Remember the cool looking Honda Urban SUV Concept presented in Detroit last January? Its production successor was unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Show last week in the form of the new Honda Vezel. While the automaker remains somewhat tight-lipped about the vehicle that will go on sale in Japan in late December, what it has chosen to divulge bodes well for a U.S.-spec version that will hit showrooms here - albeit almost certainly under another name - sometime late next year.
Comments made by Honda in Detroit confirmed this new, youth-oriented rival to vehicles like the Nissan Juke and Mini Countryman is being spun from the automaker's Global Compact Series platform which underpins the next-gen Honda Fit that went on sale in Japan in September and is heading to our shores in 2014. Set to slot between the Fit and the CR-V in both size and price, this new crossover SUV will be produced for the North American market at a Honda facility now being completed near Celaya, Mexico -- which also is destined to be the source point for our new 2015 Fit.
While several of its exterior details have been toned down a bit, the Honda Vezel carries over much of the Urban SUV Concept's basic design. Bold exterior contours, a coupe-like roofline and hidden rear door handles give it a more sophisticated visual presence than the Fit, and a similar kind of upscale thinking carries over to the look of its interior.
Although Honda has said nothing about the powertrains that will appear in U.S. versions of this newcomer, the Japanese-spec Vezel offers both gasoline and hybrid engines. The gas-powered model packs a new 1.5-liter direct-injected 4-cylinder while the Vezel Hybrid gets its motivation from the same gas-electric combo introduced in the domestic-market Fit Hybrid that matches a 1.5-liter i-VTEC Atkinson Cycle 4-cylinder with a new 7-speed Sport Hybrid intelligent dual-clutch drive automatic transmission (i-DCD) that features an integrated electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery pack. However, Honda also released preliminary details about a series of new "Earth Dreams" powertrains -- including a potent 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine that can be backed by an 8-speed dual-clutch drive transmission that's also on the way. It's a pairing we suspect would be a most welcome addition to the mix. We're hoping Honda may be ready to fill in a few more blanks about its new compact crossover SUV as early as the Detroit Auto Show in January. Stay tuned.
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