By on October 16, 2010

Since the recession, I’ve been paying attention to my finances. I’ve re-negotiated my mobile phone plan, changed gas and electricity suppliers and cut my pay-tv package down. I then started to look at driving costs. I re-negotiated my car insurance, but the real saving was in fuel costs. How do I cut the use of an expensive commodity? I did contemplate changing my little 6 year old Toyota Yaris for a hybrid. Whilst I was doing the math, a story was emailed to me.

The Globe And Mail reports that the Fit (A.K.A. Honda Jazz) hybrid will not be coming to the North American market. The only chance that the Fit Hybrid will come is if fuel prices start to go north again. The logic relates to the pricing. In Japan, the Fit hybrid costs $19,686 (when converted from Japanese Yen). A regular petrol Fit (with automatic gearbox) comes in at around $15,700 (according to Honda US’s website). That represents a premium of $3986. A premium which Honda posits that North American buyers will not be willing to pay.

A regular petrol Fit with an Auto gearbox (which is more efficient than the manual version) gives 35mpg highway. Whereas according to Japanese figures the hybrid Fit will give 30 kilometers to a liter of fuel (works out to be about 71mpg) highway. That’s an extra 36mpg. According to a quick Google search, the average American drives 12,000 miles a year. This means in a regular Fit the average American will use 342.85 gallons of petrol a year. Whereas in a hybrid Fit, they’d use 169.01 gallons. A difference of 173.84 gallons. Now using the AAA’s figures, the average cost of a regular fuel per gallon is $2.834. Which means the average hybrid Fit driver would save $492.66 per year in fuel costs. So to make up the $3986 premium over a regular Fit, you’d have to drive the hybrid Fit for just over 8 years. Seems like Honda has a valid point.

But if fuel costs were to rise to $5 per gallon, the payback time gets cut down to just over 4.5 years. But, on the bright side, emissions will be less, which means cleaner air and less oil would need to be imported, which means the trade deficit would go down. Would that make the $3986 premium worth paying? By you?

I did the same calculations for UK petrol prices (I had to make some assumptions as pricing for the Fit Hybrid wasn’t available in GBP and I used the price of a UK Fit). Anyway, after working all this out, the payback on the “hybrid premium” was just over 5 years. This makes sense as to why Honda is selling it in Europe. However, for me, it made more sense to keep my Yaris. I get 50 mpUKg (with careful driving), it’s already paid off and I don’t have to lash out for a new car. Sometimes the best way to save money is to do nothing!

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17 Comments on “Honda Fit Hybrid. Not NA Bound. It’s All In the Numbers...”

  • avatar

    A CNG kit will reduce emissions too. And they’ll soon (if not already) be available to work on diesel engines.
    And the I’ll keep the Yaris part sounded very Steve-Lang-like

  • avatar

    Another question (and we won’t know for at least a few more years), how well will the battery hold up in the long run?
    -Will it hold up pretty well and get good mileage like the Insight 1 and Civic Hybrid 1?
    -Will it wear out fast but get good mileage like the Civic Hybrid 2?
    -Will it wear out slowly at get mediocre mileage like the post-recall Civic Hybrid 2?
    Similar question wrt CVT durability… will that be built with an oil filter like the CVT in the Civic 2, or inexplicably without on like the Civic 1?

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    The specific numbers may not be ideal but the punch line makes sense to me.  If reducing one’s driving costs is the key consideration, hybrids aren’t (yet) terribly compelling unless one is downsizing from, say, a big SUV.  And if one has a paid-off Yaris, that’s pretty unbeatable.

  • avatar

    The gasoline Fit is a good car. At work (I work for a city) we have a couple and with city-only driving we get around 35 mpg with AT. and i don’t even think employees are trying to hyper-mile with their employer’s cars :)  When I take it out of town on interstates (around 70 mph) I get close to 40 mpg (calculated by gas filled in and actual miles driven). I really like driving that car (I own a Mazda 3, and still don’t mind driving the Fit) and if i was in the market right now, it would be on my list due to its cargo space. At work someone has an old civic, the fit parked next to it, the Fit really is like a Hummer in comparison of size. And it has sooooo much interior space.
    The Honda hybrid drivetrain on the other hand is a joke. If you go hybrid, go all the way like Toyota. We also have a Civic hybrid in our fleet. It doesn’t show accumulated mileage, only instant mileage and I  assume they know why they want to keep that information away. When I drive it in the city, especially stop and go etc. the engine turns on to move the car 5 ft, turns off , no AC and heating when off. Toyota here really has the upper hand and their mileage really shows that a Hybrid needs to be able to run low speed and accessories (i.e. AC) on battery.
    Why anyone buys an Insight (with similar or even less practical space than a Fit) is beyond me. If I pony up the money when I drive many miles, I’d chose the Prius for just $ 2,000 more. Assuming the Fit hybrid will get similar mileage as the Insight (unless they install Toyota drive train), it really isn’t a good choice. Considering cargo space may be sacrificed to fit the battery into a car that wasn’t designed to be a hybrid. Here also Toyota has the upper hand. The Prius was designed to be a hybrid. Every time you make a hybrid out of a car that was designed to be gasoline only, you need to compromise. Like the first cars were based on horse carriages.

