By on April 18, 2017

2017 Honda SUV lineup – Images: Honda

American Honda will build a Pilot-based SUV intended to carve out a space between the Honda CR-V and Honda Pilot.

According to a report published by WardsAuto with AutoForecast Solutions, Honda will assemble this Co-Pilot in Alabama alongside the Pilot beginning in the fall of 2018.

Co-Pilot? How about Honda Pilot Sport? Nah, that’s Michelin territory. Honda Pilot Sidekick? Suzuki grabbed that one already. Honda Pilot Junior? Too juvenile.

The name matters less than the positioning. Is there room for a midsize two-row utility vehicle in between the CR-V, traditionally America’s top-selling SUV/crossover, and the Pilot, one of America’s most popular three-row vehicles?

It’s a gap Ford, Nissan, and Hyundai have no trouble filling.

The Ford Edge, Nissan Murano, and Hyundai Santa Fe Sport have all succeeded in the two-row utility game in between high-volume compact SUVs and larger three-row brethren.

Of the 772,667 SUVs/crossovers sold by the Ford brand in the United States in 2016, 17 percent were Ford Edges. The 134,588-unit Edge total was the best annual result in the Edge’s history. Only a dozen SUVs/crossovers sold more often than the Edge in the U.S. last year, though two of those vehicles — Escape and Explorer — were showroom partners.

2016 Nissan Murano Front Three-Quarter, Image: © 2016 Seth Parks/The Truth About Cars

At Nissan, 2016 was likewise the best year in the history of U.S. Murano volume, as it sold 86,953 Muranos in America last year, equal to 16 percent of the Nissan brand’s utility vehicle volume. The Murano outsold the three-row Pathfinder by more than 5,000 units, though the Rogue outsold the Murano and Pathfinder, combined, by nearly two to one.

Unfortunately, Hyundai Motor America doesn’t provide a sales breakdown between the Santa Fe Sport and larger Santa Fe. But based on current U.S. inventory and the Canadian sales balance, we can assume roughly 92,000 of the total Santa Fes sold in America in 2016 were Sports, making the Santa Fe Sport slightly more popular than the surging Tucson.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport - Image: Hyundai

Based on the success of those vehicles alone, Honda would easily be led to believe there’s room in the company’s U.S. lineup for a fourth crossover. It’s not as though Honda hasn’t managed to build hugely popular utility vehicles in the past.

In each of the last five years, the Honda CR-V has been America’s top-selling SUV/crossover. In the first-quarter of 2017, Honda built America’s fourth-best-selling subcompact crossover – the HR-V is only 542 sales out of second place in the category. And Honda expects it’ll better fill demand for the Pilot, often in short supply, with production of the Acura MDX moving from the company’s Alabama plant (which builds Pilots, Odysseys, Ridgelines, and MDXs) to Ohio. Honda had just a 38-day supply of Pilots heading into April. The industry average for light truck supply is nearly double that.

The new fifth-generation 2017 Honda CR-V stretches 180.6 inches and offers 102 cubic feet of passenger volume and 39 cubic feet of cargo volume. The third-generation Pilot is 14-inches longer with 49-percent more space for passengers or 43-percent more space for cargo behind the second row. Smack in the middle, the 2017 Ford Edge is 7.5-inches longer than the CR-V but 6.4-inches shorter than the Pilot. The Edge is large enough to offer 12-percent more passenger volume than the CR-V.

Like most automakers, Honda is traditionally mum on future product planning, and we’ve yet to hear back in response to our inquiries. Unlike many other automakers, Honda often keeps products close to the vest for much longer stretches, preferring to preserve demand for the current lineup and not build up hype for the next vehicle. If Honda is going to build a Co-Pilot in late 2018, we shouldn’t expect to see an auto show prototype reveal until 2018. A production debut likely won’t occur until at least the second-quarter of next year.

And who knows, maybe they’ll call it the Passport?

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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38 Comments on “Honda Aims To Squeeze Another SUV Between CR-V And Pilot In 2018: Report...”


  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Jeez, that’s a mighty narrow gap to fill. Who without kids needs a larger CR-V and who with kids would want a smaller Pilot?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      You miss the point. We need more CUVs. More. More! MORE!!!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      ACCvsBig10

      Call it the “CRV Plus +”

      Take v6 from the pilot and stretch the crv 6 inches

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Exactly, ACC. A CR-V with the Pilot’s V6. Of course, Honda already offers exactly that vehicle over in the Acura showroom as the RDX.

        But, given how redundant the Pilot and the Acura MDX already are, I suppose you could do a stretch RDX minus some equipment, sell it as the CR-V-XL Whatever, and you’re there.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      Some people prefer the extra width and more cargo space but don’t need a third row. Anyway, it’s a Honda. it’ll sell like hotcakes.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “Who without kids needs a larger CR-V and who with kids would want a smaller Pilot?”

