Fit EV

WHAT Honda's spacious subcompact -- with seventy miles of electric driving range.
WHEN 2012
BATTLE OF THE BATTERY-POWERED Honda may be withholding the Fit Hybrid from Americans, but a pure-electric version of the small hatchback will reach our shores next year. With a range of seventy miles, the electric Fit makes the perfect foil to the Nissan Leaf. Drivers who take shorter trips can switch to sport mode, which mimics the acceleration of a small car powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder.

Plug-in hybrid
A mid-size vehicle with between ten and fifteen miles of electric range.
WHEN 2012
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY, ALTERNATIVE BODY Honda says the powertrain package can be integrated into any number of mid-size or large vehicles. We'd bet on the technology debuting in a new, unique body.

A small, sporty two-plus-two.
WHEN Mid-2011
ANOTHER 4-0 The Veloster steps into the space vacated by the Tiburon, but -- reflecting the times -- it puts greater emphasis on fuel economy and connectivity. Sized about midway between the Honda CR-Z and the Scion tC, the four-seat Veloster has a single door on the driver's side and two on the passenger's side. (The rear door opens conventionally; it's not rear-hinged.) Under the hood is a direct-injected 1.6-liter four-cylinder (138 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque) mated to either a six-speed manual or a dual-clutch automatic transmission -- the latter gets a 40-mpg highway rating. The audio system features a standard touch screen, Pandora radio (via an iPhone), satellite radio, a video-game console plug-in, and Bluetooth. Hyundai's Blue Link adds a host of additional OnStar-style services for a subscription fee.

What to make of the entry-level, front-wheel-drive, CVT-equipped Etherea hybrid concept? Don't worry; any Infiniti with those kind of credentials would likely be for Europe only. We, however, eventually will receive a front-wheel-drive EV based on Nissan Leaf running gear. With a larger battery, the Infiniti's range should stretch beyond the Leaf's seventy-three miles. To add volume, Infiniti is also planning a conventional crossover that's more practical than the FX.

C'mon VW, drop the Audi five cylinder in the GTI or Golf R.

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