Honda's HR-V may rival the Honda City if it comes to India
By Ashish Jha
4 mins read
Published on April 18, 2014
The entire nation erupted when Honda showcased its Vezel - the Fit-based crossover that was planned as a product to go in a bout of sales numbers in the sub-compact / compact SUV segment in India. Now, even the most unaware chap would know that the Duster changed the market dynamics in the 7-14 lakh segment. It had a lot going for it - it looked butch, had a brilliant ride-handling compromise and the fact that people could own a 'proper' SUV shaped product at under 10 lakh rupees was the clincher.
Yes, the Duster had (still does) drawbacks - the interior isn't really what you'd look forward to being in and the noise was rubbish. The fit-and-finish was definitely not Rolls-Royce stuff, rather completely opposite, and it had rough edges everywhere. I even had bruised fingers due to holding the steering wheel which was stitched with thread that would shame a doctor's scalpel. And the car had a tendency to dismantle the driver's shoulder from his/her body - the steering kickback was that wretched!
But it was all forgiven. Duster became a desirable product - an SUV, in premium hatchback money - and Renault did great on numbers and had record months. But Ford came in with its EcoSport and everything changed dramatically. The EcoSport looked fancier (I still think it looks stupid) and had much more to offer - heavy list of equipment, plastic quality that wouldn't make you bleed and it gave a feeling that Ford invested more money in developing the power window buttons of the EcoSport than what Renault would've spent in the entire Duster project. EcoSport immediately became the most in-demand product in the market.
Now, just like Honda embraced the sub-4-metre sedan segment, it's working on a sub-compact SUV too. It was initially thought that the Vezel might be that product, and everyone went crazy talking about it because it looked extremely good stuff - superficially, at least. But Honda soon put a cap on the flame saying that the Vezel would be a bit too expensive to produce and it'll be impossible for it to compete at the (broadly speaking) entry-point of sub-10-lakh rupees.
It is now known that a Brio-based SUV is perhaps the best solution for the rapidly expanding and highly lucrative sub-compact SUV segment. Going by the way Honda has developed the Amaze and the Mobilio on the Brio platform, doing a sub-compact SUV shouldn't be rocket science.
But the crossover that Honda has just announced as a soon-to-be-production model is the HR-V. It's based on the Fit (Jazz for India) platform and looks almost identical to the Urban SUV Concept that was showcased at the Detroit Auto Show last year. Sure enough, as I said earlier, the sub-compact SUV would be based on the Brio platform, still, the HR-V makes for an interesting case for the Indian market.
Now, we already get the Fit platform in India in the form of the latest-gen Honda City, and the Jazz is going to follow soon, so, scratching the head a bit and thinking from a management perspective, the HR-V can also make it to the Indian market, albeit not in the low-end segment of the crossover category like the Duster, EcoSport and Terrano.
I think the HR-V could make things interesting in the 10-15 lakh bracket. This segment is essentially dominated by two segments - upper C, and entry D. Everything from a Honda City and Hyundai Verna to the Chevrolet Cruze and Toyota Corolla operate in this spectrum. Having a crossover in this segment would give a great choice for the consumers out shopping with 15 lakhs in their pockets (metaphorically speaking, of course).
Even when Skoda introduced its Yeti, a bunch of us auto journalists thought it should've been priced between 12-16 lakhs instead of the 20-lakh-plus sticker tag it carried! This is where Honda could slot the HR-V and bring in good numbers. At the moment, Mahindra with its XUV500 and SsangYong Rexton are the most popular SUVs in that price range. The XUV, especially, is a bit crude in parts and doesn't quite exude the class of the sedans that cost much the same money. Honda, with the HR-V could change that and lend a sense of richness in the SUVs belonging to that capsule. Since the HR-V is based on the Fit, I expect it to come with the same 1.5-litre petrol and diesel units that power the City currently.
It could be a good market play by Honda - to launch the HR-V before the Brio-based SUV hits the road. But then, it's just what I think.
Last Updated on September 26, 2023
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