For all the wrong reasons...We've already written about the new 2015 Honda Fit hybrid, but the regular gasoline Fit is also interesting. It has an idle-stop, or stop-start system that turns off the engine when the car is stopped, and restarts it whenever the driver steps off the brakes. This technology has proven its worth for saving fuel in city driving over the years, yet Honda has decided not to bring it to North-America. That's right, the rest of the world gets the fuel saving technology, but not North-Americans.
Why? Well, that's the sad part. I don't believe that Honda has very good reasons for making Americans burn more fuel... They told Automotive News that the extra split second it takes for the engine to re-start (it's very quick, usually by the time you move your foot from the brake pedal to the gas pedal, it's done) is somehow too much for drivers to accept.
Nobuhiko Shishido, a lead powertrain engineer for the new Fit, said that in the United States, where speed and power rule, stop-start systems mean small cars will be left in the dust.
They "will lose at stoplights to V-6s," Shishido said at a recent Fit preview.
Really? I think if you're buying a Fit, you probably care more about fuel economy than about racing against Mustangs at red lights...
There also is a marketing problem because the EPA's fuel economy testing cycle doesn't give extra credit to stop-start systems. So even though their real-world performance is better than their official mpg rating, they are a hard sell.
That's just a marketing problem. It shouldn't matter more than giving a better, more economical and environmentally-friendly product to your customers! Honda could even make ads with this, saying: "It might not show up on the MPG sticker, but our new Fit saves you more gas than the equivalent car from the competition."
And stop-start has other idiosyncrasies. For example, the air conditioner compressor turns off during the stop phase. While the system continues to blow cool air, it's not quite as cool as full-blown air conditioning.
That could easily be solved by having a way to turn off the stop-start system on very, very hot days. The rest of the time, it shouldn't matter much if you have a few seconds of slightly warmer air...
Honda, we really like what you've done with the new Fit and Fit hybrid. It's an innovative, frugal car with a lot of interior space. But please, bring stop-start over to North-America and be a leader. Other carmakers will probably follow suit and also bring stop-start over, saving everybody a lot of gas.