Preview: 2010 Honda Insight Concept
Honda has been gnashing its teeth over the success of Toyota's Prius, and the response is the new Insight hybrid, which is quite different over the 1999 Insight that brought hybrid power to the market for the first time. The approach this time around is price positioning rather than breakthrough technology, as the Honda Insight hybrid is predicted to be the least expensive hybrid on the market, but will still depend on nickel-metal-hydride batteries instead of the lithium-ion system that most manufacturers will be using until the next battery breakthrough. The Honda Insight hybrid shown at the Paris auto show was still termed a concept, with the production version slated for its debut at the Detroit auto show in January. Categorized as a mild hybrid, fuel consumption is reckoned to be close to 40 mpg city and 45 mpg highway, which isn't overly impressive, but the Insight is just the start of a major hybrid push by Honda.
Why it Matters
Even though people's memories were erased by the Toyota Prius, Honda came out with the first hybrid vehicle in 1999, and called it the Honda Insight. This Honda Insight hybrid -- in concept guise and as a 2010 production model -- is certain to break new ground as well by being the first hybrid vehicle costing under $20,000. We've heard speculation for the 2010 Honda Insight that ranges from $16,500 to $18,500 and fuel economy approaching 60 miles per gallon. In these times, that matters.
What it Looks Like
If Honda show-car strategy remains true to its past habits, the Honda Insight Concept looks almost exactly like production model, coming in spring 2009 as a 2010 model. At a glance, the Insight hybrid is a 5-door body style that's a half-size smaller than a Honda Civic. Its aero-shape is a cross between the Honda FCX Clarity fuel cell car and a Toyota Prius. Interior TBD at unveiling.
What's Under the Skin
The 2010 Honda Insight hybrid employs a more cost-efficient evolution of Honda's Integrated Motor Assist gasoline/electric hybrid technology. This advancement not only allows the company to sell the production Honda Insight hybrid for it's under-$20,000 price, but it also endows the new Honda hybrid with fuel economy that's "on par" with the Honda Civic Hybrid, which is 40 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway.
What We Think
We like it. The Honda Insight hybrid's shape makes us think of it as the Toyota Prius's better-looking younger brother. The pricing is right, and the fuel economy is more than right. If you're considering a hybrid vehicle, we would definitely recommend waiting until the spring and dropping by your Honda dealer for a look at the 2010 Honda Insight hybrid.
By Richard Homan and Greg Brown
Photo credit: Greg Brown