Honda hybrids in Australia: Everything you need to know
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As one of the world's largest manufacturers of internal-combustion engines (ICE) measured by volume - cranking out a whopping 14 million of them annually - you’d expect that Japanese car manufacturer Honda would be well ahead of the curve in terms of alternate fuel sources, now that traditional engines are slowly but surely being phased out due to environmental concerns.
The answer is, sort of: Honda is a little behind the eight ball in terms of fully electric vehicles (more on that later), but it has been producing hybrids for quite some time (although currently there’s only one Honda hybrid available in Australia, the Honda Accord Hybrid).
Honda hybrid vehicles have been around much longer than you’d expect: Honda launched the Honda Insight hybrid in the US market in late-1999, beating the famous Toyota Prius to the punch by a whole month. And for a while, it looked like Honda might be a leader in this area (as well as in hydrogen vehicles).
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A year prior, Honda released the Honda Civic GX purpose-built natural gas vehicle (NGV) for commercial sale in some parts of the US, and in 2001 the EPA had rated the Civic GX the cleanest-burning ICE in the world.
More hybrids began to arrive starting with 2002’s US release of the Honda Civic Hybrid, which went on to battle it out with the Prius for the title of America’s best-selling hybrid (the Civic Hybrid sold over 260,000 units in the US in 2020).
Up next was the mid-size Honda Accord Hybrid in 2005, followed by 2011’s sport compact, the Honda CR-Z Hybrid, and the five-door subcompact Honda Jazz Hybrid (the latter promoted in Australia, bizarrely, with a TV advert inspired by Thomas the Tank Engine).
Although the Civic, Jazz, Insight and CR-Z hybrids were each available in Australia for a time, they were all discontinued around 2014-15 due to poor sales (only 86 CR-Zs were sold in Australia in 1994, despite it taking the title as Wheels Magazine’s Car of the Year).
The esteemed twin-turbo V6 Honda NSX hybrid supercar was also available in Australia from 2016 for the princely sum of $420,000, but the model was discontinued here in 2020 when it failed to sell any units at all (a grand total of nine NSX hybrid supercars were sold in Australia during 2016-2020). Perhaps not surprising when you put that price tag and the word Honda in the same sentence.
Honda hybrids available in Australia
Honda Accord VTi-LX Hybrid
Price: $55,800, plus on-road costs
The Honda Accord VTi-LX Hybrid is currently the only Honda hybrid available in Australia. It’s costly for a sedan, but it does come with an array of special features, including an 8.0-inch multimedia system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto support, satellite navigation, a 10-speaker sound system, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, electronic sunroof, black leather upholstery, heated front seats, wireless smartphone charger, 6.0-inch colour head-up display, keyless entry and a whole bunch more.
Under the bonnet is a two-motor Intelligent Multi Mode Drive (i-MMD) engine, featuring a 2.0-litre, 16-valve engine with greater than 40 per cent thermal efficiency, making it Honda’s most fuel-efficient car in Australia.
The Accord Hybrid also offers three drive modes: EV mode for when you want to be kinder to the planet and exclusively use the battery while driving; Hybrid drive mode, which will have the ICE charging the battery while still giving you electric motor power when you require it for acceleration; and Engine drive mode, which only use the ICE and allows you to accelerate at highway speeds.
Honda PHEVs - ie hybrids that don’t have self-charging batteries and require plugging in to an external power source to charge - first emerged in 1997 with the Honda EV Plus (all-electric driving range: 160km).
A PHEV version of the Honda Accord was also available in the US and Japan from 2013 to 2015, but in Japan it was mainly just leased to corporations and government agencies.
The future of Honda hybrids, PHEVs, EVs and fuel-cell cars
In terms of EVs, Honda announced plans to electrify its entire range by 2040, but new legislation in the EU that involves phasing out ICE vehicles well before that date means that Honda has had to speed-up its plans (“If the rules change, we’ll have no choice but to respond,” said Toshihiro Mibe, President and CEO of Honda Motor).
Honda’s first all-electric SUV, the Honda Prologue EV, hits the US in 2024, with no announcement yet if it will make it to Australian shores.
And despite discontinuing the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell car, Honda has announced it’s not done with hydrogen-powered cars just yet, with plans to develop further models.