Honda Back to Hybrid Drawing Board

Honda Small Hybrid Concept

In the early hybrid years, Honda was viewed as the leader. But in recent years, Honda has idled while Toyota ruled the market. Perhaps Honda’s biggest misstep was the Accord Hybrid, the gas-electric sedan that started the trend of trying to combine high-performance sportiness with fuel parsimony. The U.S. market didn’t respond to that combination.

With a new hybrid-specific nameplate scheduled for 2009, Honda is back to the drawing board – and used the 2007 Geneva motor show to unveil a small hybrid sports concept.

The new concept, designed by Honda R&D in Offenbach, Germany, looks like an attempt to morph the retired Honda Insight into something sporty. A hybrid version of Honda’s subcompact Fit would have made sense, but after seeing lackluster sales of hybridized versions of the Accord and Civic, Honda is aiming for a gas-electric car that does not have a conventional counterpart.

Key questions remain: If using hybrid technology to make the Accord the fastest family sedan on the market didn’t produce a winner, why would a hybrid faux sports car capture the market? Will raised wheel arches, arrow-like noses, and raked windscreens make all the much difference to consumers looking for maximum mpg?

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  • Jasper

    Lackluster sales of the CIvic/Accord Hybrids?
    Of Course. The Civic Hybrid is only avail. as a 4 door, and the Accord is huge anyways. The Prius which gets upto 30 mpg more costs less then the Accord and Also gets 10 mpg more than the Civic. The civic is just as big, doesn’t have the track record of the Prius and although is less expensive really doesn’t seem to have any sales advantage over the Prius. This Car, the sports hybrid, is what us car enthusiasts/enviromentalists crave. Not to mention that it makes sense that a smaller car (two door), being inherently lighter, more responsive, and fuel efficient would be a good sell. I for one would really like car makers to stop overthinking the cars they are making and simplify and make cars that they as real people would like to drive themselves, like this concept, Kudos Honda.

  • me

    you are good at showing pics but you need to go indepth and tell how they work

  • Bradley

    Honda showed this concept as a design study, rather than a new technology exercise. The company apparently wanted to guage the reaction to a sporty subcompact hybrid, as a departure from their previous subcompact hybrid, the Insight. Honda didn’t release much about the technology.

  • Collin Burnell

    I almost bought a HCH but there was nothing but bland colors available. I wanted a Red or something with some pizazz!!! I think Honda lacks a clear understanding of Hybrid drivers. This Concept may be just the ticket!!!

  • Don Stone

    I find it so frustrating that automakers take away luxury features on their hybrid models. I want leather, navigation, backup cameras, high-end audio, sunroof, etc. On past Honda hybrid’s, many of these features were not available. Although saving money on gas and saving the environment are reasons I would like to buy a Hybrid vehicle, I don’t need it to be an economy car in terms of features/performance. A subcompact should offer luxury features too. I like this prototype from Honda. I hope the interior detailing matches the exterior and that luxury options are available. Some automakers are heading in this direction. The Nissan Altima offers all of these luxury features. I’ve owned three Hondas and I’m finding it difficult to cross over to another automaker. I’m waiting for the Hybrid car of my dreams to come out. Hopefully, it will be a Honda. I’d like to see a sportier more elegant version of the Pilot in a Hybrid model.

  • Ross Nicholson

    This looks much nicer. Hopefully it will be aluminum or carbon fiber. The Insight was extremely ugly looking, too small with a cheap as dirt interior that seemed shopworn as a new car. A solar electricity generating roof panel should be standard equipment.

  • Jen P

    I was sad to see the Insight go off the market. The Insight has been a great eco-car for me. I have no regrets. I would love to see more high gas mileage cars like the Insight. And this concept looks like a cross between my old 240SX and my Insight. BRING IT ON, Honda!

  • Jen P

    … hasn’t anyone noticed that it is impossible to get an Insight on ebay anymore? Before gas prices went through the roof, at least there was a few to choose from! Someone must be gobbling up the most fuel-efficient car around! Hello… it’s been 8 years and it’s STILL the leader in fuel economy. I thought by now we’d be seeing 100 mpg+. Something is wrong here! Come on automakers… let’s see some innovation come back to the market!

  • Marcia

    I had a 5 speed 86 CRX SI and it got incredible gas mileage – 37 mpg (I got that regularly with a combination of local and highway travel). After 14 years I got a new car – wish I never had. I too am waiting for a 2-door sporty hybrid. Hope this one is as promising as it looks–would want option of a sunroof too. I look forward to another zippy little car that I love that gets awesome mileage!

  • PerfectApproach

    The Insight was a great car, IMO, but it didn’t sell really all that well. Whether it was because they didn’t make enough, or because it didn’t have OTHER features people wanted, or because people just genuinely didn’t want a car that looked like a spaceship is anybody’s guess.

    But what’s really important is that car makers have been toying with the idea of a 2-door hybrid since…well…the inception of hybrids. I think the Insight is a poor example of how a well-crafted, 2-door sport compact should be, and Honda and the hybrid community at large seem to be basing their numbers on this one little experiment.

    If an auto manufacturer’s are listening: MAKE THE 4-DOOR SEDANS FUEL-EFFICIENT. MAKE THE 2-DOOR COUPES FAST. Hybrid technology is poised to do both of these jobs, much like fuel-injection did in the 80’s.

