Honda 'world's cheapest hybrid' scooped

Published: 02 September 2008 Updated: 26 January 2015

Honda will launch what it believes to be the world’s most affordable hybrid in spring 2009 – and CAR has obtained more details of the car before the concept is unveiled later this month. The new five-door, five-seat car is based on an all-new platform and will be Honda’s fourth-generation hybrid system. Honda promises it will cost less than any rival, or the company’s own Civic IMA, which starts at £17,145.

CAR has now confirmed that the car we scooped back in July 2008 (and pictured in our spy photos here) is indeed the new, affordable hybrid. Back then, we struggled to believe this prototype was small enough to be the new petrol-electric hybrid.

The new hybrid’s styling will be heavily influenced by the fuel-cell Honda FCX Clarity, so expect a silhouette similar to the Toyota Prius, but with more adventurous looks. A concept version of Honda’s cheap hybrid will be unveiled at the 2008 Paris motor show, but our spies have already scooped the production car hot-weather testing in the States.

Just how will this new Honda hybrid be cheaper than anything else?

Honda claims its two-decade development of hybrid systems mean it knows how to make its IMA system more efficiently than ever before. In the new car the IMA system will be lighter, while the control unit and battery will be significantly more compact than in today’s hybrids.

In the new, cheaper Honda hybrid, the IMA system is positioned in the boot and Honda promises clever new tech to help the driver achieve decent economy figures even in real-world driving conditions. Expect a sophisticated driving style monitor and even an eco-oriented sat-nav to guide you to jam-free roads that encourage teetotal driving.

Click ‘Next’ to read about the business case for Honda’s new affordable hybrid

How many cheap hybrids does Honda hopes to sell?

About 200,000, with 50 percent of total production heading to the USA. A new production line is being installed at Honda’s Suzuka plant which will increase annual capacity of the petrol-electric IMA system and the associated batteries from 70,000 today to 250k by the end of 2009.

Honda is unashamedly betting the family jewels on its hybrid system. And in a world where oil prices remain sky-high in many territories, and where the huge American market is finally switching to cleaner, more efficient cars, we reckon Honda’s timing is – as usual – impeccable.

So what other hybrid Hondas can we expect to see?

Along with a confirmed hybrid version of the CR-Z concept, the Civic hybrid and the forthcoming Jazz hybrid, Honda is hoping to sell 500,000 hybrids per year. Sounds like hybrids are about to enter the mainstream…

By Ben Pulman

Ex-CAR editor-at-large