Honda Insight

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Honda Insight
ManufacturerHonda
Production1999–2006
2008–present
Model years2000–2006
2010–
AssemblySuzuka, Mie, Japan
ClassSubcompact car (2000–2006)
Compact car (2010–present)
Body style3-door hatchback (2000–2006)
5-door hatchback (2010–present)
LayoutFront-engine, front-wheel drive
 
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Honda Insight
ManufacturerHonda
Production1999–2006
2008–present
Model years2000–2006
2010–
AssemblySuzuka, Mie, Japan
ClassSubcompact car (2000–2006)
Compact car (2010–present)
Body style3-door hatchback (2000–2006)
5-door hatchback (2010–present)
LayoutFront-engine, front-wheel drive

The Honda Insight is a hybrid electric vehicle manufactured by Honda and the first production vehicle to feature Honda's Integrated Motor Assist system. The first-generation Insight was produced from 1999 to 2006 as a three-door hatchback.[1][2]

Honda introduced the second-generation Insight to its home market of Japan in February 2009. The car went on sale in the United States on March 24, 2009.[3] At $19,800 as a five-door hatchback it is the least expensive hybrid available in the US.[4] In December 2010, Honda introduced a less expensive base model for the 2011 model year priced US$18,200. The Insight was launched April 2009 in the UK as the most affordable hybrid on the market with a starting price from £15,490, which was more than £2,000 lower than other hybrids, and became the best selling hybrid for the month.[5][6]

Honda's Insight, billed as the cheapest petrol-electric hybrid on the market, ranked as the top-selling vehicle in Japan for the month of April 2009, the first time a hybrid has clinched that spot.[7] During its first twelve months after first available in the Japanese market, the second-generation Insight sold 143,015 units around the world.[8]

Contents

First generation (1999–2006)

First generation (ZE1)
ProductionDecember 1999–September 2006
Model years2000–2006
AssemblyTochigi, Japan (1999-2004)
Suzuka, Mie, Japan (2004-2006)
SuccessorHonda Insight (second generation)
Honda CR-Z
ClassSubcompact car
Body style3-door hatchback
EngineHonda Hybrid System
Gasoline: 1 L ECA series I3 (995 cc/60.7 cu in) lean-burn 12-valve SOHC
67 hp (50 kW)
Electric: 144 V
10 kW (13 hp)
ULEV/SULEV
Transmission5-speed manual
CVT (2001–2006)
Wheelbase2,400 mm (94 in)
Length3,945 mm (155.3 in)
Width1,695 mm (66.7 in)
Height1,355 mm (53.3 in)
Curb weightManual w/o AC 838 kg (1,850 lb)
Manual w/ AC 852 kg (1,880 lb)
CVT w/ AC 891 kg (1,960 lb)

History

Based on the Honda J-VX concept car unveiled at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show, the Insight was first introduced in Japan in November 1999 [9] as the first production vehicle to feature Honda's Integrated Motor Assist system. In the following month, December 1999, Insight became the first hybrid available in North America, beating Toyota's Prius by seven months.[10]

It featured optimized aerodynamics and a lightweight aluminum structure to maximize fuel efficiency and minimize emissions. The 2000 Insight ranks as the most efficient United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified gasoline-fueled vehicle ever, with a highway rating of 61 miles per US gallon (3.9 L/100 km; 73 mpg-imp) and combined city/highway rating of 53 miles per US gallon (4.4 L/100 km; 64 mpg-imp).[11]

Design

Honda Insight rear

The Honda Insight is a subcompact hatchback 3,945 mm (155.3 in) in length with a wheelbase of 2,400 mm (94.5 in) a height of 1,355 mm (53.3 in) and a width of 1,695 mm (66.7 in). The first-generation Insight was only produced as a two-seater. The model launched with only a single trim level: manual transmission with optional air conditioning. In the second year of production two trim levels were available: manual transmission with air conditioning, and continuously variable transmission (CVT) with air conditioning. The only major change during its life span was the introduction of a trunk mounted, front controlled, multiple-disc CD changer.

In addition to the hybrid drive system, the Insight was small, built of light materials and streamlined with a drag-coefficient of 0.25.

In Japan, 2000-2002 models carried a front white Taurus-shaped grille.[citation needed] Later models did not have a grille.