  • avatar

    Once again going green takes green. When the conservation equation gets closer to 1 to 1 then not only will it make sense economically but morally. Of course if you really want to save the planet, reduce importation of oil, clean the air and save a bucket of cash then dump the car and find other ways to get around. Move near work. Live in cities where a subway runs under your building. Buy a bicycle.
    I think I’ll take my motorcycle out for a gas wasting adventure in the country.

  • avatar

    The automatic transmission is not actually “more efficient than the manual version”.
    It’s closer to being equally efficient than in most cars, due in part to the unusually large difference in gear ratios, but still not quite as good.  The EPA appears to systemically underestimate the advantage of manual transmissions somehow, which you can confirm by looking at their own driver-reported numbers for pretty much any car with sufficient numbers reporting.
    Also, the fact that it’s a hybrid isn’t the only difference between the Fit we’re used to and the hybrid version.  Most notably the engine is smaller.  Perhaps that too is not so good for the American market.

  • avatar

    “So to make up the $3986 premium over a regular Fit, you’d have to drive the hybrid Fit for just over 8 years.”
    This equation totally ignores the fact that most people sell their cars after four years and Hondas, even hybrids, have a 40-50% 4 year residual. So it’s just about a wash after four years and whether you should go hybrid or not depends on your particular driving style and conscience.
    My wife is in the market for a Fit and was waiting for the hybrid. I’ve now persuaded her that as she only drives 5000 miles a year she’ll save little money or fuel even if they ever do make the hybrid available here.

  • avatar

    Fit is not taller than Insight. It is narrower. And it’s lighter, by far. Of course it’s going to get better mileage, even on the same drivetrain.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Pete: Fit height: 60.0″;  Insight height: 56.2″. From Honda’s website. The Fit weighs less mainly because it doesn’t have the hybrid components; a hybrid Fit would be considerably heavier. The Fit and Insight share platforms, but the Insight’s body is substantially lower and more aerodynamic to improve efficiency.

  • avatar

    Hard to believe that a hybrid Fit would get 71 mpg or anywhere near that figure when all the other current Honda hybrids are in the 40-50 mpg range . Color me very, very skeptical on that number .

  • avatar

    I have two big problems with this article. First it compares the price of a Japanese hybrid Fit with the price of a US non hybrid Fit. Wouldn’t it be more logical to compare it with a Japanese non hybrid Fit. It would leave out the problem of different mark-ups and the exchange rate. Second point is that it compare the Hybrid Fit Japanese mpg with the EPA mpg of the non hybrid. But it is common knowledge that the Japanese cycle gives a better MPG than the EPA cycle.

    ps I can’t read Japanese but the difference between the cheapest Fit and the cheapest hybrid is $4400, but that obvious contains other differences than only the hybrid drive. The second cheapest looks to be closer to the hybrid and its difference is $3000

    • 0 avatar
      Cammy Corrigan

      While, I appreciate that the figures weren’t ideal, I used an American Fit because I was trying to keep the comparision as close to the United States as possible. If I’d have used a Japanese Fit, Then the whole comparison would be related to Japan and not the United States.
      Also, as you’ve answered yourself, comparing the Japanese fit makes the problem even worse and the hybrid premium is even bigger (according to the source article the figure is closer to $4,800). But it’s not too big an assumption that if the Hybrid Fit did come to NA, it’d priced with a similar premium to the NA non-hybrid Fit. Hence, the pay-back will be years off.
      This comparison hinges on an exchange rate because I’m trying to understand why Honda won’t bring the car to NA. If the car was in NA, a major point of the article would be gone.

  • avatar

    Cammy, when you drive a Yaris, especially if its paid for, your “big savings” will not be fuel costs.  Your car is already reliable, most likely paid for, and gets pretty great gas mileage.  The only reason to buy a hybrid is for image, and if you are trying to cut costs… dropping the image is the “big savings”.

  • avatar

    Hybrids are for stupid people, social followers, spiritually lost souls looking for something to believe in, and those with a vested political or economic interest.

    The only exception is someone who drives taxicab miles all in town.

    • 0 avatar

      So who is a Porsche 911 for?  Or a F-350 Harley Davidson?
      All cars, save possibly the Toyota Corolla and it’s ilk, are for people looking to make a statement, so why are hybrids any more scorn-worthy?

    • 0 avatar

      tparkit says: Hybrids are for stupid people, social followers, spiritually lost souls looking for something to believe in, and those with a vested political or economic interest.
      LOL – I got tired of feeding my Merc. CL coupe 2+ gallons of premium for my 30 mile daily commute.  Got a Prius for primarily that reason.  I still have the CL coupe for the grand-touring role for which it is sublimely well-suited.  So what am I?  Stupid, or spiritually lost?

  • avatar

    The Fit is on my list as one of the most revolutionary cars of all time… and it’s still a cracker to drive, even in the watered-down second generation.

    30 km/l isn’t too much to expect out of a Fit hybrid. Manual transmission small-engined models (available in Japan) can already get over 23 km/l (54 mpg) in daily driving… and 30 km/l isn’t unheard of in hypermiling.

    The adjustments to the platform for hybridizing won’t be too much. They’ll have to ditch the ULT seat folding system and possibly replace the full-sized spare with some fix-a-flat, but the Fit hybrid will still have tons more cargo space than any other hatchback in its class. The front-mounted fuel tank of the Fit makes it a much better platform for hybrid conversion than anything else out there.

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