Everyone knows that even though Japan is an island nation, the car market is rather big, with the country’s major manufacturers offering a much wider variety of cars than what’s usually offered here.
I’ve spent a lot of time looking through them and feel that I have found a pair of models offered there that could work here, if done right.
For those who don’t know, the Shuttle is a subcompact wagon based directly on Honda’s Fit. In fact, in it’s first generation, it was called the Fit Shuttle, before having Fit dropped from the name with the introduction of the second generation model in 2015.
The Shuttle is powered by a 1.5 liter I4, in either regular or Hybrid form, and also offered with four wheel drive.
I look at the Shuttle and can see it being a more versatile option that could slot right between the Fit and Civic, and the hybrid could take a shot directly at Toyota’s Prius C.
Comparing physical specifications of the three, the Shuttle has a 99.6 inch wheelbase (.8 shorter than the Prius C, 6.7 shorter than the UK built Civic hatchback), an overall length of 173.2 inches (15.9 inches longer than the Prius C, 4.7 inches shorter than the Civic hatchback), a width of 66.7 inches (same width as the Prius C, 4.1 inches narrower than the Civic hatchback), and a varying height of 60.8 or 61.8 inches (the higher height likely being 4wd) (3.9-4.9 taller then Prius C, 4.5-5.5 taller than the Civic hatchback).
If offered in gas and hybrid forms, the Shuttle can be both a Prius C competitor and a great alternative to the HR-V (which is also based on the Fit), but even if offered only as a Hybrid, it would...
A. Be a great Prius C competitor, while offering more cargo space and similar interior space
B. A great alternative to the HR-V
C. If offered with 4wd, give Honda something that neither Toyota or Subaru have (In the case of Toyota, a four-wheel-drive hybrid smaller than the Rav4. In the case of Subaru, a hybrid smaller than the Crosstrek.)
D. Help bolster the wagon market in the US even further, joining the VW Golf Sportwagen, Audi Allroad, Subaru Outback, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Volvo V90.
Yes, the name is literally one letter away from Sienna. Yes, there was a compact MPV sold in the US before that didn’t sell that well, the Mazda5.
But I don’t see Sienta aiming in the direction the 5 went, rather, I see it aiming at a compact van that’s been attracting a surprising number of customers...the Ford Transit Connect Wagon.
Sienta’s dimensions can actually be considered competitive to the Transit Connect.
Wheelbase: Sienta - 108.3 inches, Transit Connect SWB - 104.8 inches, Transit Connect LWB - 120.6 inches
Overall length: Sienta - 166.7 inches, Transit Connect SWB - 173.9 inches, Transit Connect LWB - 189.7 inches
Width: Sienta - 66.7 inches, Transit Connect - 72.2 inches
Height: Sienta - 65.9 inches (FWD) - 66.7 (AWD), Transit Connect SWB - 72.6 inches, Transit Connect LWB - 72 inches
Obviously, the LWB Transit Connect has an advantage in wheelbase, but the Sienta actually has the SWB TC beat there.
The Sienta is also easier to park than both, with the shorter overall length and narrower width.
The likely main reason the Sienta is shorter than the TC on height is because the TC was primarily built as a commercial vehicle, adapted as a passenger van.
Sienta has a couple tricks up it’s sleeve to get an upper hand on the Transit Connect:
1. It’s available with all-wheel-drive, which isn’t offered on the TC, or even on it’s competitors, like the Metris, ProMaster City, or NV200/City Express.
2. It comes standard as a 6 seater, as opposed to the standard 5 of the TC (though, a 5 seater is available on the Sienta in a handicap accessible version), while both are offered with seating for 7.
3. It’s also offered in a Hybrid variant, powered by the same 1.5 liter 1NZ-FXE found in the US market Prius c, meaning the hybrid would likely easily pass US emissions regulations. (The standard 2NR-FKE isn’t offered in the US, as far as I know, but the 1NZ-FE in the AWD models is found in the US market Yaris, so it would also likely pass emissions regulations).
Both the Shuttle and Sienta would also bring two more models to the market that aren’t simply bland appliances (looking at you, Toyota Corolla), and would also help stimulate hybrid sales by offering two more types of cars with an available hybrid option.