2010 Honda Insight - sideEnlarge Photo
Honda has the highest average fleet mileage of any volume carmaker selling in the U.S. market today. And it's had that distinction for many years.
But in the face of the car-market meltdown, oil prices that have risen from $30 to $80 a barrel within months, and growing global environmental concerns, rules, and regulations, Honda has concluded it's not doing enough.
So the company is in the midst of rewriting its product plans, pushing harder and faster to make its new cars lighter, less thirsty, and more green--while keeping them nimble, clever, and fun to drive. It has already canceled a V8 engine and a line of larger, rear-wheel-drive cars.
Honda unveils 2009 Civic and Civic HybridEnlarge Photo
2010 Honda Insight - rear three-quarterEnlarge Photo
To many, the CR-Z will be seen as the spiritual successor to the original CR-X sports carEnlarge Photo
2010 Honda Fit SportEnlarge Photo
Honda dropping the Accord HybridEnlarge Photo
2005 Honda Accord HybridEnlarge Photo
2010 Honda OdysseyEnlarge Photo
2009 Honda FCX ClarityEnlarge Photo
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2009 Honda FCX ClarityEnlarge Photo
Here's what Honda is planning, according to Automotive News:
Civic: Smaller, lighter, better
The next generation Honda Civic, which was well along in its development process, is being made smaller, lighter, and more fuel-efficient than originally planned.
It is likely to be no larger than the current 2010 Civic, and perhaps even smaller, reversing the "bracket creep" that has seen many nameplates get bigger, heavier, and more powerful with each redesign.
The Civic platform underlines many Hondas of different styles and shapes, including the 2010 CR-V crossover and the 2010 Element "boxy minivan".
The late redesign means that each of those vehicles could be delayed, pushing them off Honda's customary four- and five-year cycles. Honda is working to ensure that their replacements offer far better fuel economy, equal or better equipment levels, and more "perceived spaciousness" in those smaller packages.
More smaller hybrids ...
The first of three new small hybrids was the 2010 Honda Insight, launched in February, which will be joined next year by the 2011 Honda CR-Z hybrid two-seat sports coupe.
It's meant to succeed the fuel-efficient 1983-1991 Honda Civic CR-X, and will go on sale in Japan next February and in the U.S. next spring. It features a 1.5-liter gasoline engine, Honda's mild-hybrid Integrated Motor Assist system, and a six-speed manual gearbox.
Honda is also planning to launch a hybrid version of its 2010 Fit five-door subcompact hatchback.
... and hybrids in larger cars too
For several years now, the Civic has been the largest Honda with a hybrid powertrain. That's because Honda got burned on its last attempt to build a midsize hybrid, the 2005-2007 Honda Accord Hybrid.
That car pioneered a new category, the 'performance hybrid,' with electric motors tuned for acceleration rather than fuel economy paired with a powerful V6 engine. One notable review was titled, “Sips gas. Hauls ass.”
A fuel-efficient hot rod ?!?
But by 2005, "hybrid" meant "fuel economy" and high-performance hybrids turned out to be a niche so small that few buyers cared. After decent sales for 2005, volumes fell in 2006 as more hybrids focused on fuel efficiency entered the market.
Honda canceled the Accord Hybrid in June 2007, bidding adieu to a category that has only been revived by high-end entries like the 2010 Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid.