2010 Honda Insight: Hybrid big on electronics and economy
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Already competing at the highest levels of the fuel economical automobile niche, Honda has gone hybrid with the second-generation Insight. The Hybrid Insight is Honda’s first production vehicle to feature the manufacturer’s Integrated Motor Assist system, and revamps the three-door hatchback Insight produced and sold until 2008 .
Base priced under $20,000, it is arguably the least-expensive hybrid vehicle sold in the United States.
The five-passenger, five-door dedicated hybrid vehicle is powered by an Integrated Motor Assist™ system comprised of a 1.3-liter i-VTEC® gasoline engine and a 10-kilowatt electric motor that together contribute to an EPA-estimated city/highway fuel economy rating of 40/43 miles per gallon. The Insight features the Ecological Drive Assist System (Eco Assist™), an innovation that can further enhance efficient vehicle operation while providing feedback related to individual driving styles.
Externally, Insight utilizes design elements from the original 2000 version and blends in an aerodynamic side profile and sleekness. Measuring 172.3 inches long, 66.7 inches high and 66.7 inches wide, Insight does wobble a bit in turns due to a high center of gravity, but as 58 percent of its 2734-lb. curb weight is up front, the ride seems substantial.
The three major aspects to the insight story are its price, its fuel economy – projected by the EPA at 40/43 – and its hybrid engine.
Addressing the power set-up, Insight is propelled by a 4-cylinder engine with intelligent variable valve timing, which forms the foundation of the IMA hybrid system along with a DC brushless electric motor. Positioned in-line between the engine and the transmission, the electric motor adds power during acceleration and in certain cruising situations, and recaptures energy from the vehicle's forward momentum during braking (regenerative braking). The system puts out 98 hp (includes electric motor assist of 13 hp) and 123 lbs.-ft. of torque (includes electric motor assist of 58 lbs.-ft.)
Obviously, acceleration is not an Insight strong point, and my tests confirmed that as I was only able to coax the vehicle from zero to 60mph in 11 seconds flat while the quarter-mile took 18 seconds.
On the highway, passing has to be strategized, but braking is solid and secure. There is evidence of rear wobble in turns and on curves as one would expect from a car weighted at 58-42 (up front-to-rear percentages). Oversteer is also readily apparent but the car is dependably controllable.
Since economy is the key to Insight, a look at the hybrid system shows that it has the capability to operate exclusively on electric power in certain low- to mid-speed cruising conditions. It can also provide cylinder deactivation during deceleration and an idle-stop feature when the vehicle is stationary. Additionally, Honda’s new Eco Assist helps drivers optimize fuel efficiency for their given set of driving conditions and the Eco Assist provides feedback about driving style via a 3D-appearing background within the speedometer.
With a 10.6-gallon fuel tank, the Insight delivers an estimated maximum driving range exceeding 400 miles. My week of tests backed that up, as 500 miles of mixed-use tests yielded an average of 41.1mpg.
Inside my Tango Red test Insight is a surprisingly roomy Gray interior that provides 38.4 inches of front headroom with 35.9 inches in row two; 42.3 inches of front legroom and 33.5 in the second set of seats and 52.7 inches of shoulder room in row one with 50.4 inches in the rear seats.
Interior sightlines are excellent and controls are well laid out and intuitive. With a few upgrades, the ride experience exceeds that of what one might expect from an under-$20,000-base-priced vehicle.
Single-zone automatic air-conditioning is standard, as are an auxiliary jack, tilt and telescope steering column; manual driver's seat height adjustment; power windows; a four-speaker AM/FM audio system with CD player and auxiliary audio input for external digital music players.
Safety-wise Insight comes standard with dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags; front-side airbags with a passenger-side Occupant Position Detection System; side-curtain airbag system; anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution; driver's and front-passenger's active head restraints and a front body designed to mitigate pedestrian injuries. All new Insights also feature Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ body structure, which provides improved frontal-crash compatibility between vehicles of different size and ride height.
The Base Insight starts at $19,800 plus destination and handling of $780. My test 5-door CVT test ride was upgraded with navigation and brought base to $23,100 plus destination charges, but there were also incentives available that brought the cost down to $22,789 before add-ons. Front and rear underbody spoilers for the performance and style crowd were $345 each; body side molding added $200; Sirius\XM satellite radio was $175; leather steering wheel cover added $65; carpeted floor mats were $104 and USB audio interface was $125 for a total price of $25,168, but with incentives bottom line was 24,089.
At under $25,000 for a 40mpg hybrid with all the electronics included, Honda seems to have real insight into what the public will consider buying in 2010.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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