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Honda’s ‘Vezel’ crossover to become core model

Name game: When it arrives in Australia next year, Honda’s compact crossover is unlikely to carry the Vezel nameplate.

Petrol and diesel power for Honda’s long-awaited HR-V successor, here in 12 months


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22 Jan 2014

HONDA Australia is predicting its forthcoming B-segment crossover will become a core model alongside the Civic, CR-V and Jazz when it eventually lands in local showrooms within 12 months.

With sales of micro-sized SUVs hitting new heights, the high-riding hatchback is shaping up as a sizeable volume booster for the Japanese brand as it seeks to return to the heady days of 2007, when it sold 30 per cent more volume that it does now.

The sub-compact SUV – dubbed Vezel at its international reveal at last year’s Tokyo motor show – will bring the company’s SUV count to two by filling a hole in Honda’s local line-up under the mid-size CR-V.

Based on the Jazz/Fit light-car platform, it will enter a booming segment and rival the Holden Trax, Ford EcoSport, Nissan Juke and Peugeot 2008 that are already on sale in Australia, as well as the Clio-based Renault Captur that launches in May 2014.

Honda’s local arm has confirmed the availability of both petrol and diesel powertrains in Australia, but ruled out the hybrid-powered version, for the time being at least.

This means that when it arrives, the Vezel will be one of just two B-segment crossovers to offer the option of a diesel engine. The only other vehicle in its class to offer an oil-burner is the Peugeot 2008.

Discussing the vehicle’s future at this week’s diesel CR-V launch in New South Wales, Honda Australia director Stephen Collins remained quiet on projected volumes but predicted big things for tiny SUV.

“I would expect it would become a core model for us,” he said. “I don't expect it would be a niche or a fringe model.

“We haven’t set volumes at this point but we expect that the small SUV market is going to keep growing and we think in the next few years it will get as big as the medium SUV segment.”

When asked if he thought the crossover could overtake sales of the resurgent Civic small car, Mr Collins said it was possible but the company was not expecting that to occur.

“I wouldn't be surprised but Civic is the foundation of our business with huge awareness and a great reputation so I think, early days, that might be expecting too much from the small SUV.

“But having said that, I think with that market growing to maybe medium-SUV type levels and offering both petrol and diesel, I think it will be a core car. It would be a big call to say it would outsell Civic but you never know.”

Pricing and specifications won’t be announced until closer to launch, but the Vezel is expected to sit in a similar price bracket as its competitors such as the Holden Trax ($23,490 to $27,990), the Ford EcoSport ($20,790 to $25,790) and the Nissan Juke ($21,990 to $32,190).

While the tiny Honda will be dubbed Vezel in its home market of Japan, it is unlikely to carry that moniker when it arrives in Australia.

Mr Collins would not be drawn on potential names for the crossover, but said it would carry a global name (for markets outside Japan), rather than a name specific to the Australian market only.

Some reports have suggested Honda could revive the HR-V nameplate, harking back to the boxy light-SUV that sold in middling numbers here between 1999 and 2002.

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