Although Honda was first to the mass-market with its Insight hybrid in the U.S., the tiny form-factor made it less than practical for most buyers. Consequently, Toyota's Prius ran off with the hybrid crown when it came along with seating for five. The Honda Civic hybrid has been making some inroads, but its similar price and slightly lower efficiency have held it back. Now Honda's going back to the small-hybrid idea with its global hybrid concept.

Expected to go on sale in 2009, the new hybrid will be smaller than the civic, and will cost roughly two-thirds as much. In Europe, that will translate to a price of €16,000 to €20,000 compared to the Civic Hybrid's starting price of €23,800. Honda hopes to bring sales of hybrids up to a full 10 percent of total car sales by 2010, and this new small hybrid should account for 200,000 units annually. Half of the new car's production will be sent to the U.S., a quarter to Europe with the rest to be divided amongst the remainder of the globe.

Those sales goals are somewhat optimistic, considering combined sales of Toyota's Prius and the Civic Hybrid barely topped 42,000 cars in 2007, according to Automotive News. However its lower price, the increasing popularity of hybrids, stricter emissions laws and the likelihood of more congestion charges like London's recently enacted £25 daily fee, 50,000 units may not be so far from the mark. The new smaller hybrid has a possible goal of sliding under the 100g/km CO2 mark. That figure equates to a combined cycle fuel efficiency of 4.2L/100km, or 56mpg US/67mpg Imperial.

Honda envisions the small global hybrid as part of a three-car range starting with the newest addition, with the Civic Hybrid in the middle and topped with a new hybrid based on the CR-Z concept (pictured). A company spokesman says all three models will be on sale by 2011, and the company expects hybrids to account for 400,000 to 500,000 of the company's sales each year.