The expanded new CR-V range, expected to comprise five- and seven-seat derivatives and both front- and all-wheel drive configurations, is slated as a return to form that’ll trouble the top-selling Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan X-Trail and Toyota RAV4.
Indeed, Honda Australia director Stephen Collins wants the car to mirror the success of the new Civic sedan (20 per cent private market share since launch) and HR-V (regularly number three in the small SUV market). The target is around 1000 sales each month.
“We’ll have a very competitive offering with the CR-V,” he said. “Look at Civic’s previous generation versus the current gen. Were looking to replicate that success, and broaden the appeal of the car.”
Reflecting a segment trend, Honda will eschew diesel power for the Thai-made next CR-V, with an all-petrol line-up confirmed for our market. “We know the diesel segment is not increasing,” Collins said. “In fact it’s decreasing”.
Expect a base 2.4 normally aspirated engine, and a 142kW 1.5-litre turbo in higher grades, both matched to a CVT auto.
Medium SUV sales are a real market driver at the moment. Sales here are up 18 per cent, and the total of 158,261 makes it the second biggest segment after small cars. It’s also 15 per cent of the overall new market.
When asked about the seven-seat CR-V derivative — a rival to the Mitsubishi Outlander — Collins would not confirm it, but said “we’ll launch all variants at the same time”. Honda has spoken of its desire for such a car, though this one would be small for the class.
“Five seat petrols are where the [sales] action is,” he added.
“[But] we will expand the appeal of the car. Our goal really is to get CR-V amongst the top players… very similar to what we’ve done with Civic.
“Clearly the [Mazda] CX-5 is the benchmark… the volume they're doing consistently is 1500-plus a month. For us to get amongst the top we’d want to be doing around 1000 a month, we’ve done that before.”
Not that the market will get any easier. There’a a brand new CX-5 on the way, the new Volkswagen Tiguan will be hitting its straps, and the new Ford Escape will be making its mark. This, while existing rivals do what they can to retain volume.
As you can read in more detail, the next Honda CR-V will offer the familiar vast amounts of cabin space — a hallmark of the current version — but add a far more upmarket cabin with superior infotainment, and an expected fun-to-drive character missing from the current car.
Such a move would reflect Honda’s desire to move on from the self-confessed “beige” product it dished up in recent years — not to make the CR-V into a sports car, but to at least match it with the class leaders.
The new CR-V will, alongside the new Civic hatch due early next year and the Type-R turbo derivative due later on in 2017, boost Honda Australia’s sales from 40,000 this year to 48,000 next year — if all goes to the corporate plan.