For decades, Honda's popular Civic has been the model that draws young buyers into the brand and moves them into larger, more expensive products over the years.
Honda's second-generation HR-V subcompact crossover will step up to share that critical gateway role with the Civic at a time when Civics are in short supply because of industrywide supply chain problems.
The 2023 HR-V has grown in size and leveled up in terms of style, driving dynamics and technology. Honda said the small crossover will be central to the brand capturing the attention of young buyers, and it will help the brand reach deeper into markets where the compact sedan is scarce.
"Civic is almost like a brand itself, and it does so much for Honda," Mike Kistemaker, assistant vice president for Honda sales at American Honda Motor Co., told Automotive News.
But as successful as the Civic is, Kistemaker said, its sales are stronger in metropolitan markets such as Miami, Los Angeles and Phoenix.
"HR-V is newer in the Honda mix, but it's a little more durable and has all-wheel drive," he said. "It will be strong in markets like Seattle, Denver and Portland, where Civic has a hard time competing.
"It'll definitely be a solid player against the likes of Subaru."