Vezel crossover for North America in spring 2014
Parks McCants's picture

Will U.S. buyers welcome mini Honda Vezel crossover in 2014?

As reported Wednesday from the Tokyo Auto Show, Honda unveiled the Vezel mini- crossover. Tiny by any measure, the Vezel will be produced in Mexico sharing 2015 Fit components. Scheduled for production in the Spring of 2014, the question for me is. Does North America need or want another urban mini crossover?

While Honda hasn't shared any specifications for the proposed North American Vezel, it has stated that the small mini-van-like urban gorilla grocery hauler, will share the 1.5 liter direct injection four cylinder engine currently powering the Fit.

Granted, not all cross-over buyers are concerned with off-the-line performance, nor do they necessarily require all or four wheel drive systems.

Honda’s intended goal is to inject a small crossover into the market that fills a niche slightly below the company’s CR-V. Looking to the original CR-V, Honda returns to the future with the introduction of the Vezel.

Granted, the Vezel is pleasant to look at. For me it’s reminiscent of a ¾ scale Infinity QX50.

The producer of the all new 2014 Civic Si, Accord Coupe and fuel cell concept has once again combined S.U.V. and sports coupe design concepts in a small, entry level crossover. I appreciate the design integration of sports coupe meets S.U.V..

Fit based crossover? I've several friends and family members( mom) that drive the Fit, they love it. And, at a curb weight of 2500 lbs find the power to be adequate. Also, they find the average mileage ( 35 mpg) to be thrifty.

Personally, I find the Fit to be nose heavy and “blind spot” abundant. While the greenhouse cab forward design is spacious, the interior noise level is quite noticeable.The ride and handling is small car harsh. Hopefully, what Honda is marketing as a comfortable “coupe like” interior with minivan back seat elbow room, will not share the ride and comfort characteristics of the Fit.

Due to the car’s blind spots,The Fit is quickly becoming the fender bender king of the auto repair industry. However, In Japan the Hybrid Fit has displaced the Toyota Prius as the top selling gas, electric Hybrid in that nation. While not announced today, perhaps Honda intends to produce and market a hybrid Vezel in North America.

Back to the Vezel.

Building an S.U.V. on the scale of the Fit seems a bit counter-intuitive to me. But I’m not Honda of Japan. What I do know is that if Honda doesn't introduce the Vezel under a ‘green platform’, the small mini- S.U.V. will hit the bricks coming up against long established entry level S.U.V. crossover producers and long-time Kia Sorento and Hyundai Tucson owners.

The Tucson in standard trim has a msrp of $21,400.; a few dollars higher than a fully loaded Fit. For the dollar one receives a 2 liter 182 hp 4 cylinder, married to a 6 speed automatic as well as 50/50 split all wheel drive is standard. Claiming a combined mpg of 29, the Tucson and other competing small S.U.V’s will be tough for Vezel to displace in the North American marketplace.

While I’m confident that Honda has performed extensive demographic and market feasibility analysis, I have to ask myself, who is Honda’s intended market for the Vezel? It’s that average, body size, body count, cargo capacity and the consumer’s perceived safety thing. Don’t get me wrong, I owned a Geo Tracker for a few years, as well as a Suzuki XL7. You can no longer buy either make in the U.S..

Will the new Honda Vezel go the way of Suzuki?

Most Americans interviewed found these cars to be clownishly small, and failed to buy them in profitable numbers for the manufacturer. The market spoke, the car models exited the market.

Producing a Honda SUV with the dimensions of a FIAT 500 L may prove to be a marketing disaster.

And then there’s the price point. A full loaded Fit approaches the $20,000 mark. What will the Fit platform Vezel cost? Arguably a fine automobile for daily commuting and grocery hauling, can Honda produce a viable small crossover for under $20,000?

Closing point:In the case of the proposed Vezel crossover, the relatively under-powered Fit platform and price, as well as a very crowded domestic market may prove to be the downfall of Honda’s entry into the North American mini- crossover arena.

