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Honda Insight due December (copyright image)

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17th October, 2010

Honda has been building production hybrids for a decade. In that time, a lot has been learnt about improving the manufacturing process to lower costs and ultimately reduce prices. With this in mind, Honda has made hybrid technology available to more and more people by developing an affordable hybrid vehicle.

The second-generation Honda Insight is the culmination of over 20 years of hybrid development and more than 35 years of low emission petrol engine development.

The Insight is powered by a 1.3 litre i-VTEC engine and Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA system), coupled to a CVT gearbox. This five-door hatch sips 4.6 litres/100 kms (combined) with ultra-low emissions of just 109 grammes/kilometre.

The low friction, pattern coated pistons help make the engine very fuel efficient. The clever part happens during deceleration. During this idle time, combustion in all four cylinders is stopped and each 'pot' is sealed shut. This means the engine is not working as hard to pump fuel or air, so it’s immediately more efficient.

This technology is called Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) and shuts all four cylinders during low speed cruising. In this mode, the Insight is powered by the electric motor only, with the pistons running idle.

In addition, virtually everything possible has been done to the engine to reduce friction, including an offset crankshaft/connecting rod design, plateau honing of the cylinders for a smoother surface and a second low friction piston ring.

The Insight also has a new, improved electric motor which is thinner than the motor in the current Civic Hybrid, meaning the entire IMA system is more compact and lightweight.

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Improvements have been made to the high-power, nickel-metal hydride battery (located under the boot to help lower the centre of gravity) and the battery’s cooling system making it more efficient.

When combined, the motor and engine produce lively performance ideal for urban environments, with good throttle response and acceleration times.

We all have different driving styles and techniques. With this in mind, Honda engineers developed the ECON switch for the Insight. When activated by the driver, this switch tells the car’s management system to adopt specific settings to improve fuel consumption. It does this without affecting overall safety levels or the general usability of the car.

When the ECON switch is depressed, the Insight enters a ‘super economy’ mode, resulting in a reduction in power, smoother transmission shift pattern, modified throttle control, increased regenerative braking, air-conditioning.

To reward economical driving, the Insight’s has another clever system – EcoAssist. It’s a simple system that rewards the driver if they adopt a certain driving style. Together with the ECON switch, Eco Assist can be used to achieve high fuel economy and minimise harmful exhaust emissions.

There are two main elements: an ‘Eco drive bar’ indicator within the black and white Multi Info Display (MID) and an ambient meter behind the digital speedometer display. Both instruments are synchronised to give ‘real time’ information on the consumption of fuel and provide guidance on how to drive more economically.

The ‘eco drive bar’ in the MID is a solid bar symbol that moves to either side of a central line. The idea is to drive in a way that keeps the bar in the centre and away from the shaded/dotted areas on either side.

When driving smoothly the bar stays near the centre of the indicator, shifting slightly right during gradual acceleration and slightly to the left when braking gently. During these conditions, the ambient meter behind the speed display glows green to show optimum economical driving performance.

Under greater acceleration or when braking moderately, the bar in the MID shifts more towards either end of the scale, showing the use of more fuel and the ambient meter glows a green/blue colour.

With aggressive acceleration, or sudden braking, the indicator bar will head to the right or left, deep into the shaded areas of the scale to show major fuel consumption and the ambient meter turns blue respectively.

To help motivate Insight drivers during their journey, another display above the bar indicator grants rewards for more efficient driving. If performing well, small trees will ‘grow’ above the bar to show the driver’s eco-progress.

Also, by pressing the Info button on the steering wheel and scrolling through the MID displays, drivers can not only look at their average fuel consumption of the current trip, but can also retrieve their average fuel economy of the last three journeys.

Once a journey is over and the ignition is turned off, the black and white ‘Eco guide’ in the MID changes to an ‘eco score’ display. Now, the tree symbols at the top report on the driver’s performance during the last drive, while the bar and symbols at the bottom of the display show a lifetime score. This is shown in three ‘ranks’ with the fully grown tree and flower to the right of the bar showing the best score.

If the driver’s rank has improved since the last journey, a recognition symbol is also displayed, with wreathes and trophy symbols reflecting good progress. Conversely, if the driving style is worse, and the lifetime score and rank decreases, a more depressing recognition symbol of a withering plant is displayed.

There are two Insight variants – the VTi and VTi-L. The VTi has a manufacturer’s list price* of $29,990* making it Australia’s most affordable hybrid and with the VTi-L selling for $33,490*.

The Honda Insight will go on sale locally on 6th December this year.

NOTE: * Manufactuer's List Price (MLP) excludes the traditional on-road costs, such as dealer delivery fees and the various statutory charges. Additionally, prices fees and on-road costs are subject to change without notice.


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