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Tokyo Motor Show Preview: Honda

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Tokyo Motor Show Preview: Honda

CHIBA, Japan — When it comes to hybrid cars, Honda is still looking for a car that will trump its archrival, Toyota, and its perennial best-selling Prius.

Its last couple of efforts, the Civic Hybrid and Insight, haven’t quite managed to dethrone the Prius, although each has been a modest sales success. Honda hopes to take the hybrid market in a slightly different and new direction with its latest hopeful, the CR-Z 2-seat sports car, which will be introduced at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show.

The CR-Z concept shown in Tokyo is essentially now in production form. The car is scheduled to go on sale next spring in the United States and as early as February in Japan.

The attraction of the CR-Z, according to Honda, is high performance coupled with good fuel economy. Pricing is also an issue, but that hasn’t been announced yet. Honda promises it will be “affordable.” Figure on something around $25,000.

The CR-Z evokes memories of the CRX, a cult favorite of the 1980s.

The car’s designer, Takaski Nagura, said, “We want to take sporty cars in a new direction. We want to make the image healthier.”

Power comes from a 1.5-liter version of Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist hybrid system. (The Civic and Insight use 1.3-liter systems.) Instead of the usual, boring automatic or CVT transmissions, the CR-Z will offer a 6-speed manual.

The CR-Z is the highlight of what promises to be an unusually eclectic Honda display – even by Tokyo’s traditionally whimsical standards. For the first time, because of consolidations of exhibitors at the show, Honda’s automotive products will be joined by everything else Honda makes. This is will include motorcycles, garden tillers and generators. The various motorized machines will be powered by electricity, gasoline, hydrogen and even butane.

Vehicles include the Hello! mobility device, the latest FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell prototype, a unicycle personal mobility machine called the U3-X, 2- and 4-wheel scooters and the quirky EV-N.

The EV-N is a battery-electric mini-car concept, with sort of an odd retro theme – although it is difficult to relate it to anything that has come before.

Honda is also showing a concept minivan called the Skydeck. It features seating for six, a glass roof, scissor doors and an far-out interior you’re likely to find only at an auto show – or a Tokyo love hotel. More importantly, the Skydeck suggests a future version of an Odyssey-style minivan that could be powered by a hybrid powertrain.

Full article at New York Times
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