We occasionally run articles about "forbidden fruit," or cool and desirable cars sold overseas that aren't available in the U.S.
With Honda down to a single hybrid vehicle for the 2016 model year--the aging and low-volume CR-Z two-seater--it turns out one reader is looking covetously at the subcompact Honda Fit Hybrid sold in Japan.
The 2016 Honda Fit gets a combined 36 mpg EPA rating with the continuously variable transmission, but reader Paul Saltman wants more.
DON'T MISS: Honda Fit Hybrid: Forbidden Fruit Drive Report
Saltman asked if we'd heard anything new about the Honda Fit Hybrid or some version of it coming to the U.S.--and if so, when?
The Honda Fit Hybrid sold in Japan will definitely not come to the U.S.
With gas prices low, the conventional Fit achieving a combined 36-mpg EPA rating, and low prevailing prices for subcompacts, Honda has suggested there's no business case for the Fit Hybrid at the price it would have to sell for.
Honda Fit Hybrid (Japanese domestic model), Honda Proving Grounds, Tochigi, Japan, Nov 2013
Saltman explained that before gas prices started to tumble, he had read somewhere that Honda would bring to the U.S. a modified version of the Fit Hybrid.
It would not get the 86 mpg claimed for the overseas model, but a bit better than the conventional version now sold here.
We replied, in turn:
Remember also that the "86 mpg" is on the much gentler Japanese test cycle. A comparable EPA window-sticker figure might be closer to 50 or 60 mpg.
We might suggest either the current 2015 or 2016 Fit or the new 2016 Scion iA subcompact sedan, which is actually a Mazda--and rated at 37 mpg with the automatic, which we think it will achieve in real life.
You may prefer the Fit's incredible hatchback flexibility and Magic Seat. If you're open to a small sedan, have a look at the iA as well.
2016 Scion iA drive event, Philadelphia area, Sept 2015
Then the discussion ventured into new territory. Saltman asked, "If I don't care about any import costs, do you see any dangers of importing a Honda Fit Hybrid from Japan?"
Our firm reply:
It is not legal to import a non-compliant new vehicle into the U.S. Honda has not certified the Fit Hybrid for sale in the U.S., hence it is non-compliant.
A Fit Hybrid from Japan will have right-hand drive, and not meet U.S. crash-safety, lighting, and about 1,600 other standards spelled out in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards documents.
When the vehicle arrives at the port, you will be given a choice: Make it compliant (which would cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars, if it were even possible) or crush it.
Do not do it!
We should note there's an exception for used cars: It is legal to import non-compliant cars for personal use if they're 25 years or more past their date of manufacture. (In Canada, it's 15 years.)
The U.S. Customs Agency occasionally puts on highly-publicized events where they crush bulk imports of non-compliant vehicles--most recently Land-Rover Defenders and Minis that had been fraudulently re-titled with earlier serial numbers.
The agency is very, very serious about this.
Saltman's conclusion: "I guess I'll just have to be content to buy the 2016 model, or a leftover 2015 model."