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The Honda HR-V small crossover SUV launches this week, and its maker has set some bold targets that would see its monthly sales take it right up to current class luminaries such as the Nissan Qashqai and Mitsubishi ASX.

Honda’s high-riding front-wheel-drive hatchback contender launches with a range consisting of three well-equipped specification levels, priced between $24,990 and $33,990 plus on-road costs.

Noting the growth in the baby crossover segment in recent times — up 16 per cent across 2014 in an overall market that was down — Honda Australia has posted some aggressive sales targets for its newest model, previously stating it wanted to be among the class toppers.

Honda Australia director Stephen Collins this week cited the Nissan Qashqai and forthcoming Mazda CX-3 as chief rivals, and stated a goal of 800 monthly sales, thereabouts with the Mitsubishi ASX, Qashqai and Subaru XV.

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Honda Australia took 21,000 expressions of interest before launch, the most it had taken on any car in its history. About 60 per cent of buyers are expected to be first-time Honda owners.

As we know, Honda has set a sales target of about 40,000 cars in 2015, which would be good growth over what it achieved last year. Within three years it hopes to return to the 60,000 sales mark it achieved in 2007, a bold claim similar to ones it has made before. 

The company has up 9.4 per cent in January. The almost entirely incremental growth from the HR-V, which Honda believes won’t cannibalise its other models to a great degree, will be the driver of this, alongside a full year of sales on the increasingly strong-selling new Jazz and updated CR-V

Helping the Thai-built (as with a large number of Hondas in Australia) HR-V’s cause will be the strong initial pre-interest from buyers, boosted by a large-scale marketing campaign that has been hard to miss over the past few weeks. 

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While this iteration of the nameplate arrives with high expectations, it’s also worth recalling that Honda was one of the trend-setters in the small SUV space. 

The original HR-V polarised during its time on sale in Australian between 1999 and 2001, though of course it was a very different market then, and vehicles of this sort are now all the rage. This new one eschews the boxy styling in favour of something more reminiscent of a hatch on stilts. 

The return of badges such as HR-V and later this year the Suzuki Vitara make it feel a bit like 2000 all over again, don’t they?

This new HR-V is about the same size as a Civic hatch, only taller, spanning 4294 millimetres long, 1772mm wide and 1605mm tall, resting on a 2610mm wheelbase. 

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Inside are Honda’s 60:40 folding Magic Seats, which when folded flat and low thanks to clever fuel tank packaging, yield 1032 litres of cargo space, 25 per cent more than a Holden Trax though less than the Renault Captur‘s 1230L. There are also six cup holders and four coat hangers. 

In Tall Mode, there is enough space for two mountain bikes positioned upright with the front wheels removed. All told, there are 18 different configurations, though the seats can’t be pulled out altogether like they can on a Skoda Yeti.

Under the bonnet is a naturally aspirated 1.8-litre i-VTEC petrol engine with 105kW at 6500rpm and 172Nm at 4300rpm — similar outputs to those in the Civic hatch, which shares its 10.6:1 compression ratio but differs with its bore x stroke.

Like a number of rivals, the HR-V is a front-wheel-drive proposition in our market. Furthermore, Honda has opted not to offer a price-leading manual version, with a CVT transmission (familiar from the Jazz) with optional paddles the only choice.

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Honda claims combined-cycle fuel economy of between 6.6 litres per 100km and 6.9L/100km, on par with the Civic. It will run on cheap 91 RON fuel.

Honda has also confirmed it will launch a 1.6-litre diesel HR-V, though will not comment on timing. This engine will come with both manual and auto transmissions. It is unclear if this will come from the UK, like the CR-V diesel, or from Thailand.

Honda’s decision not to offer a manual transmission means the HR-V has a higher starting price than some rivals, though compared with rival automatics – Ford EcoSport Ambiente $22,790, Peugeot 2008 Active $25,490, Holden Trax LS $26,190, Mitsubishi ASX LS $26,990 – it’s fine.

Underneath the body is a front MacPherson strut independent setup, while at the rear is a cheaper torsion beam. Honda’s electric-assisted power steering is fitted, and the turning circle is a decent 10.6 metres, about par. 

The standard features list seems pretty good.

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The base $24,990 VTi gets six airbags (including dual front, front-side and full-length curtains) and what Honda assures translates to an equivalent of a five-star ANCAP score, reversing camera with guidelines, daytime running lights, auto on/off headlights, cruise control, a touchscreen Display Audio system with Bluetooth and USB as well as Honda’s smartphone-based navigation app, trip computer, climate control and 16-inch alloys (plus a space-saver spare).

The mid-range $27,990 VTi-S adds extras such as roof rails, rain-sensing wipers, front fog lights, LED headlights with auto levelling and dusk sensors, LED daytime running lights, push-button start, leather wheel and gear-shifter, 17-inch alloys, low-speed autonomous brakes and blind-spot monitoring. 

The flagship $32,990 VTi-L add above this extras such as front/rear parking sensors, shift paddles, electrically retracting door mirrors, panoramic glass roof, dual-zone climate control, rear arm rest, leather seats (heated at front) and alloy pedals. 

An extra $1000 on top of the VTi-L gets you Honda’s ADAS system with forward collision warning, lane departure warning and active high-beam. 

In terms of sales splits, Honda expects the VTi-S to net 40 per cent of sales, the VTi-L about 35 per cent (about one-in-four of these will get the ADAS add-on) and 25 per cent for the base VTi.

Update: The HR-V will also come with 12-month/10,000km service intervals (whichever comes first) rather than the company’s usual six-months, as well as its capped-price servicing plan.

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Honda HR-V key features model by model:

Honda HR-V VTi:

  • 105kW/172Nm 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine
  • Automatic continuously variable transmission
  • 16-inch alloy wheels
  • LED tail-lights
  • Second-row ‘Magic Seats’
  • Display Audio infotainment system with 7.0-inch colour touchscreen and Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming
  • Multi-angle reverse-view camera with three modes
  • Single-zone climate control

Honda HR-V VTi-S (gains over VTi):

  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • LED headlights with LED daytime running lights
  • Front foglights
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Roof rails
  • Smart key entry with push-button start
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • ‘LaneWatch’ blind spot monitoring
  • Emergency city auto braking

Honda HR-V VTi-L (gains over VTi-S):

  • Unique 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Paddleshifters
  • Part-leather upholstery
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Rear centre armrest
  • Rear privacy glass
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Chrome door handles
  • ADAS package adds:
  • Forward collision warning
  • Lane departure warning
  • High-beam support system

Honda HR-V pricing (plus on-road costs):

  • VTi CVT $24,990
  • VTi-S CVT $27,990
  • VTi-L CVT $32,990
  • VTi-L CVT with ADAS $33,990



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