Fit, HR-V, Pilot lead way for Honda
Honda Division is in a long stretch before its four big-volume vehicles -- Civic, Accord, CR-V and Odyssey -- receive sheet metal redesigns. But watch for activity to accelerate ahead of the 2017 model year.
For now, Honda is hoping the redesigned Fit subcompact hatchback and new HR-V crossover will add substantial incremental sales to the lineup. A redesigned Pilot is on the way as well in the near term.
Honda also is diving deep into turbocharging of small-displacement engines, as well as dual-clutch transmissions with seven, eight or nine gears, a slight detour from its larger push toward fuel-sipping Earth Dreams engines and continuously variable transmissions. The cost of turbocharging may limit its U.S. applications.
Here is a look at Honda's future product plans.
Fit: The redesign arrived in summer 2014.
Fit EV: The next Fit will have a different suspension module for hybrid and electric vehicle versions. Likely won't arrive until spring 2016.
HR-V: The Fit-based crossover was unveiled at the New York auto show and arrives this year. It measures 169.3 inches long, about 9 inches shorter than the Honda CR-V compact crossover. It will have the same Earth Dreams engine as the Fit but could get an added turbocharger for up-market models. Limited cargo area capacity will be countered by using the Fit's fold-flat Magic Seats technology and by stashing the fuel tank under the front seats, rather than behind the rear suspension.
Insight: Production of the Insight ends this summer, for lack of demand. Judging from executive comments, the idea of a hybrid-only nameplate to compete against the Toyota Prius has faded. Instead, Honda will create hybrid versions of existing standard vehicles, using Honda's IMA hybrid system with a lithium ion battery, connected to an Atkinson-cycle engine.
Civic: The Civic will not receive an Earth Dreams engine upgrade until its redesign in spring 2016. Honda learned its lesson regarding decontenting in the current generation; expect plenty of content in the 2017 model. In the interim, Europe is getting a Type R with a 2.0-liter 280-hp turbo-four under the hood. Might the United States get so lucky?
Civic Hybrid: When the Civic is redesigned, the hybrid version will move from its one-motor IMA system to a two-motor system, which allows extensive electric-only driving. One motor powers the wheels; the other recharges the batteries. It will be a cheaper version of the same system that is in the Accord Hybrid.
CR-Z: The possibility of a gasoline-powered version of the hybrid sporty coupe is being studied at Honda for the next generation. Honda recognizes the car is underpowered, as seen by the 187-hp HPD version now available through dealerships.
Accord: Redesigned in fall 2012. A midcycle change for the 2016 model year might allow the inclusion of a turbocharged engine and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, but Honda typically waits for full redesigns for such major underhood changes.
Crosstour: Awkward styling has hindered customer acceptance of this hatchback. Designers are looking at something more akin to the Audi Allroad wagon for the next generation, arriving in 2015.
FCX Clarity: Honda's hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will be redesigned in mid-2015. The new version's mechanical goals are a 30 percent smaller fuel cell with higher power output, 300-mile range and a refueling time of less than five minutes.
NSX variant: A Honda source says the automaker is studying giving the Acura NSX platform a less-expensive Honda-badged variant without all the complicated, pricey hybrid technology. A high-revving turbo-four engine in a midengine, rear-wheel-drive layout could be in the offing, or Honda could remap the power curve in the 3.5-liter 310-hp V-6 from the Acura RLX. It wouldn't come for at least a year after the NSX, in summer 2016 at the soonest.
CR-V: Redesigned for the 2013 model year. The CVT working its way through the Honda lineup gets installed in the 2015 midcycle change.
Pilot: The new Acura MDX is the lead vehicle for Honda's mid-sized light trucks, with a 3-inch longer wheelbase. Expect that to carry over to the Pilot when it arrives in spring 2015. However, because the MDX has an expensive suspension system, expect some minor decontenting of suspension components to hit the Pilot's price point. Sheet metal should move away from the "angry robot" look. It likely will get a 3.5-liter Earth Dreams V-6 with around 310 hp and 265 pounds-feet of torque.
Odyssey: The next-generation minivan arrives in fall 2016 on the new Acura MDX platform, although expect a decontented suspension -- possibly an air-spring setup -- to hit a lower price point. It will receive the 3.5-liter Earth Dreams V-6 at the redesign stage.
Ridgeline: Production of the current Ridgeline stopped in June. Honda released a silhouette rendering of what it says is the next Ridgeline, to arrive in January 2016. Riding on the MDX/Pilot platform, the next-generation Ridgeline looks more like a traditional truck.
You can reach Mark Rechtin at firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Follow Mark on