Honda Flip-Flops on U.S. Release of Honda Fit Hybrid

We first heard about plans for a hybrid gas-electric version of the Honda Fit in 2006. Since that time, Honda’s plans to bring the compact car—which could become the least expensive hybrid on U.S. roads—has been on and off again several times.

The Honda Fit Hybrid went on sale in Japan last week, and will be offered in Europe early next year. But the company remains indecisive about selling it in the United States. “We haven’t decided on a U.S. launch,” Koichi Kondo, Honda Executive Vice President, said at the Fit’s launch event in Tokyo. “As for the future, it’s open to question. We will carefully be watching the market situation.”

Could Small Hybrids Be Big?

Honda’s uncertainty has been widely reported as a decision not to sell the Fit Hybrid in the United States. Some consumers, including a visitor named Marty, were disappointed. “Honda has done it again! They always keep the coolest cars away from the U.S. market,” wrote Marty, who dislikes the new Honda Insight, because of its limited space and versatility. On the other hand, the Honda Fit is frequently praised for packing a roomy interior into a small vehicle platform. “I love my ‘07 Honda Fit, but the mpg could be better [with] the 1.3 liter engine paired to the CVT that the rest of the world has on the Honda Jazz/Fit,” wrote Marty. “I have been waiting a long time for a Hybrid Fit and this really just burns me up!”

In Japan, the Hybrid Fit and the Honda Insight get the same mileage ratings. (In the U.S., the Insight is rated at 40 mpg in the city and 43 on the highway.) The price tag for the Honda Fit in Japan starts at about $19,200, which is 30 percent more than the re-styled gas-only version. The hybrid delivers a 20 percent improvement in fuel efficiency compared to the conventional model.

Depends on Gas Prices

Kohei Hitomi, Honda chief engineer for the Fit, said that Americans are probably not willing to pay the hybrid premium for marginal mileage gains. “Basically, the gasoline Fit gets very good mileage as it is,” Hitomi told Automotive News. “I think many Americans would be asking whether it is worth paying extra.”

In 2008, when gas prices spiked to $4 a gallon, Honda gave a green light to the Fit Hybrid for the United States. At the current relatively low price at the pumps, Honda is once again hesitating.

In Japan, where higher gas prices and stronger green car incentives are in place, Honda expects the hybrid version to represent 40 percent of total Fit sales volume. The company is aiming to sell about 5,600 units a month, and already has about 10,000 pre-orders.

If Honda decides against bringing the Fit Hybrid to the United States, then Toyota could be the single automaker offering a compact gas-electric car in America. Toyota is expected to release a compact version of the Prius in the next couple of years. In 2012, Toyota will introduce an all-electric mini-car, about the size of the Scion iQ, to U.S. car buyers. The company said last month it would also produce a hybrid version of the Yaris compact for the European market at its factory in France beginning in 2012.

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  • Anonymous

    Hybrid Fit gives 20% more mileage and costs 30% more.

    WHY ?.

    I would rather buy Gas version.

    Unless automakers brings down the hybrid price, its difficult for them.
    Already vehicle prices have increased more than 10% because of increase in price of steel, plastic and other commodities.

    If hybrids cost another 30% more, people may simply walk away.
    I believe many are prolonging the life of their current vehicles by taking more bus & train rides, thats why auto sales are hanging around just 1 million vehicles / month.

  • Charles

    I think Honda should make up their mind, but I do not disagree with their decision not to bring the hybrid Fit to the USA. If the MPGs is the same as the Insight it would just steal sales from the Insight. To take on the Pirus the hybrid Fit would have to beat the Prius’ MPGs.

    It is time for Honda to give up on IMA!

  • Shines

    I must agree with Charles. Right now the Fit is smaller on the outside but has more room on the inside that the Insight. I am sure the Hybrid Fit would have less room to make up for the hybrid components. If it ends up with the same fuel economy as the Insight – why bother?

  • Yegor

    Definitely bring it to USA as soon as possible!
    Passenger volume of Honda Fit (90.8 cu ft) is much bigger than Honda Insight (85 cu ft) and actually very close to Toyota Prius (93.7 cu ft) that is why it will sell much more in US than Honda Insight!

  • Sean Solo

    I’d buy a Fit Hybrid tomorrow. I love the Fit, but really want a hybrid as well. I wonder how much it would cost to have one shipped over to the US. I’m sure that wouldn’t make sense, but I really want this car.

  • JamesDavis

    Honda could save themselves a lot of headache on the Fit if they just made it all electric. An all electric Fit may sell very good in the U.S.

  • Anonymous

    Does anybody know the mpg numbers of the Fit?

    If it is much better than the current Prius – I would trade mine ’10 model for the fit. I use it only as commuter car and I am mostly alone in it – so a smaller car would make sense.

    If mpg is lower than the Prius – than WTF??? Why would anybody buy it than?

  • Charles

    Dear Anonymous,

    The Hybrid Fit will be about 40/43 MPG. So keep your Prius. Honda is apparently not up to the task of taking on the Prius. To be fair nobody has taken on the Prius with any success. Ford has been able to beat the Camry Hybrid with the Fusion Hybrid and the Escape Hybrid is the best MPG SUV, but nothing to beat the Prius.

