Honda Vezel still 12 months away from Oz

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HONDA has confirmed that its upcoming Holden Trax and Ford EcoSport competitor won’t land in Australia until the first quarter of next year at the earliest.

Wearing a different but as yet unknown badge to the Japanese market model known as the Vezel, the newcomer will launch with diesel as well as petrol-powered variations of the company’s new “Earth Dreams” four-cylinder engine range.

The former is expected to be a variation of the 1.6-litre i-DTEC turbo-diesel that recently debuted in the UK-built Civic Hatch, while the latter will be an all-new 1.5-litre direct-injection unit.

This means that the petrol-electric hybrid version with Honda’s new dual-clutch transmission will sit Australia out for the time being, especially as initial orders for it in Japan have reportedly gone ballistic, far exceeding early forecasts.

Based on the next-generation GF Jazz light car due in around August, the front-wheel drive five-seater crossover will kick off in the low-$20,000 mark to directly take on a growing number of sub-compact SUV combatants.

A four-wheel drive version – probably with the i-DTEC powerplant option – is set to spill into the $30,000 bracket.

According to Honda Australia Director Stephen Collins, the Vezel should be a strong seller for the brand in this country, growing with the burgeoning segment it competes in.

“I expect it would become a core model for us,” he revealed to Wheels at the launch of the CR-V Diesel range in Wagga Wagga this week. “And not a niche or a fringe model.”

“We haven’t set volumes at this point, but we expect that small SUV market will keep growing, and in the next few years it may even get as big as the medium SUV segment.

The vehicle known elsewhere as Vezel will actually be Honda’s second bite of the baby SUV pie in this country.

For just two years from 1999 Australians were offered the HR-V - a remarkably similar-themed model based on the Jazz’s Logo predecessor, with 1.6-litre petrol power, front-wheel drive, and the choice of two or four-door wagon body styles.

Failing to find an audience, just 5662 found homes in that time.

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