Honda Debuts Fit Hybrid; Nowhere Near 60-70 MPG as Speculated?

In preparation for its official debut at the 2010 Paris Motor Show next month, Honda released some pics and a few details for the much anticipated Honda Fit Hybrid today (called the Jazz in Europe and Japan). The car will be the first modern subcompact parallel hybrid to reach consumers since the release of the original Honda Insight back in 1999—and it is rumored to cost between $16,500 and $18,600 when it goes on sale in Japan next year. At that price it would be the cheapest hybrid available on the market.

Yet, as the news fans out on the internet today, one bit of info buried rather vaguely in the press release that hasn’t been picked up elsewhere piqued my curiosity. Up till now, speculation about the expected fuel economy of the Fit Hybrid ranged anywhere from 60-70 mpg, but according to Honda, the Fit Hybrid will have about the same fuel economy as the current Insight.

As the Honda press release declares, “Much of the Jazz’s practicality is derived from its height but despite being taller than the Insight, the Jazz Hybrid manages to maintain fuel consumption and CO2 emissions on comparable levels.” That’s the only tidbit of information we get on fuel economy and emissions, and it’s casually dropped between the description of the Fit’s powertrain and a long list of small visual changes between the hybrid and conventional models. Although it’s not much to go on, in my eyes that statement is pretty clearly saying that the Fit Hybrid and the Insight have about the same fuel economy and emissions. Am I crazy, or is that what it’s saying?

Assuming my read is accurate, and given that the 2010 Insight is returning about 47 mpg in combined driving for most drivers, we should expect that the Fit would return about the same—a far cry from the speculated 60-70 mpg.

The Fit Hybrid shares much of its powertrain with the new Honda Insight, including its 1.3 liter i-VTEC engine, a CVT transmission, and an electric motor sandwiched between the two to create a parallel hybrid system, so it’s not a huge surprise that it also shares the same mileage and emissions characteristics, but what is spectacular is that the 60-70 mpg claim was essentially accepted as fact and you wonder how that even got out there.

It’s a bit disappointing that a car that’s smaller than the Insight (but only just barely), is returning the same fuel economy. And it’s especially disappointing when you realize that the conventional Fit returns about 38 mpg in combined driving. With an expected premium of about $2,000-3,000 over the conventional Fit, you start to wonder if the approximately $200-300 in fuel saving per year is worth it.

Of course, for us Statesiders, this is all just speculation as we haven’t even been promised the hybrid version of the Fit yet. Perhaps the fact that we still have such cheap gas is what’s holding Honda back—in Europe that extra hybrid Premium would be made up much more quickly given that gas costs about 6-7 dollars a gallon over there.

Check out the full press release on the next page.

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.