Earlier this week, Honda introduced the new Honda Insight, a new, lower-cost hybrid car scheduled to be available “later this spring”. Press reports say that the new Insight will sell for several thousand dollars less than the Toyota Prius.
From the website, it appears that the new Insight is using a power train that’s very similar (if not identical) to that of the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid that I’ve been driving (and loving) for over two and a half years.
The Honda Insight’s powertrain, called Integrated Motor Assist (IMT), is simpler (and, therefore, lighter) than Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive used in the Prius. The Honda powertain is based upon a very efficient 1.3 liter displacement VTEC gasoline engine coupled to a brushless DC motor/generator and a continuously variable transmission. With Honda’s design, the gasoline engine is clearly the primary powerplant and the electric motor is an adjunct.
From the new Insight’s specs, it looks like the horsepower of the gasoline engine in the Insight is 98 hp vs. 110 in the Civic Hybrid while the electric motor is 13 hp in the Insight and 20 hp in the Civic Hybrid. The Civic Hybrid is about 150 pounds heavier than the insight.
Unlike my Civic Hybrid, the Insight has a fold-down rear seatback which would come in handy from time to time (not possible in the Civic Hybrid as the batteries are in the rear seatback).
Otherwise, the features appear to be an update with nav system, ecodrive display, etc. One feature I really have come to like in the Civic Hybrid that’s carried over to the Insight is the heads-up display speedometer. With the HUD, you always know how fast you’re driving – your peripheral vision tells you as the digital speedometer display is just below the driver’s natural field of view. The Insight’s HUD appears to offer the same benefit.
The Insight looks like a winner to me – I look forward to examining this new hybrid more closely when it arrives here in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you share an interest in the new Insight, you can follow along with news about it in the Insight blog (RSS feed).