Technology

Honda Insight IMA

The gasoline engine is a 67 hp (50 kW; 68 PS), 1.0 litre, ECA series 3-cylinder unit providing lean burn operation with an air-to-fuel ratio that can reach 25.8 to 1.[12] The engine utilizes lightweight aluminum, magnesium, and plastic to minimize weight.[13] The electrical motor assist adds another 10 kW (13 hp) and a maximum of 36 pound-feet (49 Nm) of torque when called on, with the aim to boost performance to the level of a typical 1.5L petrol engine.[14] It also acts as a generator during deceleration and braking to recharge the vehicle's batteries, and as the Insight's starter motor.[13] (This improves fuel efficiency and extends the lifetime and fade resistance of the brakes, without adding unsprung weight). When the car is not moving, for example, at a stop light, the engine shuts off.[14] Power steering is electric, reducing accessory drag.[14]

The Insight uses the first generation of Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid technology. (The next generation, used in the Honda Civic Hybrid, is much more space-efficient.) The Insight's electric assist is an ultrathin (about 2.5 inches) brushless 10-kW electric motor located on the crankshaft.[15] Located behind the seats are a series of commercial grade "D" sized NiMH batteries wired to provide a nominal 144 V DC. During heavy acceleration, the NiMH batteries drive the electric motor, providing additional power; during deceleration, the motor acts as a generator and recharges the batteries using a process called regenerative braking. A computer control module regulates how much power comes from the internal combustion engine, and how much from the electric motor; in the CVT variant, it also finds the optimal gear ratio. The digital displays on the dashboard display fuel consumption instantaneously. On the manual transmission up and down arrows suggest when to shift gears. Dashboard gauges monitor the current battery status, instantaneous fuel consumption, and mode of the electric motor — standby, engine assist or charging the batteries. High pressure, low rolling resistance tires and the use of low viscosity "0W-20" synthetic oil also enhance fuel economy.

The original Insight had a conventional manual transmission. Starting with the 2001 model, a CVT variant of the Insight was available; the CVT is similar to that used in the Honda Civic Hybrid and the Honda Logo. A traditional transmission shifts between a fixed set of engine-to-wheel ratios; however, a CVT allows for an infinite set of ratios between its lowest gear and its highest. A feature shared by the two hybrids (and now appearing in others) is the ability to automatically turn off the engine when the vehicle is at a stop (and restart it upon movement). Since it is more powerful than most starters of conventional cars, the Insight's electric motor can start the engine nearly instantaneously. The Integrated Motor Assist is run by an "Intelligent Power Unit (IPU)", a desktop computer-sized box. The Intelligent Power Unit, the Power control Unit, the Electronic Control Unit, the vehicle's batteries, converter and a high-voltage inverter are all located under the cargo floor of the vehicle, behind the seats.[15]

One key in increasing the vehicle's fuel efficiency was reducing the mass via the extensive use of aluminum and plastic. Both the body and the frame are lightened over conventional vehicles by the use of aluminum. Honda achieved a body weight less than half that of the contemporary Civic 3-door, but simultaneously increased torsional rigidity by 38% and bending rigidity by 13%.[14] Honda built the Insight with aluminum front brake calipers and rear brake drums, and with a largely aluminum suspension, in addition to standard aluminum wheels; all these reduced the ratio of un-sprung to sprung weight as well as the total weight. (This may have been needed to compensate for the bouncy ride of the high pressure low friction tires.) The fuel tank is plastic; the engine mounts were aluminum; and the exhaust is a small, thin wall pipe.[15] Even the compact spare is aluminum. The Insight weighed 1,847 lb (838 kg) in manual transmission form or 1,964 lb (891 kg) with CVT and air conditioning.

To maximize fuel efficiency and give good high speed performance with its small engine, the Insight is very aerodynamic. It has a coefficient of drag of 0.25, one of the lowest of any marketed automobile. Because it has no rear seat, the body can start tapering narrower and lower just behind the driver's head, approximating the classic tear drop more closely than is possible in a four passenger car. The rear fenders limit the taper of the lower part, but the rear track is about 7 inches narrower than the front track.

The CVT-equipped Insight is classified as a super-low emissions vehicle.[16] The Insight features low emissions: the California Air Resources Board gave the 5-speed model a ULEV rating, and the CVT model earned a SULEV rating – the 5-speed model's lean-burn ability traded increased efficiency for slightly higher NOx emissions.[17]

Manufacturing

The Insight was assembled at the Honda factory in Suzuka, Japan,[18] where the Honda NSX and the Honda S2000 were also assembled. The Insight and the NSX are aluminum-bodied, while the S2000 employs a steel body with aluminum hood. [19]

At the 2003 Tokyo Motor Show, Honda introduced the concept car Honda IMAS, an extremely fuel-efficient and lightweight hybrid car made of aluminum and carbon fiber, which was perceived by most observers to be the future direction where the Insight is heading.

With its aluminum body and frame, the Insight was an expensive car to produce and was never designed for high-volume sales.[20] Instead it was designed to be a real world test car for hybrid technology and a gauge to new consumer driving habits. With an aerodynamic fuel-saving shape similar to Audi A2, and some unconventional body colors it was a bit more than mainstream car buyers could handle, preferring more conservative styles.[21] Production halted announced in May 2006, with plans announced to replace Insight with a new hybrid car, smaller than the eighth generation Civic, but not earlier than in 2009.[2] Ahead of this announcement, Honda stopped selling Insight in the UK, for example, as early as December 2005.[22]

To fill the market niche void, in 2002 Honda rolled out a hybrid version of the Honda Civic – Honda Civic Hybrid, followed by Toyota's relaunch of the Prius in 2003.