  • VXBoy

    I think hybrid is great but, I used to have a civic VX and on average got 52 MPG. Now this was a striped down car but, a lot of fun to drive. To me it was a sporty 2 door. It was fast when it needed to be, I used to race people around town and had lots of fun with it. Now if they could just have put a hybrid drive with this engin they should have been able to achive at least 70 MPG.

  • As deep as a puddle

    Yup. It’s all about the looks. So few people care about functionality these days, it’s no wonder Honda’s coming out with this faux sports car. It looks cool and they know there are thousands of shallow car buyers out there who will purchase it because of the detailing.

    If people cared about utility, we wouldn’t have vehicles like the Corvette, Solstice and other such roadsters. Why do people buy them if you can’t fit a set of golf clubs in the back? Because they look nice, that’s why.

    Why do we need leather seats, heated mirrors, sunroofs (sunrooves?) and lighted cupholders? We don’t. Over time, people have confused “wants” with “needs”.

    Honda is just doing what the mass market wants.

  • Old Man Crowder

    And apparently I’m dyslexic, too. I mixed up the name and subject lines.

  • omn1potent

    The Honda Insight Sold new in Australia for AUS $50k, hence why it only sold 50 units, in its 5 years of sale here. If it was sold at a resonable price, it would have been a success. Lets hope Honda don’t do that again!

  • paul

    I don’t know about you all, but I like having more passanger capacity than a 2 seater. If the insight has a back seat it would have sold much better. A 2seater is really a toy, a second vehicle. Name one practical car that only sat 2 people. I can name a trillion toy cars…. s200, miata, sc430, 350z, corvette, mr2…… normal everyday people dont own cars like that. The kind of people who own the listed cars usually have a sedan in the garage. The concept will sell if the coupe has a backseat…….

  • Ted

    Why doesn’t Honda sell this non hybrid car anymore?
    According to
    two Civic’s HB VX listed for 1994 and 1995 with mpg(city)39/37 and mpg(hwy)50/45.Since these aren’t Hybrids,What the Hell is going on?

  • paul

    First of all, Cars are constantly being green-ified, which means that there are more emission controls on the cars… which (life a muffler) give the cars backflow. So if all the emissions controls were taken off of a prius, the engine would run less stresses and give you a better fuel economy.

    Secondly, the EPA has hardening up on the way MPG’s are calcualted by the auto maker. Even Honda and Toyota were guilty of lying a bit on their fuel ratings. For instance, they may have run this Civic HB VX on a perfectly flat scenario with low-dra tires, no air-intake filter, with all the interior ripped out, and a tailwaind.

  • Chun

    Honda blew it by tying a V6 to the Accord Hybrid while failing to offer a 4-cyl. engine as an option. Now they want to do the roadster thing. Nobody who buys and drives a roadster cares that much about fuel economy. 27 to 30 mpg is easily achieved today, even with all-gas engines. My SLK230 Kompressor gets 27mpg on the highway and delivers 190HP of performance. More than enough for a California highway. The problem is that I can’t drive my kids around in the SLK.

    Honda, you want some direction? How about a hybrid minivan instead of the roadster? My 2000 Odyssey only gets 18mpg and I drive it ALL the time because I have to play soccer-parent. My gasoline bill is a little over $1000 a month (teenager gets the Accord). Give my wallet a break come out SOON with a minivan with a similar power feel(200-240hp range, good bottom-end torque) and delivers 40 or better mpg on the highway. I have 150,000+ miles on the Odyssey and am ready to trade it in for whoever has better mileage (either Honda or Toyota at this point; preference: Honda if available).

  • paul

    Aight Chun, you are DREAMING, first of all, I highly doubt you NEED a minivn, since most families buy them out of utility rathar than practicality. How bout you just go buy a prius or something, I doubt your kid requires the DVD/TV mounted on the ceiling, unless that’s how you want to raise your children….. Minivans won’t (especially something in the 200hp range) get anything decent for gas mileage, one who drives a minivan does not even deserve to get good gas mileage.

  • Jeff

    I have been thinking about buying a hybrid for a while but the lack of options has kept me away. I really like the look of the new Honda Concept and hope they will provide a full aray of cool options that are found in standard cars. Do that, I will be the first in line!!

  • Dawn

    Me, too! This car looks pretty awesome and it in no way should have taken this long to come up with a two-door hybrid that says “Love me, buy me, drive me!'”. All the manufacturers should take note, that if you want to sell cars: they all should have two-door hybrids for us to buy: mitsubishi eclipse should be a hybrid, Hyundai Tburon should be a hybrid, Toyota Prius should have come in a 2-door version long ago as well as the Chevy Cobalt which comes in 5 different versions thus far. I drive Valet every day and the excuses are thin and none why the manufacturers shouldn’t buckle down and mass produce what the public wants. Four-door sedans, SUV’s and trucks are what some of the public wants but there are a lot of people who want and drive the 2-door sports coupe as a good-lucking, economical vehicle so guess what manufacturers, you have been served! Step up to the plate and watch us all come buy a good-looking hybrid!

  • thomatt12

    This car looks pretty cool! It looks way cooler than those other hybrid concepts!