2013 DETROIT: First Look: Honda Urban SUV Concept

January 14, 2013
Honda Urban SUV Front Three Quarter
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You're looking at the Honda's new Urban SUV concept, which makes its formal debut in Detroit at the 2013 North American International Auto Show. And, despite the fact that several cues are ripped straight from Acura's design playbook, the show car actually previews a forthcoming subcompact crossover that will be badged and sold as a Honda.

Life Below CR-V

We've heard for some time that Honda is itching to field a small crossover that slots beneath the compact CR-V in terms of both size and price. Last September, Honda CEO Takanobu Ito confirmed the automaker was developing such a crossover upon the platform of its next-generation Fit B-segment hatchback. Seven months later, we have our first look at the Urban SUV concept, which Honda says serves as a preview of that very crossover.
Honda Urban SUV Front Three Quarter
At 169.3 inches long, the Urban SUV is nearly nine inches shorter than today's CR-V, but its bodywork imparts a presence larger than its footprint. A press release suggests the Urban SUV boasts aspirational design language, which appears to be a euphemism for "stolen directly from Acura's design studio." Viewed in profile, the low, tapering roofline recalls the new 2013 Acura RDX, as do the strong shoulders present in the rear fenders. The nose has a bit of CR-V and even CR-X overtones, particularly in the hood and lower grille, respectively, but the stacked elements within the long headlamp assemblies appear as if they're cloned from those used on both the Acura NSX and RLX concepts.
Arguably, the most adventurous bit of design is a long swage line that starts in the driver's door panel, arcs upward, and flows into the C-pillar, where it joins the daylight opening in a sharp point. Not only does this line help carry the eye through the car and add some visual length, it also adds some depth to the rear fenders and conceals the rear door handles in the hopes of tricking bystanders into thinking it's a two-door SUV.
Mechanically speaking, the Urban SUV remains a bit of a mystery. Honda notes the crossover retains the Fit's centrally-located gas tank, which in turn allows it to feature the Fit's signature flat-folding Magic (rear) Seat. When it comes to engines, Honda says only the production Urban SUV will "feature Earth Dreams" technology. Although that term is used on several different engines, in this case, we wouldn't be surprised to see a revised DOHC, Atkinson cycle, direct-injection 1.5-liter I-4. Given its Fit origins, we expect the crossover to be offered with front-wheel drive, but as prior Fit models were sold with all-wheel drive outside of North America, an all-wheel-drive version of this platform -- and this crossover -- is far from implausible.

When Will We See It Again?

Honda Urban SUV Concept Left Side View
Honda previously shied away from confirming the Urban SUV's fate in America, but that's no longer the case. The automaker says the Urban SUV will go on sale (assumedly under a different moniker) in Japan by the end of this year, and go on sale in the U.S. later in 2014. Crossovers destined for the North American market will be built in Honda's new plant in Celaya, Mexico, which will also produce other vehicles off the same platform (including the next-generation Fit).
Honda executives believe this new crossover will play a large part in doubling global volume of its "Global Compact Series" family to 1.5 million units within two years. If the Urban SUV follows recent Honda concept car tradition and is a dead ringer for the forthcoming production model, we have faith in that belief.

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