Sales

Total global sales for the first generation Insight were 17,020 units.[9] Honda had originally planned to sell 6,500 Insights each year of production.[23]

US market

The Insight was the first mass-produced hybrid automobile sold in the United States, achieving 70 miles per US gallon (3.4 L/100 km; 84 mpg-imp) per its then current United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) highway rating.[23] Insight was introduced in US at a base price of just US$18,880.[13] Other hybrids soon followed, with the Toyota Prius arriving in June 2000.

Fuel efficiency

The car was the most fuel efficient car available in the U.S. for the length of its production run and is still the leader of any current mass market car.[23][24][25] The Insight earned an EPA fuel economy estimate of 70 miles per US gallon (3.4 L/100 km; 84 mpg-imp) in highway driving, 61 mpg-US (3.9 L/100 km; 73 mpg-imp) city. With air conditioning it was 68 mpg-US (3.5 L/100 km; 82 mpg-imp)/60 mpg-US (3.9 L/100 km; 72 mpg-imp). With a CVT it was 57 mpg-US (4.1 L/100 km; 68 mpg-imp)/56 mpg-US (4.2 L/100 km; 67 mpg-imp). Insight aficionados who are "hypermilers" compete to eke out as many miles as possible from a tank, with some achieving considerably more than the EPA estimates. Some claim to get over 100 mpg (US).[26]

Upon the Insight's release, Honda challenged several automotive magazines to a competition[23] to see who could obtain the best fuel efficiency on the 195-mile (314 km) drive from Columbus, Ohio to Detroit. The contest was won by Car and Driver magazine, which rigged a box behind a Ford Excursion, and had the Insight drive within the confines of the box. With much less wind resistance, the Insight made the trip with a fuel consumption of 121.7 miles per US gallon (1.933 L/100 km; 146.2 mpg-imp), while averaging 58 miles per hour (93 km/h). A two-year test of an Insight with air conditioning, driven 40,000 miles (64,000 km), averaged 48 miles per US gallon (4.9 L/100 km; 58 mpg-imp). The New York Times noted that "[if] you drive the car badly, you will get bad mileage."[23]

In the EU fuel economy tests, the Insight achieved a combined efficiency figure 69.2 mpg-US (3.40 L/100 km; 83.1 mpg-imp) with an Extra-Urban figure of 78.4 mpg-US (3.00 L/100 km; 94.2 mpg-imp) and Urban figure of 57.4 mpg-US (4.10 L/100 km; 68.9 mpg-imp).)[27] This remains unbeaten in the UK market for a petrol car, and has only recently been eclipsed by the Smart ForTwo cdi. However the original Smart diesel matched the combined figure when release in Europe in 2000. The Insight has an official CO2 emissions figure of 80 g/km which is still the lowest of any UK market car. It was also the only car to fall into the VED band A (up to 100g/km CO2), introduced in 2005, until 2008 when other manufacturers started developing cars to benefit from the tax free status.

Usage incentives

Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 in the United States, the Honda Insight was eligible for a US$1,450 tax credit.[28]

Cars registered in the UK after 2001 qualified for free road tax because of their low CO2 emissions (2000 registered cars would be taxed on the lower rate of the old system based on engine size). As a Hybrid the Insight also qualifies for an exemption from the London Congestion Charge.

Motorsport

A Honda Insight won five races and the Class A championship in the Formula 1000 Rally in the United Kingdom in 2006.[29][30] In 2011, the Insight was asked to step down from the Formula 1000 Rally Championship after dominating the first three rallies, it went on to compete and win the hybrid electric vehicle class of the RAC Future Car Challenge from Brighton to London by consuming just 2.9 L/100 km (97 mpg-imp; 81 mpg-US).[31]

Replacement battery pack

As of June 2008 in the U.S., according to Honda, there are fewer than 200 battery failures beyond warranty coverage out of more than 100,000 hybrids sold.[32]

As of 1 June 2008, the replacement battery costs US$1,968 and installation is around US$900.[32]

In 2010, Multiple aftermarket large capacity replacement NiMH battery packs have become available for the first generation Insight, including YABO Power.[33] BumbleBee Batteries[34] and Hybrid ReVolt. [35] A couple of others have come and gone, with a few more potentially in the pipeline.