      Anyone who has bought a Ford Edge or Nissan Murano.

      I assume this is more or less an attempt to do what they tried to do with the Accord Crosstour.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      If the seats fold flat, sleeping in the back would be a reason to get it.

      If it’s built on the Pilot’s underpinnings, it will also do SUV things (towing…) better than smaller CUVs like the CRV. A Ridgeline to the Tacoma’s 4runner, sort of

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Next up: a two seater CUV. And then maybe one with three wheels. Why the hell not?

  • avatar
    quaquaqua

    This really isn’t that narrow of a gap to fill. The Pilot isn’t just huge, it’s also monstrously wide. And when my parents were testing compact CUVs, they said they were all too small or too slow. Enter the Sorento, which most people forget about. Just a few inches longer than a Rav4, quieter than any compact CUV, and available with a big, smooth V6. It’s exactly what they wanted and nearly all of the competition was noticeably bigger or smaller.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    I suppose they figure if Hyundai can offer a compact, a 2-row midsize, and a 3-row midsize, so can they. But then, the Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe are the same from the front doors forward.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Honda V4000 – To designate that it is a truck and its likely curb weight.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    I would like something the size of the original Toyota Highlander. Not just the size, but also the refinement. I guess as someone mentioned above it would be the Kia Sorrento.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    Just put the V6 in the CRV. Current CRV is too slow, and Pilot too big. V6 in the CRV would solve both problems.

    Or you can end up where we did, with an RDX.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    I think Honda needs a name that is tough and menacing for its new SUV. Perhaps the new Honda United.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The only appropriate name: “CR-P”.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I’m in the market for something like this (though used sadly). I have my sights set on the bigger 2 row crossovers- Murano, Santa Fe Sport, RDX.

    Truthfully though it may be too late… the new CR-V is big, fast and nice enough that I’d consider one with the 1.5T if I could afford one. Likewise unless the next RDX moves up in size/price this tweener is going to face competition from that end as well. Let’s see what they do though… if the CR-V is any indication of their vision I’m into it.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Pilot Sport…Done.

    Honestly I would have purchased one had it been offered. I didn’t need a third row nor want to pay for it and the CRV was still the last gen and felt absolutly cheap inside compared to, well, every other vehicle I looked at. There is a market here, however Honda has to be careful.

    If the CRV buyer gets upsold into this and they get some of the Santa Fe Sport types it is a win. If it is a bunch of Pilot buyers who now get to save a buck, not so much. But the Edge really doesnt undercut the Explorer price wise so that may not be a concern.

    Frankly I wish they’d stick the Ridgeline front on it though. I am no fan of the Pilot styling and this gives another option. I would consider trading the Wife’s Santa Fe Sport on one except for buying a Hyundai is a long term proposition given depreciation. I’m happy with it but, like I said had there been a 2 Row Pilot that is what we would own.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      And I say Pilot Sport because the Pilot Name has a good bit of equity in it. Were they to put the Ridgeline front end on it though I like Passport.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I don’t think there will be much leaking from the Pilot. The Pilot is for people who need a minivan but are too ashamed to take the plunge. A Pilot Sport would be for people who want more than a CR-V has to offer without taking on a vestigial third row. The biggest loser of this offering would be the RDX…. we will see if Acura updates it with the new Civic platform; it’s been selling really well since the 2013 changeover.

  • avatar
    NexWest

    Element II!

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    It does get crowded but I like this move.

    There have to be people who don’t need/want 3 rows but would like more passenger and cargo space than the CR-V.

    If I were shopping in this segment the Edge and Murano would be at top of my list for this reason.

    And extra bonus if Honda offers a V6.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Interesting to note that in terms of cargo space, the CRV as it sits is already neck and neck with the Edge and Murano (beats them narrowly in seats down space actually). So maybe just a smidge more width, higher quality interior materials, and some more power and they’ll be all set. As much as I’d love to see the J-series V6 in there, I suspect some sort of turbo 4cyl is more likely.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    Makes sense: CR-V is a bit narrow and tinny for the $35k+ bracket, Pilot is a bit oversized for empty nesters. Deleting the third row REALLY improves packaging for the cargo area; the RDX has very similar usable cargo capacity to the MDX and a lower load floor.

    Of course, this sounds like a segment best left to Acura, but Honda being Honda will probably net greater sales overall despite some cannibalization.

  • avatar
    SuperCarEnthusiast

    Hope Honda goes back to the boxy design language and copies the look of the G Wagon! I buy it!

  • avatar
    993cc

    The first Passport I ever drove was a 70cc Super Cub.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/honda-passport-got-name/

  • avatar
    jh26036

    Can we just have another Element? The used pricing on them is out of control.


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