR-V, I think it is that fun-to-drive aspect with the quality, premium interior, all of that sort of stuff that you will see.” Mr Collins said he believed the CR-V could have a similar level of success to that of the instantly popular HR-V compact SUV that launched early last year and is already one of the top sellers in the small SUV segment.

The mid-size SUV segment is the third-biggest class in the entire new-vehicle market, deferring only to small cars and pick-ups/cab-chassis.

“I think it’s obvious that the market leader by a long way – the (Mazda) CX-5 – there is pretty much daylight between it and anyone else. Our HR-V private market share is about 13 per cent or thereabouts,” he said.

“I can’t see any reason why we can’t get double-digit market share with CR-V. And if we did that in terms of private market that would put us in at least amongst the top players.” Honda was one of the first to market with its CR-V back in 1997, and consistently ranked as one of the top sellers in its segment behind the Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester and Nissan X-Trail.

In recent years, however, newer models have pushed their way into the segment and forced the CR-V further down the sales charts.

So far this year it is sitting on a 5.9 per cent share of the segment with 4692 sales, a 4.4 per cent dip over the same period in 2015.

The CX-5 is way out in front on 14,526 sales, followed by the RAV4 on 11,553, with Hyundai’s new Tucson snapping at its heels on 11,106.

The X-Trail (10,417), Forester (8010), Outlander (6448) and Kia’s Sportage (6247) are all ahead of the CR-V in terms of year-to-date sales.

The next-generation CR-V will continue to be sourced from Thailand.

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