Second generation (2009–)

Second generation (ZE2)
Also calledHonda Insight Hybrid
Production2009-
Model years2010–
AssemblySuzuka, Mie, Japan
ClassCompact
Body style5-door hatchback
EngineHonda Hybrid System with Eco Assist
Gasoline: 1.3 L LDA series I4 (1,339 cc/81.7 cu in) 8-valve SOHC i-VTEC
(Combined hp of SAE+Electric) 98 hp (73 kW) @ 5800 rpm
123 lb·ft (167 N·m) @ 1000–1700 rpm
Electric: DC brushless motor
13 hp (9.7 kW) @ 1500 rpm
58 lb·ft (79 N·m) @ 1000 rpm
ULEV/AT-PZEV
TransmissionCVT
Wheelbase2,552 mm (100.5 in)
Length2009-2011: 4,390 mm (173 in)
2012-: 172.3 in (4,376 mm)
Width1,695 mm (66.7 in)
Height1,425 mm (56.1 in)
Curb weight1,237 kg (2,730 lb)
RelatedHonda Jazz/Fit (2nd gen.)
Honda City (5th gen.)
Honda CR-Z
Honda Freed
Honda Insight Concept

In 2009, Honda introduced its second-generation Insight based on an all-new, 5-passenger, 5-door, dedicated hybrid platform, which was also later used for the Honda CR-Z. The concept version of the Insight hatchback hybrid electric vehicle had made its public debut at the 2008 Paris Motor Show.[36][37] and its North American debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show.[38] In the US, the new Insight is classified as a compact car based on its interior volume.

Honda Insight interior

Fuel efficiency

Despite technological advances, the fuel efficiency of the second-generation Insight was lower than that of the first because of significant increases in size, weight and power.[24] Fuel efficiency rating according to the U.S. EPA testing methodology is: City 40 mpg-US (5.9 L/100 km; 48 mpg-imp), Highway 43 mpg-US (5.5 L/100 km; 52 mpg-imp), Combined 41 mpg-US (5.7 L/100 km; 49 mpg-imp).[39] The 2012 model year U.S. version has minor improvements and its updated EPA fuel economy rating is: City 41 mpg-US (5.7 L/100 km; 49 mpg-imp), Highway 44 mpg-US (5.3 L/100 km; 53 mpg-imp), Combined 42 mpg-US (5.6 L/100 km; 50 mpg-imp).[40]

Honda UK state that the official UK fuel efficiency data for the Insight SE is: Urban 61.4 mpg-imp (4.60 L/100 km; 51.1 mpg-US), Extra urban 67.3 mpg-imp (4.20 L/100 km; 56.0 mpg-US), Combined 64.2 mpg-imp (4.40 L/100 km; 53.5 mpg-US) and the CO2 emissions rating is: 101 g/km,[41] putting it in the second lowest UK vehicle excise duty band.[42]

Performance

Car and Driver magazine performed a comparison between the 2010 Honda Insight and the 2010 Toyota Prius.[43] In this test, the Insight achieved 0-60 mph in 10.3 seconds (Prius, 10.0 seconds), the quarter mile in 17.9 seconds at 78 mph (Prius, 17.6 at 79 mph), and 70-0 mph braking in 181 feet (Prius, 182 feet). The Insight's average fuel economy during a 600-mile controlled evaluation was 38 mpg-US (6.2 L/100 km; 46 mpg-imp) (Prius, 42 mpg-US (5.6 L/100 km; 50 mpg-imp)). Overall, Car and Driver selected the Insight as their preferred vehicle due to its "fun-to-drive" qualities including superior handling, steering, braking, and paddle-shifted transmission.

History

2012 Honda Insight LX (US)

The 2010 Honda Insight was specifically designed to make hybrid technology more affordable to a wide range of buyers. Departing from the first generation Insight’s two-seat configuration, the 2010 Insight is a 5-passenger, 5-door dedicated hybrid vehicle that includes the fifth generation of Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid powertrain.

The Insight was facelifted in 2010 in the United Kingdom and in 2011 for the 2012 model year in the United States, with updates to the suspension, styling and interior. There are revisions to the recoil rate of the springs, change of the rear camber angles and alterations to the rear suspension brace and adjusting mounts. As a result, Honda promised better ride, handling and stability. Interior changes include revisions to the dashboard, seat fabric, and some plastics. The air vents received a chrome surround and a silver garnish now adorns the door sills.[44]

Design

Honda chose a 5-door hatchback configuration for the latest Insight. The wedge-shaped body assists aerodynamics and reduces drag for improved fuel economy. The 5-passenger accommodations enhance marketability and the overall vehicle shape, as Honda puts it, is “clearly identifiable as a hybrid.”[45]

The wedge shape of the second-generation Insight has been criticized by many automotive journalists for its similarities with the more successful and older second-generation Toyota Prius.[46][47][48]

The reason we chose a five-door hatchback was that we wanted the car to be popular in Europe. American Honda – the biggest market – asked us to build a car with a boot, but we rejected that idea, because to compete with other green cars and sell more in Europe, it had to be a five-door hatchback. Of course, aerodynamically it is also a more favourable shape.
—Yasunari Seki, Honda Insight Project Leader, [49]

The Insight's exterior design merges design cues from both the first generation Insight (the tapered tail and triangular taillights) and Honda’s production hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the FCX Clarity (the low hood, six-point front grille, and wedge-shaped profile).[50]

