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The HR-V's debut in Paris comes eight years after the quirky original model went out of production. It has already been seen in Japan and other Asian markets as the Vezel.

The new HR-V is based on a similar platform to the current Civic and upcoming all-new Jazz, which has its fuel tank sited under the front seats. The HR-V will also have a clever rear seat arrangement like the Civic and Jazz when it goes on sale.

In the HR-V, the rear seats – including the seat squabs – can be folded forward and downwards to create a completely flat load bay that is much lower than with conventional folding seats. The HR-V’s boot space is also expected to be much larger than that offered by rivals such as the Nissan Juke.

Honda has given no clues about the HR-V’s engine line-up but it seems certain that it will get the company’s frugal 1.6-litre diesel unit.

However, there’s no news on whether Honda will also offer the new 1.5 i-DCD petrol-electric hybrid powertrain. Reports from Japan say the i-DCD has been officially rated at 102mpg on the rigorous JC08 test cycle.

Masahide Kobayashi, chief stylist for the European version of the Vezel, told Autocar that the new HR-V was designed meet the “strong customer demand” for a crossover positioned below the CR-V.

He said: “The difficulty in designing this type of car is that because of the size, the design can end up looking weak or less premium compared with other models. During the scale modelling process, we also had difficulty creating a design with presence, but we are pleased with what we achieved.”

Kobayashi also said that thanks to Honda’s ‘dive-down’ seating, “the HR-V will offer great interior space”.

Although Honda is prospering in most markets, it is suffering in Europe, where it recorded a market share of just 1.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2014 and is expected to sell as few as 140,000 vehicles in the whole of this year.

Kobayashi said: “In many cases, Honda has good products, but the design has not been strong enough to be clearly recognised. We believe that we can create new and more exciting designs in the future. This model [the HR-V] definitely has a strong character and I am excited about seeing the reaction of [European] customers.”

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