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By Peter Lyon.

Never mind the fast and the furious - two Japanese firms are set to enter the race to save fuel! According to our sources, Honda is secretly planning a new hybrid edition of the Civic Type R, using the firm's proven IMA system. The frugal newcomer should be available by 2007 and will have an all-new platform, but remain front-wheel drive.

However, Honda won't have things all its own way, because Toyota is developing a radical new hybrid concept, tipped to debut at October's Tokyo Motor Show. The two-seater coupé, which draws inspiration from the Fine-S concept unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show in January, is the first high-performance hybrid the company has built. And it could lead to a new flagship for the forthcoming Celica range due in 2005.

Uniquely, the all-wheel-drive car has a 1.4-litre 100bhp engine to drive the front axle, and a 150bhp electric motor to power the wheels at the rear. The AWD system is inspired by the Hybrid Mild set-up, which first appeared on the Estima Hybrid. However, the unit has been miniaturised for the concept, and insiders believe it should be as quick as a Subaru Impreza.

The key challenge for engineers working on both projects will be reducing the scale and weight of the electric motors and batteries. Currently, the size of battery required to produce 150bhp from an electric motor is prohibitive. Meanwhile, as well as hybrid power, Honda is also lining the Civic up for its first major facelift. On sale from November, the restyle affects three and five-door editions. An even hotter Type R edition is in the pipeline, too. It will be built in Swindon, and is expected to cost the same as the current machine.

Gabriel,
2001 CL Type S
2001 Lexus RX300 Silversport
 

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I hope it's not as ugly as the current crop of hybrid and electric cars... I know the battery size has a lot to do with the look of these cars, but I have a hard time believing someone can't make one look better.


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