The interior of the new Insight includes a variation of the two-tier instrument panel first introduced on the 2006 Honda Civic. In this arrangement, a digital speedometer is mounted high on the instrument panel within the driver’s normal line-of-sight for ease of visibility. An analog tachometer, fuel gauge, hybrid assist gauge, and Multi-Information Display are housed in the lower tier.[45]

Powertrain

The new Insight includes Honda’s fifth and latest generation of its Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system. This system mates an internal combustion engine with an electric motor mounted directly to the engine’s crankshaft between the engine and transmission. Honda states that this configuration is less complex, lower cost, and compact enough to accommodate a wide range of vehicle sizes when compared to competing hybrid powertrains. Honda has used previous generations of this IMA system on all of its production hybrid vehicles including the original Insight, Civic Hybrid, and Accord Hybrid. Advanced development has allowed the Insight’s IMA system to be 19 percent smaller and 28 percent lighter than the previous generation IMA used in the existing Civic Hybrid.

The Insight’s IMA includes a high-efficiency, lightweight, low-friction 1.3-liter SOHC i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine and it is rated for 98 hp (73 kW) at 5800 rpm and 123 lb·ft (167 N·m) of torque from 1000–1700 rpm. The high torque at low rpm is made possible by the electric motor which contributes up to 13 hp (10 kW) at 1500 rpm and 58 lb·ft (79 N·m) of torque at 1000 rpm to the powertrain, assisting in acceleration and some steady state cruising situations at low-to-mid vehicle speeds. The motor acts as a generator during braking, steady cruising, gentle deceleration and coasting in order to recharge the IMA battery. The motor also serves as the engine starter, quickly spinning the engine to idle speed after Idle Stop and during normal vehicle starting. The system will automatically switch to a back-up, conventional 12-volt starter to start the engine if the IMA system is disabled or if the car is started at extreme cold temperatures. As an additional safety feature, Honda’s hybrid configuration allows the car to operate like a conventional, petrol-engine vehicle even if the IMA hybrid-electric motor system is completely disabled.

The Insight’s Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) provides infinite ratios to keep the engine operating within its most efficient range. Forward gear ratios are infinitely variable between 3.172–0.529 and reverse gear ranges from 4.511~1.693. Final drive is 4.20:1. On Insight EX models, paddle shifters mounted behind the steering wheel allow the driver to engage a manual shift mode and select from seven simulated gear ratios for full control over acceleration and engine braking. Since the CVT’s gear ratios are continuously variable the system electronically directs the transmission to up- or downshift into pre-determined ratios when the driver taps the shift paddles. In normal driving, the CVT allows the engine and IMA motor to stay in their most efficient operating range thereby providing superior fuel efficiency to that of a conventional automatic transmission with fixed gear ratios. The CVT’s variable gear ratios allow for both quick, initial acceleration and efficient, low-rpm cruising.

In order to allow the powertrain computer to optimize performance under every driving condition, the Insight’s accelerator pedal is a “drive-by-wire” type that uses an electronic position sensor instead of the conventional metal cable that usually connects the pedal to the engine’s throttle body. In the drive-by-wire system, the engine’s throttle body is controlled by the powertrain computer in response to the accelerator pedal position—allowing the computer to determine the optimal throttle body, fuel, and CVT settings based on the accelerator pedal position and its rate of travel.

IMA battery

The Insight’s IMA is powered by a flat, nickel metal hydride battery pack located below the cargo floor between the rear wheels. The 84 module battery is manufactured by Sanyo Electric[51] and provides a nominal system voltage of 100.8 volts with a nominal capacity of 5.75 ampere-hours.[52] The power density of the modules is 30 percent greater than in the current-generation Civic Hybrid. The battery is recharged automatically by scavenging engine power, when needed, and by regenerative braking when the car is decelerating. The power management electronics, battery modules, and cooling system are all self-contained within the IMA battery pack.

Honda ECO ASSIST System

The new Insight is the first Honda hybrid to feature their Ecological Drive Assist System (ECO ASSIST). This system is designed to help the driver develop and maintain a fuel-efficient driving style. The system monitors and displays the positive or negative effect of a driving style on the vehicle’s fuel economy.

As a visual aid, the background of the Insight’s digital speedometer glows green when the car is being driven in an efficient manner. Somewhat less-efficient driving makes the meter glow blue-green. Aggressive starts and stops that consume extra fuel make the meter glow blue. By observing the color shift of the speedometer background, the driver receives assistance in developing driving habits that typically enhance fuel economy.

In addition, ECO ASSIST includes a dedicated ECON button that enables the driver to initiate a range of functions that increase the fuel economy of the IMA system via a single button press. In ECON mode, the driver trades off a measure of performance for enhanced fuel economy but gains the following advantages:

Overall, ECO ASSIST is designed to assist the driver in adopting a balanced approach between efficient highway commuting and efficient city driving. However, the EPA found during fuel economy testing that using the ECO ASSIST mode "registered no effect" on its fuel economy rating. "It relaxes throttle response, so the test driver simply compensates with additional throttle to achieve the required speeds." [53]

Chassis, suspension, and steering

The Insight’s compact chassis is derived from components used in the latest Honda Fit.[original research?] The structure of the engine compartment and front section of the chassis is almost identical to the Fit’s but with additional enhancements to aid crash protection.[original research?] From the firewall aft the platform is unique to Insight.[original research?]

