By Joe Wiesenfelder on December 18, 2013
Competes with: Nissan Juke, Subaru XV Crosstrek
Looks like: A sleeker, larger version of the Honda Fit
Drivetrain: Gasoline engine with continuously variable automatic transmission; front- or all-wheel drive (details TBA); turbo and possible hybrid versions to follow
Hits dealerships: Second half of 2014
Honda has rolled out a subcompact crossover that goes on sale tomorrow in Japan but will also be sold in the U.S. later this year. The Japanese version is called the Vezel, and it comes with front- or all-wheel drive and both gasoline and gas-electric hybrid versions. Honda said Vezel is a contraction of vehicle and bezel, claimed to reflect a multifaceted, gemlike appearance. The U.S. will get a different name, Honda says, to be announced. We'll just call it the Vezel for now.
At 169.1 inches long and 69.7 wide, the Japanese Vezel is 9.2 inches shorter from bumper to bumper, 1.9 inches narrower and 1.9 inches lower than the Honda CR-V compact crossover. Honda says the turning radius is 17.4 feet.
Rather than the peculiar Honda Crosstour, the four-door Vezel looks more like Honda's cars and the upcoming 2015 Fit subcompact hatchback, which provides the Vezel's platform. As intended, the Vezel has a low-slung look, and its high-mounted rear door handles recall Nissans — particularly the Juke, a stated competitor.
Honda says LED accent lights, front and rear, are optional on the Japanese version.
Honda describes the five-seat interior as spacious, with minivanlike backseat legroom, though it looks more like a functional four-seater. Photos of the Japanese Vezel show a low-profile dashboard, a brightly illuminated instrument panel and a center-mounted touch-screen. Also present are an infernal capacitive touch-panel and equally infernal toggle-style gear selector. Automatic ventilation control is standard.
Honda says the cargo volume behind the backseat is 14.3 cubic feet (including the storage bin underneath the cargo floor), which puts it ahead of the Juke's 10.5 cubic feet but behind the Subaru XV Crosstrek's 22.3 cubic feet. The Vezel has a 60/40-split backseat that tips up and folds down as in the current and future Fits.
Features typically considered upscale include a button-operated electric parking brake in lieu of a lever or pedal.
Under the Hood
Honda hasn't revealed engine plans for the U.S., apart from saying that it will debut here with a gas engine. A turbocharged engine and possible hybrid will follow, though not necessarily in the first model year. The Japanese Vezel comes either with a direct-injection 1.5-liter four-cylinder and a continuously variable automatic transmission or a hybrid system that combines the 1.5-liter with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. Called Sport Hybrid i-DCD, which stands for intelligent dual clutch drive, the system includes shift paddles on the steering wheel for manual shifting.
For more efficient acceleration, the hybrid includes a Reactive Force Pedal that can push back against the driver's foot.
Honda says the electronically controlled Real Time all-wheel drive will direct the appropriate amount of torque to the rear wheels only when needed. A mode can be selected to distribute more torque to the rear wheels when cornering.
Like most of Honda's models, the Vezel is designed for optimal performance in the most stringent of new crash tests, and to provide pedestrian protection in the event of a collision. Active safety features include the optional City-Brake forward collision warning and mitigation system, which employs autonomous braking.
Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder, a Cars.com launch veteran, leads the car evaluation effort. He owns a 1984 Mercedes 300D and a 2002 Mazda Miata SE. Email Joe