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Tim O'Brien | Nov 24, 2010

A year on from its local unveiling at the Melbourne International Motor Show, Honda's Insight hybrid, a top seller in Japan, has made its Australian debut ahead of its official on-sale date of December 6.

Japan's number two carmaker, Honda was an early adopter of petrol-electric hybrid technologies. While the Civic Hybrid has been available in Australia for some time, the Insight - along with the upcoming Jazz Hybrid and CR-Z hybrid sports car - represents Honda's renewed commitment to the green movement.

TMR's Tony O'Kane is attending the launch of the Honda Insight today. Watch for his 'first drive' review.

Styling

The production Insight carries much of the styling shown on its concept sibling, unveiled in 2008.

While its slab-sided profile and long sloping roofline has drawn comparisons to Toyota's Prius, the Insight carries a number of current Honda styling cues, including the Odyssey-like headlights and grille, along with Honda's new family front bumper design.

High-set taillights flank a two-tier rear window, the design here not only reminiscent of the first-generation Insight and the popular CR-X sports hatch, but also similar to the new CR-Z hybrid sports car's tail end.

“The reason we chose a five-door hatchback was that we wanted the car to be popular in Europe,” Yasunari Seki, the Insight's Project Leader said.

“American Honda – the biggest market – asked us to build a car with a boot, but we rejected that idea, because to compete with other green cars and sell more in Europe, it had to be a five-door hatchback. Of course, aerodynamically it is also a more favourable shape.”

Interior

2011 honda insight australia launch 08

Inside, Honda's two-tier dash makes an appearance, offering at-a-glance information in a thoroughly modern setting with seating for five in a flexible five-door package.

The Insight has been designed to seat five passengers and, thanks to its longer and tall roofline, headroom in the rear is almost as generous as the space available to the front passengers.

Honda says legroom in the Insight is equally generous front and back, while the battery pack's compact design allows for rear storage of 408 litres with the rear seats up, and 548 litres with the seats folded.

Slim A-pillars, along with large front door windows offer maximum visibility from the driver's seat, as do the retractable rear headrests and the integrated window in the boot lid.

The Insight's instrument panel has been designed with a sculptured look, comfortably fitting a large multi-information display and 3D meters, along with with tightly-clustered controls.

Equipment

Insight VT-i

  • Eco Assist and ECON button
  • Cruise control
  • Keyless entry, answerback and immobiliser
  • Security alarm
  • Climate control air-conditioning
  • Tilt and telescopic steering
  • Front variable/intermittent wipers
  • Auto up/down front window (driver’s side)
  • Multi Information Display
  • Halogen headlights
  • Six speaker audio system with CD and MP3 compatibility with steering mounted controls, USB port and auxiliary jack
  • Cloth trim
  • Passenger seat back pocket
  • 60/40 split fold seats
  • Vanity mirror (driver)
  • Rear seat armrest with cup holder
  • Steering mounted paddle shifts
  • Luggage cover
  • Bluetooth
  • Reversing sensors

Insight VTi-L - in addition to VTi

  • Front auto wipers
  • Side indicators on door mirror
  • Auto up/down front window (driver and passenger)
  • Auto on/off headlights
  • Driver and front passenger seat pocket
  • Leather steering wheel
  • 16 inch alloy wheels
  • Front fog lights
  • Satellite Navigation system with integrated Bluetooth,
  • DVD player and reversing camera

Safety - VTi and VTi-L

  • ANCAP 5-Star crash safety rating
  • Dual front, side and curtain airbags
  • Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA)
  • ABS brakes with EBD and Brake Assist
  • Seatbelt reminders
  • Five 3-point seatbelts (rear with ALR and ELR)

Mechanical

Both the VTi and VTi-L are powered by the a 1.3 litre petrol engine and 10kW electric motor, whose combined output measures 72kW at 5800rpm. Thanks to the electric motor, the Insight's peak torque figure of 167Nm is available straight from idle, although torque output drops down quickly beyond 2500rpm.

When the battery is low and the Insight stopped, the petrol engine runs to top up the battery. Acceleration sees the petrol engine and electric motor working in concert, but under light-throttle cruising the electric motor is capable of propelling the Insight on its own.

Regenerative braking recoups kinetic energy and converts it into stored electrical energy, and the Insight also features a fuel-saving stop-start system.

Pressing the bright-green “Econ” button activates an even more frugal fuel-saving mode, which reduces power and torque, smooths out throttle inputs, reduces the use of the airconditioner and enables a more efficient gearbox shift program.

The Insight uses a CVT automatic transmission, which, like the Jazz, features a manual mode with seven pre-set gear ratios and a pair of steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.

Suspension is by MacPherson strut at the front, with a torsion beam axle at the rear. Disc brakes are fitted at the front, with the rear only getting a set of drums. The VTi rides on skinny 175-section tyres, while the VTi-L uses slightly wider 185-section tyres.

Honda says its battery pack should be good for around 15 years of regular use, equating to roughly 240,000km on the odometer. For extra peace of mind, the battery is warranted for eight years with no kilometre limit.

Should it need to be replaced outside of the warranty, a new battery will cost $1875. A full 98% of the old battery (a nickel-metal hydride unit) is recyclable.

Pricing

There are two Insight variants – the VTi and VTi-L. The VTi has a manufacturer’s list price of $29,990, and the VTi-L has a manufacturer's list price of $33,490.

Thanks to the Insight's mechanically simpler powertrain, the Insight VTi's price undercuts Toyota's Prius by nearly $10,000 and the Hybrid Camry by $7000.

The Honda Insight goes on sale in Australia from December 6.

Get the best deal on this car!
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