Cheapest Hybrid: 2010 Honda Insight
Honda's all-new 2010 Insight Hybrid will be available in three separate trim packages with each offering an impressive amount of options for such a low-priced, technologically laden vehicle. The entry-level Insight LX will come with the lowest starting price of $19,800 including such standard features as six airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and automatic climate control to name just a few. The midlevel package is the Insight EX with a starting MSRP of $21,300 which adds more stylish and luxurious touches such as alloy wheels, cruise control, heated side mirrors and paddle shifters for the transmission mounted on the steering wheel. For improved safety, Honda's Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) is also standard. The top-of-the-line Insight EX with Navi comes in at $23,100 and gets Honda's Satellite-Linked Navigation system with a 6.5-inch display. This system uses voice recognition to map out guidance to either an individual addresses or one of 7 million integrated points of interest. Bluetooth connectivity is also standard with this package and uses buttons mounted on the steering wheel to operate the navigation system or make hands-free telephone calls.
The business end of the 2010 Insight uses Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system which features a brushless electric motor sandwiched between the car's 1.3-liter inline-4 and continuously variable transmission (CVT). The IMA system can operate solely on electric power up to 'mid-speed cruising conditions' and is expected to get over 400 miles of range out of a single tank of gasoline. This setup gives the new Insight an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) emissions rating from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and is good for 40 miles per gallon in the city and 43 mph on the highway. Although the Insight is cheaper than the Prius and Civic, its fuel economy number are slightly lower than the Prius' 48 mpg city/45 mpg highway and even the Civic Hybrid's 45 mpg highway.
To maximize fuel economy while simultaneously teaching the driver the most efficient ways to pilot the Insight, Honda will offer its trick Eco Assist system as standard equipment. The goal of Eco Assist is to improve the Insight's real-world fuel economy by adjusting both the car and the driver. By pressing the green 'ECON' button on the dash, the 2010 Honda Insight automatically adjusts vehicle systems such as throttle control, CVT, air conditioning and start/stop duration to squeeze every last mpg out of the already-efficient drivertrain. The car is only half of the equation as the system also helps guide the driver toward the most efficient driving habits by providing feedback via the color-changing, 3D speedometer background. The more efficient the driver is, the greener the background appears. Over time, a driver's overall fuel economy is tracked by using green leaves that are displayed on the on the display screen. Altogether, the new Insight is a dynamic hybrid vehicle that should easily hit Honda's personal sales goal of 200,000 units sold worldwide in the first year.