Concept-Honda Insight Preview

FAST FACTS
  • All-new, dedicated hybrid vehicle
  • Four-door hatchback body style
  • Styling cues shared with fuel-cell vehicle
  • Priced below other available hybrids
  • Exclusive vehicle architecture
  • Front-wheel drive (FWD)
  • On sale in spring of 2009

Introduction

Honda introduced its first hybrid, the Insight, for the 2000 model year. The 2-door hatchback remained in the automaker's lineup through the 2006 model year but never really caught on with American consumers due to its limited passenger and cargo carrying capacity. For 2010, Honda will reintroduce the Insight as a small 4-door hatchback with a price of about $20,000, below other hybrids, Honda says, including the Honda Civic Hybrid, which starts at about $23,500. The Insight will be America's second dedicated hybrid model-the Toyota Prius is the only other model that comes only with a hybrid powerplant. Standard and optional equipment for the 2010 Honda Insight hasn't been announced, and it is not known if the Insight will come in more than one trim level.

The first glimpse of the Insight came at the 2008 Paris Motor Show in October in the form of the Insight Concept Hybrid. The production car will be shown at Detroit's North American International Auto Show in January, then go on sale as a 2010 model in the spring of 2009. Honda expects 100,000 sales per year in the North American market. The Insight will be built at Honda's Suzuka, Japan plant, alongside the Honda Civic Hybrid.

Design

The Insight will use its own vehicle architecture, and it should be smaller than both the Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius. An aerodynamic body shape will aid fuel economy, as will the lightweight all-aluminum body structure. Honda says the Insight will have a low center of gravity for a pleasant driving experience. The automaker also says the 5-passenger cabin and split-folding rear seats will make the Insight useful for active lifestyle customers who need to tote passengers and cargo.

Hardware

The Insight Concept features the production model's more cost-efficient version of Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system. The new system is smaller and weighs less. Honda says it has improved its production system to reduce the cost of the hybrid system. The company also says the car will come with a function to assist drivers develop more fuel-efficient driving habits. The IMA system will aid propulsion and turn the 1.3-liter gasoline engine off at stoplights. It is not known if the engine will have three or four cylinders. Previous Honda hybrid systems have not been able to run on electricity alone, and we don't expect this version to, either.