2010 Honda Insight Preview

FAST FACTS
  • Five-door, 5-passenger hatchback with split-folding rear seat
  • More compact, more cost-effective, next-generation Integrated Motor Assist system
  • New Eco Assist technology helps driver "learn" how to maximize fuel economy
  • Honda says the 2010 Insight will be priced "significantly below" other hybrid models
  • Base and EX models available, the latter offered with an optional navigation system
  • Fuel economy ratings are 40 mpg city and 43 mpg highway
  • Driving range is 400 city miles
  • Built in Suzuka, Japan
  • On sale in April of 2009
  • Honda expects 100,000 sales annually in North America

Introduction

While the world worried about a complete technology collapse in the months leading to the start of Y2K and consumers fervently snapped up full-size, gas-guzzling SUVs while the snapping up was good, Honda introduced the odd little Insight, an aerodynamically-shaped 2-seat hatchback equipped with a new-fangled hybrid powertrain. Sold in paltry numbers, the original Insight was the first hybrid gasoline/electric vehicle available to American consumers, a car aimed at forward-thinking commuters who didn't need to carry many people or much stuff at anything more than double-digit speeds. The last of those first Insights was sold for the 2006 model year. By then, Honda had begun steering eco-conscious buyers to the larger, more practical, 5-passenger Civic Sedan.

For 2010, however, the Insight returns, looking much like a Toyota Prius, which has eclipsed Honda's hybrid efforts in both sales and consumer recognition. This redesigned 2010 Honda Insight benefits from important packaging and cost reductions, allowing for a roomier interior and a lower price tag than might be expected. According to Honda, when the new 2010 Insight goes on sale in April of 2009, it "will come to market at a price significantly below that of hybrids available today" and will be "the best value in its segment." Honda also promises that the new Insight "will provide the quintessential Honda driving experience-fun, performance and practicality."


Model Lineup

The 2010 Honda Insight is available in standard or EX trim. Standard equipment includes automatic climate control; power windows, door locks and side mirrors; tilt and telescopic steering wheel; and a 160-watt audio system with MP3 audio playback and an auxiliary input jack. The Insight EX adds split-spoke alloy wheels, cruise control, 6-speaker audio system, USB port, paddle shifters, and a stability control system. A navigation system is optional on the Insight EX.


Design

Dictated by aerodynamics, the 2010 Honda Insight's styling is thematically similar to the ground-breaking 2004 Toyota Prius. Honda, however, prefers to liken the new Insight to its and reminds us that it pioneered the hybrid shape with the original Insight.

Exhibiting a graceful arc from front to rear, the Insight includes design details such as split-panel tailgate glass, triangular wrap-around taillights, and turn signal indicators integrated into the side mirror housings. Split-spoke alloy wheels are standard on EX models.

Inside, controls are clustered around the steering wheel with a main central knob responsible for adjusting the most commonly used features. A two-tiered gauge cluster with a digital speedometer in a "heads-up" position is similar to today's Civic, and there's plenty of space on the instrument panel for the Insight EX's optional navigation system. The Insight features five seating positions and includes a split-folding rear seat with nesting rear head restraints for added utility and cargo-toting ability.

Hardware

The 2010 Honda Insight, like the Civic Hybrid, will pair a small-displacement gasoline engine with the automaker's next-generation Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) technology. In this case, the engine is a 1.3-liter gasoline-fired four-cylinder assisted by a single 13-horsepower electric motor. Honda's next-generation IMA allows the Insight to operate on electric power alone under certain low- and mid-speed conditions, unlike previous iterations of the technology. It also includes cylinder deactivation technology, which shuts down cylinders when decelerating to save fuel. According to Honda, the 2010 Insight has been rated by the EPA at 40 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway. Combined with a 10.6-gallon fuel tank, that translates to a city range of 400 miles or better.

Safety

Despite the 2010 Insight's comparatively low price, Honda hasn't skimped on safety features. It is constructed using Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) philosophy, which focuses not only on occupant protection but also minimizing injury for pedestrians. The Insight's standard feature list includes dual front, dual side-impact, and side curtain air bags, as well as ABS with electronic brake-force distribution. Stability control comes standard on the Insight EX.

Technology

By depressing the green ECON button on the 2010 Honda Insight's dashboard, the driver activates the automaker's new Ecological Drive Assist System (Eco Assist). This new fuel-saving, driver-activated technology optimizes the continuously variable transmission, the gasoline-burning engine, the electric-assist components, and power-sapping features like the air conditioning to improve fuel economy. When driven in ECON mode, the Insight's idle-stop feature also engages sooner and the regenerative brakes recharge the battery pack faster.

Eco Assist helps the driver learn to maximize MPGs with a real-time feedback function tied to the speedometer background color as well as through an economy scoring function. With the real-time speedometer feature, the background color changes from blue to green the more efficiently the Insight is driven. The economy scoring function charts cumulative, long-term fuel efficiency compared to individual trip fuel efficiency with graphic depictions of leaves that grow over time. In either case, the greener the display the more efficient is the Insight's driver.