2010 Honda Insight - Priced To Prevail
|Topics: Honda Insight
3 August 2009
Honda and Toyota pioneered the hybrid-powertrain business in the U.S. market, with the Insight two-seater and the original Prius sedan. Both debuted at the turn of the 21st century. Honda halted production of the original Insight after the 2006 model year, and Toyota's midsize Prius is now entering its third generation as a 2010 model.
Honda advises that some design elements of the very new 2010 Insight were carried over from the original Insight model, particularly in the side profile, while the front-end relates to the company's FCX Clarity fuel-cell vehicle. Built on a 100.4-inch wheelbase, the Insight weighs 2,723 pounds. Five occupants fit inside, along with 15.9 cubic feet of cargo. Fold-down 60/40-split rear seats provide a configurable seating and cargo area.
In the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system, Honda's 1.3-liter i-VTEC (intelligent variable valve timing) four-cylinder gasoline engine produces 98 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. Powered by nickel-metal-hydride batteries that deliver 100.8 volts, the electric motor/generator is rated at 13 horsepower and 10 kilowatts. Every Insight has a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and rolls on 15-inch tires. EX models have paddle shifters at the steering wheel. While accelerating and in certain cruising situations, the electric motor adds power to the gas engine's output. To boost mileage, the IMA system also provides cylinder deactivation while decelerating, and an idle-stop feature when the car is stationary.
An Ecological Drive Assist System, dubbed Eco Assist, can optimize vehicle operation in accord with driving conditions, and also provide feedback related to the individual driver's style. Pushing the dashboard ECON button enhances throttle control, CVT operation, idle-stop duration, and air-conditioner operation'all to extract the most distance from every drop of fuel.
Front-seat side-impact airbags and side-curtain airbags are standard. Antilock braking incorporates electronic brake-force distribution. All Insights are equipped with power door locks and windows, automatic climate control, manual driver's-seat height adjustment, and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. EX models add Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, as well as heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, variable-speed wipers, cruise control, and alloy wheels. Only the EX model may be equipped with a navigation system.
Slipping into the Insight isn't so different from getting behind the wheel of a Civic Hybrid. Front-seat space is ample, on satisfying seats that include helpful side bolstering. Rear seats are less roomy, with scant headroom due to the roof profile. Foot space is acceptable, but legroom is marginal. Short seat bottoms aren't the most inviting. Rear-seat entry demands substantial head ducking and a twist, though getting into the front is fuss-free.
Pleasantly refined overall, the Insight handles with a degree of agility. Acceleration is hybrid-appropriate: hardly startling, but wholly adequate. Paddle shifters on the EX provide a selection of simulated "gears," but they're not really needed. Quiet all around, the Insight emits only a little CVT-related engine blare while accelerating, and it's a refined sound. Idle-stop works fine, shutting off the engine as the car eases to a halt. But in normal driving, it starts again as soon as you let up on the brake. Air-conditioner airflow typically shrinks to a trickle when the engine shuts off.
Indicators that flank the high-mounted digital speedometer change from blue to green, to reflect how efficiently the driver is accelerating or braking. A needle-type Charge/Assist gauge next to the large tachometer displays comparable information. Drivers can also track their frugal-driving "Eco Score" on a Multi-Information Display.
Gas mileage, though impressive, falls short of Toyota's Prius figures. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives the Insight a fuel-economy estimate of 40 mpg in city driving and 43 mpg on the highway. Achieving 40 mpg in normal driving isn't difficult. Toyota's 2010 Prius earns an estimate of 51 mpg in the city and 48 mpg in highway driving.
Prices start at $19,800 (plus a $670 destination charge) for an Insight LX. The EX edition costs $1,500 more, and an EX with navigation goes for $23,770. As a comparison, Toyota's redesigned 2010 Prius starts at $21,750 for the basic model, but the version expected to be most popular will sticker for $22,750. Honda's own Civic Hybrid sedan starts at a loftier $24,320.
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