Tuesday 23 October 2012. The Green Piece Column.
Honda finally announced it had reached the one million sales of its hybrid models at the end of September (see story). While that’s great news for the company it also serves to highlight how far behind the Japanese brand is behind its rival, Toyota, which has sold over four million within a similar timeframe (Toyota launched its first hybrid in 1997, Honda in 1999).
Now we don’t want to be cruel to little Honda, which is a much smaller carmaker with a much smaller R&D budget. And while on the smaller side, we recognise that consumer and industry reviews repeatedly show that the firm makes some of the most reliable and satisfying cars to own out there. So kudos to them.
Moreover, the firm is also one of the firms at the forefront when it comes to developing hydrogen fuel cell cars, with its FCX Clarity the first mass-produced hydrogen-powered car out there.
But seems where Honda innovates, other big boys come and push him over and rush passed (OK I might be exaggerating slightly, Honda is actually the 7th largest carmaker in the world).
It is just that we are still waiting for the firm to offer something that rivals Toyota’s hybrid tech. Indeed the carmaker reassures us it is in the process of developing new and improved version of its of its current one-motor IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) hybrid system, as well as introducing a two motor and three motor systems.
We are itching to see the result of this, but at a time when all manner of carmakers are moving onto plug-in hybrids and diesel hybrids for even greater economy will Honda still be trailing behind?
For a time the carmaker could boast that it was leading in terms of price, with its Jazz Hybrid the most affordable hybrid available for a time through 2011 (see story), as its Insight model had been when it launched in 1999. That is until Toyota released the Yaris Hybrid in July this year (see story), beating Honda back in to submission.
The odd thing about Honda’s approach to hybrids is its tendency to just miss out on important tax brackets. For example, when it launched its first incarnation of the Insight Hybrid it came with emissions of 101g/km, missing the vital 100g/km limit which would have put it in the lowest company car tax and VED brackets. It seemed madness not to hunt around the car for some minor change they could have made to squish into that bracket.
Of course, Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist package is not a full hybrid system as is Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) and cannot run on electric power alone even for a limited time as its rivals can. This impacts on fuel economy and emissions ratings, often leaving Honda behind.
Although numbers matter in this tax bracket-regulated car maket, that doesn’t mean that buyers aren’t missing out in overlooking Honda’s hybrid offers.
The UK line-up currently consists of the Jazz, Insight and CR-Z hybrids, with additional hybrids are available in other markets (Civic Hybrid, Accord Hybrid, Freed Hybrid, Freed Spike Hybrid and Acura ILX Hybrid) and they all make good buys.
The Jazz is one of the best-selling superminis in the UK and regularly features in the top ten of monthly car sales. It is a shame that the Jazz Hybrid starts from around £4,500 more than the base model Jazz. Still, that’s hybrids for you. The Yaris vs Yaris Hybrid has a similar price discrepancy. If you want hybrid though, then the Jazz one will give you 104g/km and 62.8mpg, starting from £16,300.
The Insight model, like the CR-Z is only available as a hybrid, and starts from £19, 535 with emissions as low as 96g/km CO2 and fuel economy of 68.9 mpg.
If a coupe is more your thing, then the CR-Z starts at £18,035 with emissions as low as 117g/km CO2 and fuel economy of 56.5 mpg. You can read more about what we make of the CR-Z here.
Hybrid motors multiply
For those of you who want more from a Honda hybrid, you will have to wait for the launch of the new Accord Plug-in Hybrid next year, which will be the first to use the carmaker’s new two-motor system that will enable it, among other things, to achieve a 10-15 miles electric drive only. Sadly, it is not planned for launch in Europe. A Honda NSX sports car is expected to arrive in the UK within the few years however and this will use the new four motor Sport Hybrid SH-AWD® (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) system. The long-awaited return of the NSX should respark passion for Honda cars.
Our point is that good things do come from smaller carmakers. While Toyota has the sales and marketing might to push hybrids, don’t be too quick to look past Honda, the brand has a lot to offer and so do its hybrid models. Who knows, with new hybrid systems out soon, the brand may recover some of that lost ground. Ah the power of dreams, hey?
Faye has been writing about cars and environmental issues since 2007. A suspected eco-warrior working on the corporate inside, Faye mainly likes the weird, quirky vehicles that show a distinct environmental advantage. Her ideal car has enough room to fit a bale of hay in the boot. When not working, she likes nothing better than to head out on her bicycle and explore the countryside.
No comments yet.