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New small car and MDX for Oz

Out with the old, in with the new: The Acura MDX could be here soon while the HR-V could soon be gone.

An all-new "light car" is set to replace Honda's HR-V off-roader

Honda logo28 May 2001

By BRUCE NEWTON

HONDA Australia plans to can the HR-V off-roader and replace it with an all-new "light car" competitor to be unveiled in Japan in June.

But its 4WD stocks could be boosted down the track by the arrival of the prestige MDX soft-roader (see story below).

The new small car replaces the Logo, which was never sold in Australia, and should be on sale here in the first half of 2002.

The five-door hatchback, which is said to share styling cues with the Civic Vi launched late last year, is a definite starter while a three-door version is also possible.

Honda Australia is aiming to start pricing for the new car under $20,000, but there are fears it and the HR-V three-door model - which is currently priced at $24,500 - could rob sales from each other.

"We've got a new small car coming next year and we don't need a great proliferation of cars selling to the same market segment," Honda Australia marketing director Tony Devers said.

"So we'll be looking at evaluating the HR-V versus the new small car that comes next year.

"You do not want models cannabalising each other . . . when we get cars competing against each other it makes no sense."Honda Australia will probably lose no sleep over easing the three-door and eventually even the five-door HR-V out of its range, as sales have been on a steady slide and it has not been easy to price profitably without intruding into the all-conquering CR-V's area of the market.

The new light car will be powered in Japan by a new 1.3-litre petrol engine that has an output of 63kW at 5700rpm and maximum torque of 119Nm at 2800rpm.

It is paired to Honda's newly developed, lightweight and compact Multimatic S CVT transmission. But Mr Devers said the car would have to have an engine size of 1.5-litres at least for Australia and the CVT transmission was by no means guaranteed.

MDX heads for Oz

HONDA'S chances of securing the US-built Acura MDX soft-roader are growing, with a research and design team heading to Australia for a test program in June.

While the MDX was tested in Australia before its launch in the US in 2000, this trip is apparently intended to assess its suitability for major right-hand drive markets like Australia.

The visit could help pave the way for the 3.5-litre V6 wagon to come here after a refresh in the 2002 model year. It is built in the US at present in left-hand drive only.

"They'll look at the market, they'll go back, see what's needed and probably make the decision from there," Mr Devers said.

"If Japan takes it (MDX) and the UK takes some, it makes it viable for us."If MDX does come here, it will be pitched as a direct competitor to the Mercedes-Benz M-class and other prestige all-wheel drive contenders, which means a price in the $60,000 range.

Engine investigation

HONDA is investigating whether the Australian Integra Type-R will take the 149kW or 162kW version of the i-VTEC 2.0-litre engine.

The lower power output - or Type S unit as it is known in some markets - should go into our Type R initially, which goes on sale here around August. The real Type R engine is tipped to head our way several years later.

And a new 2.4-litre, VTEC four-cylinder engine has been confirmed for the next generation CR-V, which will be launched in Japan in June. The engine is a bored-out version of the 2.0 litre i-Series unit currently propelling the Stream and Stepwagon.

The engine has been boosted in size to counter the new CR-V's increased size and weight. But Mr Devers was uncertain whether this or the 2.0-litre engine would be used in the new CR-V when it goes on sale in Australia early in 2002.

Meanwhile, Honda Australia has posted a pre-tax consolidated profit of $7.2 million for the finacial year ended March 31. The result represents a 35 per cent decrease compared to the previous financial year and is blamed on exchangepressures.

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