The most significant difference between the Fit and the Insight platform is the position of the fuel tank. Whereas the Fit locates the fuel tank under the front seats (a move designed to free up space for maximum versatility in the Fit’s rear compartment) the Insight positions the fuel tank under the rear seats. This fuel tank location enables the Insight’s hybrid battery pack to be located in the cargo floor below the spare tire, a move that allows folding rear seats, a lower roofline, and a more aerodynamic body shape to assist fuel economy at high speed.

Front and rear suspension components from the Fit are used including MacPherson struts at the front and an H-shaped torsion beam at the rear to keep the load floor low in order to increase luggage capacity. Front and rear stabilizer bars are also installed. On Insight EX models, the 175/65-15 low rolling resistance tires are mounted on very lightweight aluminum rims. Each tire and wheel together weigh only 34 pounds.

The Insight's electrically-assisted, rack-and-pinion steering does not rely on an engine-driven, hydraulic power steering pump as in conventional non-hybrid vehicles. Electric assist improves fuel efficiency (less parasitic drag on the engine) and allows the Insight to steer normally even when the engine is shut off in Idle Stop mode.

The Insight’s hydraulic braking system includes four-channel ABS (to prevent wheel lockup), Electronic Brake Distribution (to improve braking effectiveness under different vehicle loads), and a Creep Aid System (to prevent the car from rolling on a hill when the driver transitions from the brake pedal to the throttle pedal). Also included are Traction Control and Vehicle Stability Assist (the latter system employing an electronic yaw rate/lateral acceleration sensor to detect excessive understeer or oversteer when cornering). A Brake Booster Pressure Monitoring System continuously monitors boost vacuum when the engine is shut off during Idle Stop mode. The front brakes use a single-piston sliding caliper and a one-piece ventilated rotor. The rear brakes are drum-type.

Enhanced efficiency air conditioning system

The air conditioning system on the new Insight has an expanded thermodynamic range compared to conventional systems. Unlike the separate low pressure and high pressure refrigerant pipes used in conventional systems, the Insight has its low pressure cold pipe enclosing the high pressure hot refrigerant pipe that allows the cold refrigerant on its way back to the engine bay to cool the warm refrigerant travelling to the cabin. A unique, spiral groove along the outside of the inner pipe increases the surface area and therefore the efficiency of the heat transfer between the outer and inner tubes. This improves the thermal efficiency of the air-conditioning system and, as a result, less effort is required from the compressor, resulting in improved fuel efficiency.

In order to control costs, Honda decided not to include the electric-assist air conditioning compressor used in the Civic Hybrid. The Civic Hybrid's electric-assist allows the air conditioning compressor to continue running (using battery pack power) to maintain cabin temperature when the engine is shut off in Idle Stop mode. Instead, the Insight limits the duration of the Idle Stop mode during air conditioning use and restarts the engine, when needed, to maintain cabin temperature. However, when the Insight's ECON function is engaged, a longer Idle Stop time is invoked for improved fuel efficiency at the expense of rapid cabin cooling. In other words the airconditioning stops whenever the car stops, as in stop-and-go traffic.

Multi-information display

The Multi-information display, located in the center of the tachometer, can be toggled through nine different screens of vehicle information including instantaneous fuel economy, hybrid system schematic, trip computer, and ECO Guide. The ECO Guide display includes a real-time graphic that provides a target zone for acceleration and deceleration in order to achieve maximum fuel economy. When the ignition switch is turned off, a summary screen displays a scoring function that encourages drivers to take an interest in developing fuel-efficient driving habits over the long term. In this manner, drivers can earn additional ‘leaves’ on a plant stem when practicing fuel saving strategies. Long-term fuel efficient driving habits ultimately earn the driver a ‘trophy’ graphic.

2011 facelift

A facelifted Insight for Europe is shown at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show. Honda facelifted the Insight for 2012 model year. There are several significant changes to improve the car, including exterior, interior, driving and fuel economy.

