It’s been five years since a hybrid-specific car was introduced to the market. That was the second-generation Toyota Prius. The Prius’s design—raking windshield, rounded roof line and swooping hatchback—has been emblazoned in the public consciousness as the very definition of what a hybrid is supposed to look like. That will present a difficult challenge for Honda, as it prepares to launch its new hybrid-only subcompact, a 2009 model with a purchase price below $20,000.

Some of the questions Honda designers faced in creating the look and feel of the new yet-to-be-named global hybrid: How do we achieve groundbreaking aerodynamics? How do we steal the Prius halo without stealing its design? What about design cues from the Honda FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle? How do we make it crystal clear that this new car is a hybrid?

We won’t know if Honda produced a winning design until the vehicle’s unveiling in a few months, but thanks to an “unofficial” illustration by Seth Gold, a 3d modeler and graphic designer, based on spy shots from KGP Photography, we can start to form an opinion. Compare the 2009 Global Honda hybrid with designs for the Toyota Prius, Honda FCX Clarity, Honda Civic Hybrid, and the discontinued Honda Insight. And then judge for yourself.

Unofficial illustration of 2009 Honda Subcompact Hybrid

Unofficial illustration of the 2009 Honda global subcompact hybrid. (Copyright Seth Gold. All rights reserved.)

Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius

Honda FCX Clarity

Honda FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle

Honda Civic Hybrid

Honda Civic Hybrid

Honda Insight

Honda Insight