Honda unveiled the 2010 Insight to the media on January 11 at the Detroit Auto Show. In a move to promote its new vehicle as a green car leader, Honda scheduled its U.S. debut for April 22, 2009, which happens to be Earth Day. As expected, the 2010 Insight's fuel-economy figures are slightly lower than the Prius', with EPA ratings of 40 and 43 mpg (city and highway, respectively). However, the Insight encourages a whole new level of efficient driving, in the form of a brand new Ecological Drive Assist System (Eco Assist). The Eco Assist is made-up of three principal components:
- an ECON mode that optimizes the CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission), engine and powertrain components to maximize fuel efficiency;
- a dashboard that changes background colors to provide real-time guidance to the driver on achieving the best fuel efficiency;
- and, the cutesiest feature of all, a green leaf graphic that scores driving efficiency for the current trip and lifetime of the vehicle.
While the last two items may seem gimmicky, they will almost certainly encourage new owners to adapt their driving styles to achieve greater fuel-efficiency, especially during the first few months of ownership.
The 2010 Insight is powered by an advanced 1.3-liter SOHC aluminum-alloy i-VTEC engine and CVT, along with a new generation of Honda's IMA hybrid system for exceptional fuel economy and fun-to-drive performance. The latest IMA system has come a long way since the introduction of the classic Insight 9 years ago. It incorporates a 10-kilowatt (13 hp) electric motor and a compact Intelligent Power Unit (IPU), which recaptures and stores kinetic energy from vehicle braking and deceleration, while supplying additional power for acceleration when needed, and features an ultra-compact IMA battery and IPU, both of which are located in the vehicle's rear floor. This allowed engineers to include a 60/40 split and fold-down rear seat back.
Perhaps most important, the Insight's IMA system has the capability to operate exclusively on electric power in certain low- to mid-speed driving conditions (much like Toyota's hybrid system). It also provides for cylinder deactivation within the gasoline engine during deceleration and for engine shutoff when the vehicle is stopped. With a 10.6-gallon fuel tank, the Insight delivers an estimated maximum driving range in excess of 400 miles.
In a show of unbridled optimism, American Honda Executive Vice President John Mendel contended the new Insight would introduce "Honda's fun-to-drive, versatile and fuel-efficient hybrid technology to an entirely new group of buyers that previously may not have considered a hybrid because of either image or cost." We can only hope this projection becomes a reality. Discuss