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Comments

While Honda continues to hit home runs in its main-stay bread and butter Civic and Accord line-up, it continues to struggle in the very crowded small S.U.V. and crossover classification. Will the proposed Vezel fill the gap for Honda? We'll see in early 2014.
If it's anywhere near as fun as the Nissan Juke, it will do well. Otherwise, no. From looks alone, I don't think it will sell well at all.
I'm with you Aaron, there will be some competition. And I too would like to see a bit of departure from the Honda baby S.U.V. look. On the upside I do like the interior layout. We'll see how it does when ( and if) its marketed in North America.
The current CR-V has gotten so much bigger than the original model. Sure, there wouldn't be a major price advantage, relegating a smaller model to niche status. But some people might prefer the driving dynamics, urban maneuverability, and fuel-efficiency of a smaller model, even for a similar price. It's a pity it's not more usefully shaped, though. A pint-sized model needs more than anything to maximize its cargo room.
Hello Brady. It may very well be a blast to drive. As to the interior cargo space? I don't believe it will offer any more than my Suzuki did. But then again, I haven't traveled to Tokyo to sit in one. When and (if) it does come to the U.S., I believe the mpg target will be in the 40+ range. We'll see, Thanks for your thought provoking comment.
I recognize that your post was written about a month before this car went on sale in Japan, so perhaps you didn't have all the specs available to you (e.g., there will be both gas and hybrid models, and a choice of FWD or AWD, and the equivalent of a 2.0 L engine with projected output of ~150 hp), but I couldn't disagree more with your assessment that North America does not need or want this car. Personally, I've been waiting for this combination of features for at least 10 years. Living in the northern US, where snow is plentiful, I very much appreciated the two, sure-footed Subarus I drove in the '90s, and early 2000s; but the gas mileage became more problematic as fuel prices rose over time (and as concerns about climate change mounted). So in '07 I switched to a hybrid Camry (because I didn't like the rear visibility in the Prius), and am pleased with my mileage (~40 mpg on my daily commute) but very sorry, at least 6 months of the year, to be without AWD. Further, I've owned several Hondas over time and have always been impressed by the care put into the interiors, whereas the (very affordable, very fuel efficient) Prius c I've been eyeing recently (in hopes of further improving my mileage, now that the rear visibility issue has been solved, at least in that model) seems to have a more utilitarian approach to its interior (as well as lackluster acceleration, which was another reason I went with the Camry over the Prius back in '07). Into that void steps (potentially) the hybrid Vezel, which, according to initial reports, is aiming for something on the order of 60+ mpg (though the AWD model would reduce that a bit); will provide the winter-time traction I've been craving; and is reported to have an up-scale, couple-like interior and sound-dampening materials not generally seen in its (more modest*) price range. (*Yes, I realize that at any time I could have bought a 4WD or AWD vehicle that gets at least 40 mpg if I'd been willing to shell out $35K or more....) So I don't know about you, but my fingers are crossed that this smaller crossover will be just what my snow-challenged, green-leaning compatriots and I have been seeking for quite some time!
I'm also hoping this new vehicle is what I've been looking for. I've been driving a Fit Sport MT since January 2007 and I expect to replace it with a 2015-something, so I'm researching cars now. The Fit has been reliable and economical, but I want something that rides better with less noise. I'd also like AWD and higher ground clearance -- not just because of Chicago winters, but also the rough forest roads that lead to some of my hiking destinations (I've taken the Fit a couple places that were a bit risky). I'm willing to pay extra, but I'm not willing to take much of a hit on fuel economy (which makes the AWD choices so limited). A potential deal breaker would be if the Vezel (or whatever it will be called in the US) does not have cargo capacity equal to or greater than the Fit. However, the real deal breaker will probably be the transmission. I've been driving nothing but MT's since 1980, and I would be extremely reluctant to purchase a CVT or auto. If I had to buy a vehicle right now it would probably be the Mazda CX-5, even though it's only offered in base 2WD with the 6 speed manual. I've researched the Subaru XV Crosstrek (AWD/manual) but the MPG falls short and (based on reviews) there's too much road noise at highway speed. If I don't end up with AWD or a crossover I just might go with the new Golf TDI, or the new Fit if the ride and noise are improved. Also looking at the Mazda 3 and the possibility of a new Ford Focus in 2015.
Many choices ChiTown. While I know that the 2015 Fit offers 57 + cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat folded down, I can't say the same for the domestic Vezel. If we look to the roof line as an indicator, the rear cargo space looks a bit limited. However, by utilizing "Earth Dreams" technology, the Vezel will offer superior fuel economy. While the 2015 Fit does come with an optional close ratio 6 speed manual trans, I don't believe the Vezel will. We will know by mid year 2014. Thanks for dropping in..
Thank you Kris for your very well written thought provoking comment. We will look for a North American manufactured Vezel in the near future. And, like you, hope for a high quality, fuel efficient small( but not too small) high utility cross-over.