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Honda unveils compact hybrid SUV with direct injection engine

Kyodo, Bloomberg

Honda Motor Co. unveiled on Thursday its new Vezel compact sport utility vehicle.

The hybrid model, hitting the Japanese market Friday, is equipped with a 1.5-liter direct injection engine and a high-power motor that get 27 kpl, the best fuel-efficiency in Japan among SUVs, Honda said.

The carmaker also took the wraps off a gasoline version that gets 20.6 km per liter.

“The model will be our main SUV product for the domestic market,” said Kazuto Kashiwai, head of Honda’s marketing team for the model in Japan. “It will make up for Honda’s weakness in the SUV segment, where our CR-V is seen as too big for Japan.”

The retail prices will range from ¥1.87 million to ¥2.68 million.

Honda plans to launch the Vezel in the United States and the Asia-Pacific region sometime after 2014 and in South America in 2015. Production will take place in Brazil and Mexico.

It aims to make the vehicle one of its basic products, like the Fit and N series, and boost its share of the SUV market after lagging behind rivals such as Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., Nissan Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp.

The model is Honda’s first offering in the compact SUV segment, where global demand is expected to more than double to 2.7 million vehicles in 2016 from 2013, according to IHS Automotive.

Honda, whose CR-V is the top-selling SUV in the U.S., said it aims to boost worldwide sales of compact cars to 1.5 million by 2016.