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by Tim Beissmann

Honda Australia is overhauling its hybrid car line-up, confirming plans to introduce the Accord Hybrid before the middle of the year and axing ageing petrol-electric models such as the CR-Z and Civic Hybrid.

Honda Australia public relations manager Melissa Cross confirmed the local division is currently running out its hybrid range ahead of the introduction of new “Hybrid Sport” models from its ‘Earth Dreams Technology’ portfolio.

Cross said the first of these new models will be the Accord Hybrid, which will reach our shores in the second quarter of the year.

The petrol-electric sedan – which will compete with the locally-built Toyota Camry Hybrid – will be followed by the NSX hybrid supercar that’s headed our way in 2016.

“This new [Hybrid Sport] technology is significantly more advanced than what has been available in the past and will provide an outstanding driving experience,” Cross said.

2016-acura-nsx

The new-generation Jazz Hybrid also remains part of Honda Australia’s plan, but the local division does not have a guide on launch timing for that model at this stage.

The changing of the guard means Honda – a pioneer of hybrid technology in Australia and a long-time advocate of the fuel-saving technology – will for the next few months have no new hybrid models readily available in its showrooms.

The CR-Z compact sports coupe, the MY13 Civic Hybrid small sedan and the previous-generation Jazz Hybrid hatchback have all been removed from Honda Australia’s public website. Dealers have been informing customers that they are no longer ordering any new stock of the trio and can sell only what remains in dealerships.

The decision to discontinue the hybrid models comes just 11 months after Honda cut its only other hybrid, the compact Insight hatchback, from its local range due to poor sales.

2015 Honda Accord Hybrid EX-L

The Honda Accord Hybrid was unveiled midway through 2013 and later launched into the North American market for which it was primarily designed.

The mid-sized model teams a 105kW/165Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle petrol engine with a 124kW electric propulsion motor, an electric generator motor and a 1.3kWh lithium-ion battery for a combined power output of 146kW.

An automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) sends power to the front wheels and returns combined cycle fuel consumption of 5.0 litres per 100 kilometres based on the US testing cycle – making it 34 per cent more frugal than the regular Accord (based on the same US standards) that’s powered by a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.

The Accord Hybrid shifts between three distinct drive modes: EV drive (100 per cent electric motor), hybrid drive (electric motor and petrol engine [driving the generator motor]), and engine drive (100 per cent petrol engine).

Local specifications and pricing will be confirmed closer to launch, but prospective customers should expect to pay a slight premium over the regular Accord, which costs $33,990 before on-road costs in entry VTi-S trim and $41,490 in VTi-L grade.

honda-cr-z-1

The CR-Z would conceivably appear to fit into Honda’s “Hybrid Sport” range, though the writing has been on the wall for that model for some time.

The local division decided to stick with the CR-Z at the beginning of 2014 when the slow-selling model was dropped from showrooms in Europe and the UK, but it was on the chopping block by August when Honda Australia director Stephen Collins admitted the company was “evaluating [its] CR-Z long-term strategy”.

Sales of the CR-Z peaked at 370 in its first full year on sale (2012) but plummeted to just 58 in 2013 following a range restructure that saw its entry price rise to $38,490.

The tally crept up to 86 last year, though that figure included 34 sales in July when dealers were encouraged to clear ageing stock.




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