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Sub-Honda HR-V SUV slated for Aus

Not yet: Honda offers the BR-V (below) and the WR-V (left) in some emerging markets, but both have been deemed unsuitable for the Australian market in their current guises.

Honda confirms possibility of next-gen BR-V or WR-V to lure younger urban buyers

Honda logo31 Jul 2017

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

HONDA is studying the possibility of a new crossover to slot beneath the popular HR-V small SUV to boost its appeal with younger buyers in Australia.

While still some time away, the baby crossover is expected to be based on the next-generation Jazz light car due in about 2019, with the redesigned BR-V that is not sold in Australia shaping up as the most likely contender.

According to Honda Australia director Stephen Collins, there is significant growth potential in the bottom end of the light-SUV market that is currently occupied by the likes of the Suzuki Ignis.

“One of our priorities now is lighter SUVs,” he told GoAuto at the launch of the fifth-generation CR-V in Canberra last week. “We think this is probably the next segment to grow.

“We’re looking at options… there are a few around the world that are not currently suitable for this market, but we’re investigating for the future that we could position something under HR-V. There’s BR-V, WR-V… they’re currently made for different markets, so probably not suitable for this generation of car. But you’ll never know what happens with the next generation.”

Mr Collins confirmed that his team is lobbying Honda headquarters in Japan to help make the baby crossover a reality for Australia, even though sub-$40,000 small-SUV sales were down by 6.2 per cent for the first six months of 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.

“That’s what we’re looking at,” he said. “We think that’s the next growth segment so we’re having a lot of discussions about what our requirements would be, and does that fit into project plans over the next couple of years, and that will progress.

“(Small-SUV sales) have decreased because of a couple of model run-outs. We don’t think the growth in that small segment (is permanent) although the VFACTS numbers might suggest in the short term it’s come back a bit, we think it’s still on a pretty good growth curve, and we think that will continue. I think SUVs is where much of the action is going to be at over the next five to 10 years.”

Despite the inexorable increase in the number of SUV offerings, Mr Collins believes any future sub-HR-V crossover would support rather than supplant the Jazz in the sub-$20,000 segment.

“I don’t think (any light SUV) would replace the Jazz,” he said. “Jazz is Jazz.

If it was to happen (for Australia), and this is a big if, it would be an incremental model to our range. But time will tell. It’s not around the corner it’s still some time away.”

Short for Bold Runabout Vehicle, the existing BR-V was launched in India, Africa and South-East Asia two years ago as an entry-level, five-seater crossover with seven-seat capability.

Based on the Honda Brio micro-car platform introduced in other markets in 2011, it shares some of its front-drive mechanicals with the current Jazz, including an iteration of the latter’s 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, and sits on a 2660mm wheelbase.

The WR-V (for Winsome Runabout Vehicle), meanwhile, is essentially a jacked-up derivation of today’s third-generation Jazz, and it also uses Honda’s larger Global Small Car architecture.

Targeting a slightly less cost-conscious male-orientated lifestyle buyer, it was developed primarily for the South American and Indian markets, and sits on a 105mm shorter wheelbase than the more family-orientated BR-V.

The HR-V continues to be a strong seller for Honda. In the first half of this year the Thai-built crossover is vying with the Nissan Qashqai for third place in the small-SUV class with market share of 13 per cent apiece, behind the top-selling Mazda CX-3 and Mitsubishi ASX, which are at 19 and 18.5 per cent respectively.

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