Commentary

Big Hopes, Grand Predictions For Honda's Diminutive HR-V

Honda, which has the best-selling SUV/crossover vehicle in North America with its nearly 20-year-old CR-V, introduced a smaller sibling yesterday called the HR-V that is based on its Fit hatchback platform, the smallest vehicle it sells in the U.S. Targeted at the thin wallets of Gen Y, it is making its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show and will be in showrooms next spring. The price is expected to start in the low $20,000 range.

“The new HR-V crossover is a true segment-busting vehicle, unlike anything else on the market today,” according to Honda Division SVP and GM Jeff Conrad in a press release.

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More colorfully, he calls the HR-V “a virtual Swiss Army knife of capability, efficiency and versatility,” in David Undercoffler’s piece in the Los Angeles Times. “Need to haul a bike or maybe a dog crate? HRV has got you covered,” he said. “How about two buddies and a pair of longboards? No problem.”

That reference to bikes and longboards and buddies is not without forethought.

Honda sees the HR-V — which apparently doesn’t officially mean anything in particular although some say it stands for “Hi-rider Revolutionary Vehicle” — as the first meaningful relationship in what it hopes will be a lifelong love affair with Honda-brand crossovers.

“People come in looking for this size, this versatility, this functionality, this price range — and then they can step up to the CR-V, then from there, if they need a little more room, to the Pilot,” Conrad tells WardsAuto’s ErikDerr.

The HR-V will cannibalize CR-V sales, Conrad admits, but it expects that 85% of buyers will be “plus business.” In addition, speaking of plus, it’s where the market is heading.

“There are others that are looking to come in to the segment,” Conrad says. “We want to be among the leaders.”

The HR-V “borrows more cues from its big brother, the latest 2015 CR-V” — the fourth-generation model that is currently Motor Trend’s SUV of the Year — than from the Fit, says AutoBlog’s Chris Bruce. “Bits of Honda's larger crossover peek out in the grille and roof shape, but the HR-V reinterprets the design in its own funky way.”

“This marvel of interior packaging manages to get the most interior space possible out of its diminutive exterior, matching the passenger and cargo space of SUVs that are considerably bigger on the outside,” coos Edmunds.com’s James Riswick. “The secret is the placement of its gas tank under the front seats, which allows for a lower rear floor and Honda's so-called ‘Magic Seat.’”

“We witnessed a six-foot-two guy fit perfectly fine in the rear seats, with his knees clear of the front seatbacks — which had been pushed back to accommodate him as well — so, color us duly impressed,” writesAutoweek’s Blake Z. Rong.“Those rear seats, by the way, fold perfectly flat: a derivation of the Fit's ‘Magic Seats.’ Expect more interior volume than the Fit, front and rear.”

The affordable Fit, marketed in Europe and elsewhere as the Jazz, itself has been enjoying a nice ride since its introduction in the U.S. in April 2006.

“The new five-door 2015 Honda Fit EX goes for just $18,225 all-in. That’s about the cost of, oh, maybe the paint job on the $279,345 Lamborghini Huracán,” points outAutomobile’s Arthur St. Antoine. “Yet both machines stand proudly as 2015 All-Stars,” in the magazine’s new ratings.

“When Honda announced that the production version of its Urban SUV concept would see daylight wearing the HR-V moniker, a waggish friend suggested that henceforth, the new small ute should be referred to as ‘the Hervé’ in honor of late actor Hervé Villechaize, who notably played Ricardo Montalban’s diminutive sidekick on ‘Fantasy Island,’” writes Car & Driver’s Davey G. Johnson in his lede.

Johnson concludes with a prediction that “city-dwelling families with two or fewer kids should eat up the HR-V, and we have no doubt they’re Honda’s main target, but value-conscious suburbanites will buy the heck out of Hervé, too.”

“You'll Probably See Honda HR-Vs All Over The Place So Get Used To It,” echoes the hed over Jason Torchinsky’s post on Jalopnik.

Sure, just as long as we don’t have to get used to the dorky “Hi-rider Revolutionary Vehicle” moniker. Even Hervé is better than that.

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