Honda Motor Co it would sell the hybrid version of its popular Honda Fit (Jazz) subcompact for 1.59 million yen ($19,310) in Japan, making it the cheapest gasoline-electric car on the domestic market. The Honda expects to sell about 5,600 units a month. The struggle in the hybrid segment is set to heat up as industry leader Toyota Motor Corp works to expand its line-up to meet growing demand for fuel-efficient cars from drivers around the world.

Honda needs the Honda Fit hybrid to succeed after its last gas-electric model, the Insight, lost out to the third-generation Toyota Prius. After becoming the top-selling model in Japan in April last year, the Honda Insight has mostly fallen below 20th place in domestic car rankings, excluding 660cc microcars and despite generous tax breaks on hybrids.

The Honda Fit hybrid (Jazz) gets 30 km per liter (70.6 mpg) under Japanese testing methods -- equal to the Insight's mileage -- while keeping its signature spacious cabin that has made the gasoline version Fit a perennial top seller. The gasoline-only version, which underwent a partial remodeling, gets 24.5 km/liter.

With the electric motor assisting the 1.3-liter engine, the Honda Fit hybrid gets performance equivalent to a 1.5-liter car, Honda said. It said it has already received pre-orders for about 10,000 Honda Fit hybrids. Honda will launch the Honda Fit hybrid in Europe in 2011. It is also considering selling the Honda Fit hybrid in the United States but said it has not yet decided on the timing of a launch. [via Reuters]

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