In the exterior, Honda updates the front with larger air intakes on the lower front fascia, installs new head- and taillights, and has new wheel designs. The new grille comes with a blue stripe that Honda says represents the car’s “high-tech hybrid identity.” A thinner rear spoiler and a more compactly mounted rear wiper motor help to improve visibility through the rear window. Even though it now comes with wider 185/60R15 tires, a reduction in engine and CVT friction, improvements to the front and rear bumpers and underbody lead to a 1-mpg increase in EPA's city, highway, and combined mileage numbers. 41 mpg-US (5.7 L/100 km; 49 mpg-imp) in the city, 44 mpg-US (5.3 L/100 km; 53 mpg-imp) on the highway, and 43 mpg-US (5.5 L/100 km; 52 mpg-imp) mpg combined. The aerodynamic efficiency is improved by two percent.[54] [55][56]

In the interior, the rear-seat and headliner are redesigned to add more rear legroom and headroom, improving comfort, additional sound insulation is added and the cupholders are larger. A rear camera and a 16-gigabyte flash card system now comes with the Navi system. Furthermore, the gauge cluster is refreshed.[55][56]

Sales and prices by country

Honda sold 130,445 Insights worldwide in 2009.[57]

In an interview in early February 2011, a Honda executive disclosed that Honda produced around 200,000 hybrids a year in Japan.[58]

Japan

The new Insight began sales in Japan on February 6, 2009 with prices between ¥1,890,000 and ¥2,210,000.The reception in Japan is overwhelming and exceeds Honda's original forecast of 5,000 monthly sales. This resulted as less availability to overseas markets and Honda has to start production on a second line at its Suzuka factory in mid-June to increase production from 700 units a day.[59] In April 2009, the Honda Insight became the first petrol-electric hybrid to be the best-selling vehicle in Japan for the month.[60] After less than eleven months on sale, Honda sold 93,283 Insight in Japan in 2009, ranking it the fifth best-selling car for the year.[61] In March 2010, Honda announced that the new Insight broke through 100,000 sales in Japanese market in just one year after its introduction.[62]

United States

U.S. Honda Insight, shown front, rear, and the hybrid badging.

The car went on sale on March 24, 2009 in the U.S.[3] as a 2010 model with MSRP prices between US$19,800 and US$23,200,[63][64][65] making it the least expensive hybrid vehicle available in the United States.[39]

Within less than ten months from its introduction, Insight total sales for 2009 in the U.S. market were 20,572 units, selling more than the Fusion Hybrid (15,554 units) and the Civic Hybrid (15,119), but behind the Camry Hybrid (22,887 units) and the Toyota Prius (139,682 units).[66] The sales in the U.S. is below expectation, mainly due to the economic recession in 2008-09, stiff competition and a drop in gasoline prices of over one-third over the past year, eroded demand for fuel-efficient cars.[67]

In December 2010, Honda introduced a less expensive Insight hybrid for the 2011 model year to help boost sales. The new base model Insight will start at a MSRP of US$18,200, US$1,600 less expensive than the previous lowest trim level, the LX. For the 2011 LX model, center armrest, cruise control, USB connectivity for the audio system and floor mats are newly added. Price increase is limited to US$100. Electronic stability control and brake assist are now standard across all trim levels. All models come with automatic climate control. Honda explained the move "to make (the vehicle) more affordable for those younger customers who couldn't previously get into a hybrid." In 2009, Toyota promised a lower-priced version of the Prius to compete with Insight, but quietly dropped the deal for consumers.[68][69]

In 2010, 20,962 Insights were sold in the country. The Insight ranked number two in all hybrid vehicle sales after the Toyota Prius, beating out the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the Ford Fusion Hybrid.[70] From January 2011 to August 2011, cumulative sales of the Insight in the U.S. reached 13,106 units, ranking number two among hybrid sales for 2011 and outsold only by the Prius.[71] By September 2011, cumulative sales reached 13,618 units, falling to the third place, surpassed by the Hyundai Sonata.[72]

For 2012 model year, upgraded upholstery, map light, and steering-wheel-mounted controls are added to LX trim; Bluetooth, automatic headlights, a synthetic leather and premium fabric upholstery, plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob are added to EX trim. Rearview camera and a 16-gigabyte flash card system are added to the navigation system.[54][56]

Calendar YearAmerican sales
200920,572[73]
201020,962[70]
201115,549[74]

In October 2009, Consumer Reports named the Honda Insight the most reliable vehicle as it scored the highest of any vehicles in predicted reliability, according to its annual vehicles reliability survey.[75]

United Kingdom

The Honda Insight has been on sale from April 4, 2009 and early reports said it outsold its competitor by 15 percent. The Insight is exempted from the London congestion charge.[76] Starting from autumn 2010, revised suspension should improve ride and handling, parking sensors are added to ES model and above, furthermore, a top of the range EX model is added with standard leather interior and sat-nav priced at £20,215.[44]

Australia

Honda Australia prices (including GST)[77] the entry model VTi from A$29,990, and the higher model VTI-L from A$33,490 and Insight became the first hybrid car available below A$30,000. It is the lowest priced hybrid car in Australia. It went on sales from December 6, 2010.[78] It is reported the price of Insight undercuts both Civic Hybrid (A$34,490) and Toyota Prius (A$39,990).[77]

