In a bid to expand the appeal of its mid-size Pilot crossover, Honda will add a short-wheelbase variant next year that ditches the current model's third-row seat.
The news comes from Wards Auto, who says the new, smaller Pilot will begin production in fall of 2018 at Honda's plant in Lincoln, Alabama.
The Japanese automaker's obvious goal is to fill the gap between its compact (but verging on mid-size) CR-V and the current 2017 Honda Pilot, which lives at the large end of the mid-size field. More importantly, Honda sees this move as a way to steal crossover buyers from the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: that Korean model comes in five- and seven-seat versions, with the short-wheelbase five-seater variant being more popular, by far.
While a shorty Pilot wouldn't be significantly larger than the new-for-2017 Honda CR-V, it would likely appeal to buyers looking for the Pilot's towing capacity (up to 2,268 kg, vs a maximum of 680 for the CR-V) in a vehicle closer to the small end of the mid-size field.
There is the question of whether this new Pilot variant will come to Canada. We think it likely, but the US market skews more toward larger vehicles than ours. We've reached out to Honda Canada to see what they can tell us.
Wherever the new shorty Pilot ends up, a fall 2018 production start date means it would likely reach Honda dealerships close to the end of next year.