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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