Multiple derivatives from a single platform are a familiar automotive concept, but the business case works best when the newest variant has a distinctly different, but logical place in the company's lineup. Slight changes in wheelbase and overall length are not an issue, so long as there is a great amount of cost-saving technical commonality.
The increasing popularity of subcompacts like the Honda Fit and Chevrolet Sonic opened a market for crossovers in that size class, with higher seating and available all-wheel drive among the differentiating features from the cars. Two of them, the Chevrolet Trax and Honda HR-V, were exhibited at the 2014 New York International Auto Show.
Honda HR-V to use Fit rear seat
The Honda model, introduced as the Vezel in Japan last year, is based on the Fit and "fits" in below the CR-V. Dimensions for the U.S. version--named the HR-V, to arrive "in winter"—have not been announced. The Japanese market version reportedly is on a 102.8-in (2611-mm) wheelbase and is 169.2 in (4298 mm) long, which if applicable for the U.S. edition would represent a stretch of the Fit's 99.6-in (2530-mm) wheelbase and 160-in (4064-mm) overall length.
The engine is Fit's 1.5-L direct-injection four-cylinder rated at 130 hp (97 kW) and reportedly mated with the same six-speed manual or continuously variable transmission. The configurable rear "magic" seat of the Fit, a popular feature on that model, also will be used in the HR-V. The HR-V will be sourced from the new Fit plant in Mexico.
Trax plants in Mexico, S. Korea
The Chevrolet Trax, based on the Sonic, is on a 100.6-in (2555-mm) wheelbase with an overall length of 168.5 in (4280 mm). These dimensions compare with Sonic's 99.4-in (2525-mm) wheelbase and overall length of 159 in (4039 mm) for the Sonic hatchback, 173.1 in (4397 mm) for the sedan. The Trax is sized comfortably below the Equinox, which is 19 in (483 mm) longer.
Preliminary specifications for the Trax powertrain are exactly the same as that in the Sonic: a 1.4-L turbo with a cast-iron block developing 138 hp (103 kW) and 148 lb·ft (201 N·m) and a six-speed automatic with ratios of 4.58:, 2.96:, 1.91:, 1.45:, 1.00:, and 0.75:1, with a final drive of 3.53:1. The Sonic steering is faster, however, with a 14:1 ratio vs. 16:1 for the Trax. Rear brakes are the same, but front brakes are larger and there are different size wheels.
Although the Sonic is built in Michigan, the Trax will be produced in South Korea and Mexico, and is scheduled to come to the U.S. market "early next year."