Also showcased Honda Meeting 2012 was a new diesel engine targeted for the European market. Kawabata thought the new model was unusually light and responsive and says Japanese users, who are used to gasoline engines, will have no trouble liking it. The engineers talked about how this agile and refreshingly fun diesel engine came into being and the possibility of its introduction in Japan.
Kawabata The new diesel car that I test-drove was zippy around the test course. It was very different from the sluggish feel of diesel models by European manufacturers. Today I came to the interview all pumped up to find out whether Honda is going to release a diesel model in Japan. But first, please tell me what led to the creation of this light and sporty diesel engine.
Yamano Our goal was exactly that—to develop a light, sporty diesel car. In Japan, diesel has a strong reputation for being heavy, for not accelerating very fast, for being sluggish. But in Europe, the impression of diesel as sporty is already well established. We wanted to express sportiness with a responsive engine. That was our development concept. We achieved the lightest-in-class engine to date by not only downsizing from 2.2 L to 1.6 L but also redesigning each part. Adopting an aluminum open-deck block and other weight reduction technologies helped us cut more than 50 kilograms. Also, by using low-friction design for better fuel efficiency and a smaller turbocharger, we vastly improved the throttle response. With a lighter car body, I think we did a good job of creating that light driving feel.
Kawabata European diesel cars seems to have a narrow sweet spot where acceleration feels good. The new Honda diesel, on the other hand, seemed to have a wider sweet area that stretched from low engine speeds to high. Smaller displacement is one reason for the lighter feel. Why did you reduce the displacement in this vehicle from 2.2 L to 1.6 L?
Yamano With Europe as a whole shifting to smaller cars, 2.2 L was a little too big. That and 1.6 L is the standard displacement in Europe, so 1.6 L reflects our resolve to jump into the fray so to speak.
Kawabata So that's Honda's way of saying it is targeting the core market in Europe, then. Is there anything special that Honda is doing to compete?
Yamano It's not like we have any tricks up our sleeves. We look at each and every part and design it to be as light as possible. By doing that we try to reduce the weight of the engine and improve its throttle response. We decided to try to differentiate ourselves by going for a gasoline engine-like feel.
Also, this engine can work successfully in the small-sized class, which hasn't included many diesel variants so far. So we hope to expand its application to many other models.
Kawabata You implied that Europe is where it's at in terms of diesel, but such good responsiveness is something drivers who are used to gasoline engines can warm up to. I think this could be competitive in the Japanese market as well.
Yamano At the recent Honda Meeting, we heard a lot of journalists asking us to release a diesel model in Japan soon. Unfortunately we still don't have a specific plan, but once the demand is there, we're technologically prepared to release it in Japan at any time.
Ishibashi Earth Dreams Technology is a very broad set of technologies. For example, our mini-vehicle engine is only for Japan, and our diesel engine is targeted at Europe. Since we're developing products that are tailored to each region, gaps in release timing are inevitable. Rather than hurrying to promote these technologies all at once, we think it's better to promote them in a grassroots fashion so word spreads around the world slowly but surely. In that sense, the diesel engine has a very important role to play in getting Earth Dreams Technology to take root in Europe.
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