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Tokyo show: Honda outs VEZEL small SUV

Jacked-up Jazz: The Honda VEZEL will give the brand a presence in the fast-growing small SUV market.

Big targets for Honda’s new Jazz-based SUV, due in Australia late 2014


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20 Nov 2013


HONDA today revealed the production-ready version of its Urban SUV concept, its first B-segment crossover since the demise of the trendsetting HR-V in 2002, and a car for which its Australian outpost has bold plans.

Called the VEZEL - in Japan, at least - and based on the same low-floored architecture as the new-generation Jazz light-car, the overdue small SUV contender is ready to slip into the range beneath the CR-V as a rival for the likes of Ford’s EcoSport and Nissan’s Juke.

Speaking at the reveal today in Tokyo, Honda Australia director Stephen Collins announced the car would emerge in Australia by the end of 2014 - almost 12 months after its arrival in Japanese showrooms.

The VEZEL is just one of three models to be based on the all-new Jazz platform, alongside the Jazz itself due in Australia around July 2014, and the new-generation City sedan. Honda confirmed this week the new City would premiere next week in India, where it will likely be produced.

Honda’s new small SUV will form a crucial plank in its medium-term goal of returning to its glory days of 2007, when it notched up 60,000 annual Australian sales, about 30 per cent more than it is primed to do in 2013.

This is because Honda believes the booming small SUV segment, up 19.3 per cent in 2013 and ready to explode with a host of new models from the likes of Ford and Renault next year, will keep expanding at a fair clip, resulting in crucial incremental sales growth.

Indeed, Mr Collins projects sales of small SUVs could soon match those of medium (nee compact) SUVs such as Honda’s own CR-V. At present, medium SUVs outsell their smaller contemporaries by about 30 per cent.

“We think the small SUV market will grow in time to match the medium SUV market, cars like the CR-V,” he said. Particularly with what’s coming from other brands as well, that whole market is expanding.”

Mr Collins said the VEZEL would, by-and-large, net incremental sales, though admitted he expected some prospective Civic hatch and CR-V buyers to jump ship.

“If anything, it’s going to cannibalise cars like the Civic hatch, cars like this are similarly priced and ride higher,” he said.

Mechanical details on the VEZEL will be withheld until the Japanese launch on December 19, but the company says hybrid and petrol versions will be offered using the same 1.5-litre direct-injection powertrains (in the case of a hybrid, matched to a small motor and lithium-ion battery pack.

Honda promises “minivan-like” elbow room, comfort and functionality in the rear, and after experiencing the new Jazz’s cabin, we have no reason to dispute this. The car on display at the show was locked.

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