The Honda HR-V has been popular with buyers on a budget and those who want a small crossover.

Honda’s little HR-V crossover is due for a complete makeover for the 2022 model year but, in a surprise announcement, the Japanese automaker said the redesign is taking a different path than expected.

The current version of the HR-V is little more than a rebadged version of the Honda Vezel sold in Japan, Europe and other markets, the most significant changes limited to “homologation,” or meeting local regulatory requirements. Going forward, however, Honda will give U.S. buyers a unique version of the crossover.

“The development of a successor to the Honda HR-V for the U.S. market is underway,” the automaker announced in a statement issued from Japan on Monday. “This new HR-V will be designed to meet the distinct needs of U.S. customers, and will differ from the Honda Vezel/HR-V that will be introduced in other regions. Honda will have more information to share regarding the next-generation Honda HR-V designed for the U.S. market closer to launch.”

Exactly what Honda has in store likely won’t be released until somewhere closer to mid-2021, the all-new version of the HR-V expected to launch late this year. But some hints have leaked out and few things should come as a surprise.

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The next version of the European Honda Vezel is likely to be smaller than the 2022 HR-V.

Over the decades, Honda has taken similar steps with other models, such as the familiar Civic. Opting for a global design has clear advantages, both in terms of product development and manufacturing costs. Among other things, it yields significant improvements in economies of scale.

There are drawbacks, as well. There often are significant differences in what markets like the U.S., Europe and China want out of a vehicle. Europe and Japan both have to deal with significant traffic and parking issues, for one thing, and typically like designs that are shorter and narrower than what clicks with American buyers.

The new strategy strongly suggests that the 2022 Honda HR-V will be larger and roomier than the current offering – though Honda is expected to retain the flexible seating layout that won the crossover significant praise when it first came out.

Europe and China – as well as Japan – are dealing with significantly tougher emissions and fuel efficiency mandates, with more aggressive demands for electrified drivetrains. While the automaker’s CEO has laid out a corporate goal of offering hybrid drivelines on virtually every future model, it’s likely to happen on the next Vezel sooner than it will on the next-gen HR-V, meanwhile.

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Among the possible powertrain options, Honda might offer the hybrid package found in the current Insight sedan for the 2022 HR-V.

Honda is expected to offer either the 158-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-4 now available in the Civic, or even go with an optional 1.5-liter turbo-four. There’s also the possibility the subcompact crossover might launch with a hybrid package shared with the current Honda Insight sedan. Few would be surprised if the 2022 HR-V offers improvements in fuel economy even if it does grow slightly larger.

Expect to see HR-V and Vezel retain some similarities, notably with the introduction of an updated infotainment system based around a larger touchscreen, and adding features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, perhaps even wireless versions of those systems.

The next crossover also should add more standard advanced driver assistance systems, many of them part of a standard version of the Honda Sensing package. The HR-V already comes with forward collision warning with automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control.

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One question is whether the carmaker will bump up pricing. The 2021 Honda HR-V starts around $21,000 MSRP. New vehicle prices have been surging sharply over the last several years, a trend expected to continue in 2021, especially with the addition of more technology and federally mandated safety equipment. But Honda could try to maintain an affordable entry point considering that many young first-time buyers – the type likely to consider a utility vehicle like the HR-V – are being priced out of the market.

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