  • Anonymous

    If Ford applies the same hybrid system (as Fusion’s) in Fiesta, it can beat Prius. Lets see.

  • LeeL

    Honda continues to miss the boat. The Insight is going nowhere fast. They should have scrapped that vehicle before production and just come out with a Hybrid Fit for the U.S. market. The Fit is a better vehicle in every way. The reviews and sales demonstrate that. Regarding an earlier comment, the Hybrid Fit has the same amount of room as the regular Fit. They haven’t sacrificed its cargo versatility at all. And, when is Honda going to start supplying the U.S. with the vehicles they sell in Europe and elsewhere. The Jazz is paired to a CVT in Europe and gets better mileage. It’s also offered with a panoramic sunroof. Do they actually think those features won’t sell here?

  • Tom

    As an owner of an ’09 Fit, I regularly get 36 mpg or better on combined driving without any modifications or overly cautious driving. This mpg was a pleasant surprise for me, since I was expecting to only get around 30 mpg combined based upon the EPA estimates. If the hybrid Fit gave me 20% greater gas mileage than what I’m currently getting, it would be worth it for me to upgrade. However, if the hybrid truly only gave me about 40 mpg combined, it would definitely not be worth the price premium.

  • Almprin06

    The only problem with the Honda Fit is that, while it is smaller and lighter than the Prius I, it achieves few fewer MPG, and it sounds like it would be saddled with a similar price as the base Prius (22k).

    The fact is, it seems like Honda is simply unable to compete with Toyota hybrids on either price or mpg – Honda must do better at either one-or-the-other to win over hybrid buyers.

    Doing better at BOTH price and mpg would really go far. In other words, a $20K Fit Hybrid that got 55+ mpg would win.

  • Sean Solo

    Tom, is that 36 mpg based on manual calculations? I thought I had read the current Fit keeps track of the MPG’s but that it is consistently off (on the high side) by about 4 or 5 MPG. I may be mistaken, but thought I read that somewhere. That’s great if you’re getting that. I had also read that it got 30 combined.

  • Dom

    Anonymous said,, “If Ford applies the same hybrid system (as Fusion’s) in Fiesta, it can beat Prius. Lets see.”

    The diesel Fiesta in Europe already beats the Prius in fuel economy by a long shot. Ford should have brought that model to the US.

  • Matt Chatham

    it depends on what you mean by “beating” when you’re talking about other hybrids vs. the Prius. I chose the Insight over the Prius because I could get an optioned-out model and still save thousands. Not to mention that though the EPA gives the Insight a combined 41mpg, I’m averaging 46 right now and it’s getting higher with every tank. Plus, the first generation Insight yielded 60mpg (though it wasn’t a sedan so I’m not saying it’s totally comparable). My point is the Prius works well for some, but not all.

  • Anonymous

    I have an 09′ Fit, the MPG calculator on the car said I get 35-36mpgs, but my own calculation is usually 30-33mpg, so it is usuallly 2-3mpg off on the high side.

  • Steve Stasulis

    I drive a 2007 Fit and get 40-45 mpg in town and have gotten as much as 49.7 on trips. I keep the tires aired up near 40 lbs and drive the speed limit (55 in most cases), and turn the engine off at long intersections. I consider it my “Manual Hybrid”. If you drive it carefully, it’s fairly easy to get that mileage with a stick shift (five speed).

  • Tom


    You’re right that the built-in fuel economy gauge is 2-3 mpg on the high side. In two years of ownership, I think the worst tank I’ve had averaged 31 mog actual combined mpg and that was when I was lead-footing it everywhere. However, just being mindful of what’s going on in front of me, letting off the gas when I see traffic or a red light ahead truly gets me 35+ mpg combined. As someone else mentioned, if you are actively miserly and throw it in neutral at traffic lights, coast a bit instead of gassing it until just before making turns, and don’t exceed the speed limit by too much on the highway, you can get 38 mpg actual. The best I’ve gotten on strictly highway driving was 40mpg actual going around 75 mph. Speaking of highway driving, the worst thing for my mpg is to use the cruise control.

    Although the built-in mpg calculator is consistently bullish by about 2-3 mpg, it’s still a very good tool to help me know when I’m maximizing my mpgs. For instance, I may get better fuel economy going 60 mph than if I go 55. (I’m not sure if these are the actual speeds, but I do try pay attention to when the car seems to be most efficient and my point is that slower is not always better.)

    The Fit was a hasty purchase when I got tired of waiting for the Insight or latest Prius to come out. I have not been disappointed. It’s been perfectly reliable, gobbled up nearly everything I’ve thrown in it (even when the cashiers said it couldn’t be done), and it’s gotten surprisingly good mpgs to boot at a very low purchase price. I don’t hesitate to recommend this vehicle to anyone.

  • Anna

    They are introducing an all electric Honda Fit EV in 2012. I would rather have a hybrid than a fully electric because the electric only gets 100 miles per 12 hour charge. The idea of a fully electric car is great, but in practice it’s not convenient.