All Honda is offering is a tantalizing picture -- blurry and dark at that –- of a prototype of its Urban SUV Concept that will first take the stage at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month. Oh, there’s also a description, which one press notice calls “completely unforthcoming”: the forthcoming vehicle “is a global concept model combining a sporty and dynamic SUV profile with a spacious, functional interior.”
“Think Nissan Juke with an injection of Honda beige, and you won’t be far off,’ CarsUK does its best to hypothecate. But since that doesn’t do much for us, even after looking at the Juke and Honda beige (reminiscent of a “reg-lah” coffee, as we say in NYC –- perhaps a fitting image if CarsUK is being metaphorical), we’ve dug up what we could elsewhere.
Writes Edmunds’ Anita Lienert: “The Honda Urban SUV Concept may be one of the most significant unveilings at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, as Honda offers an intriguing downsized model with slightly riskier styling than most of the current lineup.”
And USA Today’s Chris Woodyard certainly likes what little he sees. “If this ‘urban SUV concept’ actually looks this good when we see the whole thing, it could be a sign that Honda is really amping up its styling,” he writes.
Most commentators speculate that the U.S. market will indeed be a big slice of the new vehicle’s global aspirations. It will be “pegged below the size and price of the CR-V,” according to the Los Angeles Times’ Jerry Hirsch. And it will “likely share underpinnings with the Honda Fit,” the Detroit Free Press’ Alisa Priddle suggests, informing us that “Honda has invested $800 million to build a new plant in Celaya, Mexico, to make the Fit in a number of derivatives.”
Car and Driver’s Austin Lindberg also speculates that the car will be assembled at that Fit factory in Mexico over a hed that informs us that the concept is “earnestly named.” As for its street cred, “its level of urbanity is still unknown, but Honda says that it’s compact, so we know that it will definitely fit inside a city,” Lindberg says.
“The word Urban in the name, automaker shorthand for small, suggests an SUV coming in below the CR-V in the lineup,” CNet’s Wayne Cunningham more prosaically offers.
Edmund’s Lienert sees “a family resemblance in profile to the Honda CR-V, but with more dramatically sculpted sides.” It should be available in both front- and four-wheel drive models, she says.
Green Car Reports’ Antony Ingram takes a gander at the photo tease and concludes “it's certainly a more convincing effort than Brazil's Honda Fit Twist -- a standard Fit with some plastic cladding -- and could prove a worthy rival to the Nissan Juke in the small crossover market.”
Honda is on the rebound, after a truly disastrous 2011, when the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and flooding in Thailand crippled production. It took 9.8% of the American new light-vehicle market through November, up from 9% in the first 11 months of 2011, Priddle reports, crediting the launch of a redesigned Accord and the resurgence of the Civic.
But it’s “facing tough competition, points out Hirsch, “especially in the passenger car and crossover market from the Hyundai and Kia brands as well as the domestic nameplates, which have pushed hard into the passenger car business.”
USA Today’s Woodyard cautions that automakers generally release concept vehicles “as a way of testing the water…. If auto showgoers or reviewers hate it, they can ditch the design and start over.” But he suspects that, in this case as it has with other recent models, “the production design has already been locked and the actual version that people will be able to buy will be almost identical to the concept.”
In any event, mark your calendars for Jan. 14 when the almost real thing will be formally introduced during Honda's NAIAS press conference. It will also be broadcast live via a webcast at hondawebcast.com.
Observes Greece’s Newsbeast.gr: “Μια teaser εικνα ενς επερχμενου crossover/SUV μοντλου δωσε στη δημοσιτητα η Honda.” As for Honda’s spare press release and murky photo, as Gypsy Rose Lee demonstrated a generation ago, a little tease can go a long way.