Honda shrinks, sculpts CR-V for new concept

It is the habit of American Honda to share information about coming products about as freely as the Kremlin shares names of jailed dissidents.

This makes anticipating the impact of the compact crossover Urban SUV shown in Detroit on 14 January difficult to judge.

The concept sport-utility wears handsome, clean lines with a strongly horizontal grille and a crisp crease that rises along the side of the body before evaporating behind the rear window. This marks a strong departure from some of Honda's homelier recent efforts, a result that is surely appreciated by Honda dealers like Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, who is chairman of his eponymous dealer group.

"It certainly is striking," the racer-entrepreneur said during Monday’s press preview.

With an overall length of 169.3 inches, the concept is nine inches shorter than the CR-V, Honda's current small family-mover. However, the Concept’s production version, which will be based on the next-generation Fit subcompact hatchback, will be seven inches longer than the cramped Nissan Juke. "There is some practicality there," Rahal observed.

Along with the next generation of the Fit, the eventual production model will be built at Honda's new plant in Celaya, Mexico, which will have an annual capacity of 200,000 cars when it opens. That 2015 Fit will arrive in the US in spring 2014, followed later in the year by the crossover.

"Honda's position as a small car leader will continue and expand," Art St Cyr, vice president of product planning for Honda, said. Today, sales of the Fit are limited by production capacity and by the high cost of Japanese manufacturing. With North American assembly and unconstrained capacity, the company is looking for Fit sales to rise along with those of its eventual, more rugged companion.

In its tight-lipped fashion, Honda is not ready to talk about powertrains, let alone estimated pricing. We will learn these, if history is any guide, in Honda’s own sweet time.