Honda needs to get sporty again. Right now, the excellent new Fit is carrying the ball, but it’s got limitations — people perceive it (correctly) as primarily an economy car, albeit one with great handling and carrying capacity.
I love the restyled 2015 Fit, which I’m driving right now. Honda has added direct injection and dual overhead cams (for 13 extra horsepower), plus an incredible 4.8 inches of rear legroom by fiddling with the wheelbase. I have my doubts about the newly digitized HondaLink infotainment system, but we'll see.
The 2015 Fit adds 13 horsepower and tons of rear-seat legroom. (Photo: Jim Motavalli)
The Fit just works, and that’s the reason I bought one back in 2007 (now with 90,000 miles on the clock). But I’ve also got another new love: the Honda Concept B. It’s a mid-sized car with cool hatchback styling. A hybrid version will reportedly be offered under the FUNTECH banner, and there will be Fit underpinnings. The Concept B, shown at the Beijing Auto Show in April, could be just what Honda needs to get its American hybrid lineup back in order.
The 2015 Honda Fit Hybrid, another one we aren't getting in the U.S. (Photo: Honda)
But here’s the crazy part: the Concept B is intended only for the Chinese market, with no plans for a U.S. version. Honda also refuses to sell the Fit Hybrid — a bestseller in Japan — over here. I asked Honda’s Chris Naughton about this, but got the standard “we don’t talk about future product” reply.
Honda has had mostly bad hybrid news lately. It killed the slow-selling Insight, which managed to sell fewer than 5,000 units in all of 2013. And it also canned the sporty CR-Z in Europe, with the U.S. probably next; just 4,600 were sold last year.
The Concept B in a side view, as displayed in Beijing. It's roomy, while maintaining a racy fastback profile. (Photo: Honda)
Honda’s bestselling hybrid is the Civic, and that has less than 2 percent of the gas-electric market. In 2013, the Prius liftback sold 20 times more — and that’s just one of three Prius models. The recently launched Accord Hybrid is really in the doldrums, with half the Civic’s sales and barely 1 percent of the market. At the end of May, Honda had 5.5 percent of the hybrid market in the U.S., and Toyota had 68.23.
Here’s what I think is happening. The Civic Hybrid looks so much like a plain-jane Civic that the neighbors don’t know you’re a hero for the environment. The CR-Z is a two-seater, and those never sell in large numbers. The Insight was just a dog, a poor man’s Prius built on a tight budget with very low scores on AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Reward research.
Let’s circle back to the Fit, a standout small car for Honda. It’s the company number three bestselling car, with 21,824 sold through June this year. And those numbers are going to take a big jump, because the new model in my driveway just started to trickle into dealers in June.
My tester gets an excellent 32 mpg in town, and 38 highway (35 combined). It’s yours, loaded, for $21,590. What’s not to like, exactly? Well, it’s not a Concept B. The styling is evolved from the second generation Fit, rather than a radical resculpting.
All OK, but the company could use something that matches the Prius in eye-catching eco-candy. Two choices: The Fit Hybrid, based on the stunning 2015 model, or the Concept B. We already love the Fit, and we could easily learn to love the Concept B. Here’s the new Fit on video:
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