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Friday, April 03, 2009
Honda Insight Test Drive
Image: © 2009 theirEarth.com

Test Drive: Honda's New Insight Hybrid Car

CAP MARTIN, FRANCE - Honda brought three 2010 Insight Hybrids to EVER 2009 in Monaco last weekend for international journalists and the general public to test drive. EVER Monaco is an annual international showcase event where the world's ecological vehicles are presented to the media and the general public by major international manufacturers. We had an opportunity to test Honda's latest car, the 2010 Insight, which is now on sale at Honda Dealers. The Insight is a 5-passenger car and it is Honda's first purpose-built chassis for hybrid applications. The Insight joins the Honda Civic Hybrid, which was released in 2008, in Honda's hybrid vehicle line-up. Honda engineers have worked very hard to give the 2010 Insight its refined driving characteristics and a seamless hybrid drive activation system.

The Honda Insight's hybrid powertrain is a 1.3 L SOHC 4-cylinder gasoline (petrol) engine with multipoint Honda PGM fuel injection and this is coupled to an IMA integrated electric motor/generator/starter, powered by a NiMH battery pack. Honda's battery pack is built by their battery partner Sanyo Electronics. The Honda engine has a maximum power output of 88 hp (65 kW) at 5800 rpm, and the electric motor produces a maximum of 14 hp (10 kW) at 1500 rpm. The Insight has a Honda automatic transmission and it is a CVT type, with an ECO button control that allows the driver to put the engine into an optimized efficiency mode.

It is possible to drive the Insight on battery power alone at low speeds with the engine off and the Honda power management system monitors the battery strength and driving conditions in association with vehicle speed, throttle position and required acceleration needs. The Honda electric motor works in three modes - as output power, and as the starter for the engine, and as a generator (regeneration) when the Insight decelerates. The electric motor can run in conjunction with the gasoline engine to give maximum output power for acceleration, and there is a dashboard screen that displays the hybrid functioning modes while you are driving.

Honda has also provided the Insight with an auto start-stop function to reduce fuel consumption, and we found this to work excellently and the engine started instantaneously when the brake was disengaged at idle. The start-stop technology is making its way into all new vehicles, and it will soon be difficult to find cars without this functionality. The "ECO SCORE" dashboard screen also gives you feedback on your driving style and you start to build a tree with sequential leaves as you drive more efficiently.

Honda has also put significant effort into giving the Insight high levels of standard equipment - 16" Aluminium Wheels, ABS brakes, Program Assist During Emergency Braking (HBA), 6 air bags, Power Windows, Speed Control, 6-speaker CD MP3 audio system with USB connection, Bluetooth Phone Hook-Up, Auto Climate Control, and ISO-FIX Child Seat Connection. The Insight's interior is of high quality materials with contrasting seat colours to the interior panels. The seats have very good support with lateral side bolsters that help maintain a high comfort seating position. 

On the performance front the Honda Insight accelerates from zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 12.4 seconds and has a test circuit maximum speed of 182 km/h (113.8 mph). On the ever-important quest for efficiency, the Insight scores well with a combined EU fuel consumption of 4.6 L/100 km (51.1 U.S. MPG / 61.4 Imp MPG), a city efficiency of 4.7 L/100 km (50.1 U.S. MPG / 60.1 Imp MPG), and a highway consumption of 4.5 L/100 km (52.3 U.S. MPG / 62.8 Imp MPG).

Overall we found the new Honda Insight to be an excellent car for a family, and we were impressed with Honda's engineering of their hybrid system. The rear storage is large and with the rear seats down you have a very large cargo carrying capability. Cars like the Honda Insight and many of the other new efficiency cars from other manufacturers are starting to make an impact on reducing emissions to the world's environment.

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