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Diesels displace Honda’s hybrid heartland

Head to head: Honda’s Insight mid-size hatchback potentially faces a showroom challenge from the smaller Jazz hybrid, the car-maker says.

Honda to introduce diesel, hybrid models where they make sense

Honda logo17 Apr 2013

HONDA Australia says it will introduce future hybrid models “where they make sense” as it rolls out more generations of its economical diesel powerplants.

The Japanese car-maker this week launched a diesel version of its Civic city car that is more fuel-efficient than every single Honda-badged petrol-electric hybrid model on sale in Australia, usurping many of the benefits that steer environmentally conscious buyers into showrooms.

However, Honda Australia director Stephen Collins says that while Honda’s diesel range is currently trumping the hybrid line-up for fuel economy, the hybrid model range still has its place.

“We’re still committed to hybrid,” Mr Collins said. “We’re committed to it globally, and certainly locally, so it (the introduction of more economical diesel models) doesn’t really change any of our hybrid strategy.

“What it means is that we now have diesel to complement the petrol and the hybrid line-up,” he said.

“I think diesel buyers and hybrid buyers are a little bit different, and I can see that all those engines can survive quite strongly in our line-up into the future.”

Mr Collins said Honda had made a “real effort” to increase the affordability of its hybrid technology to compete with diesel technology in the market.

“The Jazz hybrid (launched in February and costing from $22,900) is a good example of that, although it is a different car to the (Civic) hatch diesel,” he said.

“But I think there is still space in the market for hybrid - clearly that (hybrid) market is still in its infancy in Australia.”

 center imageFrom top: CR-V, Civic hybrid sedan and Jazz hybrid

He said the car-maker would start to be more selective about launching either diesel or hybrid models “in segments where it makes clear sense”.

“We’re definitely not going down the path of saying diesel is good for every segment,” Mr Collins said.

Honda’s diesel line-up will include an oil-burning version of its CR-V mid-size soft-roader due by the end of this year. It will sell alongside a diesel version of the Civic hatchback launched in Australia this week and featuring a next-generation 1.6-litre turbo-diesel powerplant that officially uses only 4.0 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle.

That compares with 4.3L/100km for the mid-size petrol-electric Insight hatch, 4.5L/100km for the city-friendly Jazz Hybrid, and 4.4L/100km for the petrol-electric Civic Hybrid.

Honda’s petrol-electric Civic is still selling in “modest volumes”, Mr Collins said, while the slow-selling Insight hatchback “is a bit of a challenge for us”.

‘It’s still certainly part of our line-up, but we’ll have to wait and see how it (Insight) goes against the Jazz hybrid in particular.”

Honda’s assistant chief engineer for the diesel engine development program, Takeshi Kurotobi, told GoAuto that the car-maker had looked at even smaller engines than the current 1.6-litre unit, including three- and two-cylinder versions.

Mr Kurotobi said while the car-maker had worked on diesel-electric hybrid drivetrains, there were no plans yet to introduce the system to complement its petrol-electric hybrid vehicle range.

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