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The Strange Unveiling of the All-New 2015 Honda HR-V

Honda released photos of its all-new 2015 HR-V crossover SUV in New York on Thursday. The HR-V is expected to go on sale in the U.S. this winter.

Well, that didn't work out the way I expected.

I arrived at a Honda (NYSE: HMC  ) event in New York on Thursday with hundreds of other journalists, expecting the company to show off an all-new small crossover SUV based on its brand-new 2015 Fit subcompact. 

But that's not what happened. Instead, Honda gave us photos of the new SUV -- and then gave a lengthy demonstration of the latest version of its ASIMO humanoid robot.

It was a strange move. But here's what I can tell you about the new HR-V.

Here's what we know for sure. It isn't much.
I should start by saying that Honda told us almost nothing about the HR-V on Thursday. Officially, here's what we know.

The new Honda HR-V is clearly intended to be the smaller sibling of the company's very successful CR-V crossover. Just as the CR-V shares a platform with the Honda Civic, the HR-V will share a platform with the one-size-down Fit. 

Another view of the 2015 Honda HR-V. Photo credit: Honda.

Like the U.S. version of the Fit, the HR-V will be built in a brand-new Honda factory in Celaya, Mexico. It's expected to go on sale this winter.

That's about it for official news.

But we do know a little more about the HR-V -- or at least, about its twin sibling. 

The HR-V's Japanese sibling is already on sale
Last November, I told you about the all-new Honda Vezel, a small crossover SUV intended for the Japanese market. The Vezel was unveiled at last year's Tokyo Motor Show, and has since gone on sale in Japan.

Here's a photo of the Vezel. As you can see, it's the HR-V with a different name. While we can't assume that the HR-V will have the exact same options and features as the Vezel, we can look at what's offered on the Vezel and make some assumptions.

The Fit-based Honda Vezel crossover SUV went on sale in Japan last winter. Photo credit: Honda

In Japan, the Vezel is offered with two different powertrains: A 1.5-liter direct-injected VTEC four-cylinder, and a hybrid system that uses that same 1.5-liter engine with an electric motor.

In the U.S., the all-new Fit is being offered with that same 1.5-liter engine, but the hybrid isn't available here. It's a pretty good bet that they'll follow the same pattern with the HR-V. 

In other words, you'll be able to have any engine you want in your new HR-V, as long as it's that same 1.5-liter four.

More details on the HR-V's sibling
Honda didn't release any photos of the HR-V's interior. But again, we've seen the Vezel, so we can make some guesses. 

When it unveiled the Vezel in Tokyo, Honda said the interior's design "creates a coupe-like, high-quality personal space for the front seats and minivan-like elbowroom, comfort, and functionality for the rear seats."

The interior of the HR-V should closely resemble that of the Japan-market Honda Vezel, shown here. Photo credit: Honda.

We also know something about the HR-V competition -- namely, that the once-sparse field of small crossover SUVs is starting to get crowded. 

The Nissan (NASDAQOTH: NSANY  ) Juke, the Mazda CX-5, the Subaru XV Crosstrek, and the Buick Encore have been on sale for a while, but soon they'll be joined by the HR-V as well as the Chevy Trax and Jeep Renegade, both of which were shown in New York this week.

Other entries may be on the way. Ford (NYSE: F  ) has a well-regarded small crossover called the EcoSport, which it sells in many parts of the world -- but not the United States. Ford won't say whether they plan to bring it to the U.S., but it's clear that they're keeping a close eye on this market segment.

The upshot: A promising entry in an increasingly crowded field
Not long ago, Honda seemed out of its element with truck-like products -- but the success of the latest CR-V has shown that the company has mastered the smallish-crossover segment. 

The CR-V's success suggests that the HR-V has a good chance to do well. But this once-quiet market segment is suddenly getting quite noisy, and Honda will have its work cut out for it.

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John Rosevear

John Rosevear is the Fool's Senior Auto Specialist. John has been writing about the auto business and investing for over 20 years, and for The Motley Fool since 2007.

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