While almost every other major automaker was cashing in on the SUV/Crossover boom by filling niche after niche with CUVs of different shapes and sizes, Honda seemed inexplicably hesitant to take the plunge. In the Middle East, the brand has been making do with the Pilot and the CR-V even though compact crossovers such as the HR-V and the BR-V were doing brisk business in other markets. Finally, the Japanese carmaker’s regional office has decided to jump on the bandwagon and has introduced the HR-V here.

Launched last week in Abu Dhabi, the compact five-seater is entering an intensely competitive segment which already has popular contenders like the Mazda CX-3 and the Nissan Kicks, with new entrants like the Hyundai Kona tested in this issue turning the heat up further. With prices starting at Dh69,900 for the entry-level DX trim, the mid-range LX costing Dh76,900, and the top-spec EX retailing for 86,900, the HR-V is also priced more or less in the same range as its rivals.

The new crossover is powered by a 140 horsepower, 172Nm 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine, which sends power to the front wheels via a CVT. We will be driving the HR-V soon, so look out for a detailed review in one of our following issues.

Along with the HR-V, Honda also launched the 2019 versions of the flagship Pilot, and the mid-size CR-V models. Updates to the fifth generation CR-V include styling tweaks, a spruced up interior and features such as a hands-free power tailgate and other technologies. Meanwhile, the eight-seater Pilot also gets a hands-free power tailgate, upgrades to available connected-car technology, a new Pilot Touring grade.

“We’re excited to be able to introduce the HR-V to the market here in the Middle East and Africa, as this is such a key market for SUVs,” says Anup Ravindranath, General Manager — Business Development and Marketing, Honda Motor Co. Africa and Middle East Office. “One in two cars purchased in the region is an SUV, and so we’re pleased to launch the HR-V alongside the updated popular CR-V and Pilot models.  This expands our range of having an SUV to suit the needs of each of our customers,” he adds.

All three grades of the Honda HR-V will be available in showrooms in the region by end of February.