Its fuel economy is rated 4.6 L/100 km (61 mpg-imp; 51 mpg-US) in official Australian testing.[77] Although electric vehicles like i-MiEV from Mitsubishi is available for leasing by fleet customers, plus Nissan Leaf and plug-in hybrid Holden Volt will be released sometime in 2012, Honda Australia believes hybrid vehicles will remain a major alternative fuel vehicle for some time because of affordability and practicality weaknesses of electric vehicles. It believes electric vehicles will face severe range limitations because of heat and distances in Australia market. The company plans to launch three more hybrids within the following 18 months, CR-Z, Fit hybrid and Civic Hybrid.[79]

Honda also questions the green credentials of an electric vehicle when electricity is generated from coal-fired power stations, "For Australia, unless you're tapped into a green power source, the benefits are negligible".[79]

Honda includes an eight-year, unlimited mileage warranty for the car's hybrid powertrain battery.[79]

The Netherlands

As of March 2010, Honda has sold 2,661 units since the introduction of the Insight in April 2009 of which 847 were sold in the first three months of 2010. As of January 2010, the Honda Insight is exempt of road tax. Reviews have been mostly positive, praising the low cost, fuel economy, good handling and performance in city driving, while being somewhat critical of the car's performance on the highway and its rear visibility. Particularly impressive is the high vehicle safety rating. The EuroNCAP judged the Insight the second safest car of 2009,[citation needed] just behind the Volkswagen Golf but ahead of its main rival, the Toyota Prius. The sales of the Honda Insight, along with those of the Honda Civic Hybrid, helped Honda achieve their best sales result in the Netherlands since 1989. These good results did not go unnoticed and it has been decided that the official European launch of Honda's next hybrid car, the CR-Z, will take place in the Netherlands.

Other Asian countries

The Insight was launched in Korea in October 2010 priced at ₩29.5 million (approx. US$26,000), making it the lowest priced hybrid car offered by import automakers.[80]

In Malaysia, Honda launched the Insight on December 2, 2010 at the Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show (KLIMS) 2010. Priced at RM98,000 (about US$33,000) on the road, including insurance, the Insight became the first affordable hybrid that is priced below RM100,000. It is priced only RM7,520 more than the top model Honda City. It is reported that a few hundred sales orders were received even before its launch.[81][82]

In 2011, Insight was the best selling hybrid in the country with a total of 4,568 sold.[83]

Middle East

In Israel, the Insight with the "Comfort" features package, including import taxes, retails for 129,900.00 Shekel (US$34,829).

Reception

Second generation Honda Insight IMA powertrain - engine, motor and transmission.

Early reviews praised the Insight's futuristic styling, handling, and price but noted that it was less powerful, less fuel efficient, and less comfortable than other more expensive hybrids.[84] The Insight performed well in comparison tests administered by Motor Trend and Car and Driver.[43][85] In their comparison test against the 2010 Toyota Prius, Car and Driver stated "...the Insight proved more visceral, connected, and agile than the Prius. The Insight represents a lot of engineering bang for the buck, and the majority of its dynamics are more satisfying than the Prius’s" citing the benefits of the Insight's firm brake feel, accurate steering, and tight suspension (the latter borrowing heavily from the latest Honda Fit). It did not perform as well in Edmunds or Popular Mechanics tests.[86][87] Despite a high reliability rating in Consumer Reports testing, the Insight was assigned a low score, stating that it fell short in ride quality, handling, interior noise, acceleration, refinement, rear seat access and rear visibility.[88][89][90]

Autoblog praised it for its fuel economy, tight handling, and good steering feedback, and stated "the Insight is a shockingly fun car to drive in a spirited manner in spite of the comparatively modest thrust available.", but criticized the Insight for its low passenger volume.[91]

Automotive critic Jeremy Clarkson, known for his disdain for hybrid vehicles, criticized the Insight for its continuously variable transmission, engine noise, and build quality. He recognized that the price was low, but concluded that a Volkswagen Golf was a better deal.[92][93]

Edmunds.com praised the Insight for improving upon the formula of rival Prius and costing thousands less, but criticized it for excessive road noise, a tight back seat, and buzzy engine under hard acceleration. In addition, they state it "is by far the most enjoyable hybrid hatchback to drive" and praised the ride for being firm, the steering for being relatively responsive, and the seamless integration between the electric and internal combustion engine.[94]

In 2009, Edmunds pitted a Honda Insight against other hybrids like Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion hybrid, a Volkswagen Jetta TDI automatic and a MINI Cooper with manual transmission over two days of mixed city and highway driving.[95]

Driving
condition
2010
Toyota Prius
2010
Honda Insight
2009
Volkswagen Jetta TDI A6
2010
Ford Fusion Hybrid
2009
MINI Cooper M6
Back roads47.244.141.239.638.5
City loop48.743.431.635.130.1
Highway47.438.640.636.033.3
Overall47.642.338.137.334.5
EPA City/Hwy51/4840/4329/4041/3628/37

Crash test

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:[96]

Europe NCAP:[97]

Awards and recognition

First generation
Second generation

See also

References

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