Honda Will Introduce Insight Hybrid Concept in Paris
By Chris Haak
Honda plans to show a concept version of its new Prius-fighting dedicated hybrid model at the Paris auto show in October. In an environmentally-conscious way, Honda is doing a bit of recycling, using the Insight name that was affixed to its previous two-seat dedicated hybrid. The old Insight was sold from 1999 to 2006, but could hardly be considered a success, considering that it’s now out of production, sold less than 18,000 total units over seven years, and the Prius now outsells the Insight’s average volume by a multiple of around 70. The funny thing was, in spite of a less-sophisticated hybrid system and a lack of usable interior space, the Insight really was a fuel economy champion (the manual transmission car was rated at 60 city/66 highway under the old ratings, which is equivalent to 48 city/58 highway under the new ratings). A Prius is rated at 48/45, so the old Insight was able to match the current Prius in the city and blow it away on the highway.
The new Insight, however, will have a few advantages over its predecessor, as well as the Prius. First, it will be a five-seat car, just like the Prius. In fact, it’s not hard to see a striking resemblance between the Insight pictured above and the Prius; both have an extreme aerodynamic-friendly wedge shape, which – as I noted when I reviewed the 2008 Prius– comes at the expense of passenger space, and in particular, rear headroom. The Insight concept also looks strikingly similar to the unrelated, but also environmentally-friendly, Honda FCX Clarity fuel cell-powered car. The Insight’s advantage over the current Prius (which will be replaced around the time the Insight makes its dealership debut) is that it should undercut both it and Honda’s Civic Hybrid by a few thousand dollars. Although the car in the photo above is a concept, the production car will likely look nearly identical, with the exception of the LED headlamps, large wheels, and a few minor details.
Honda hasn’t revealed a lot of details about the new Insight yet, but we do know that it will likley continue to feature Honda’s IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system, which means that unlike the Toyota HSD or the GM-Daimler-BMW two-mode hybrid systems, it will run primarily on the gasoline engine and will not have the ability to run on batteries alone. The Insight will be built on a new platform, and the batteries and related hybrid hardware will reside beneath the rear cargo area. The car will also be slightly smaller and lighter than the Civic Hybrid.
Honda has some ambitious sales targets for the Insight; it expects 200,000 worldwide sales per year, with about 100,000 of those coming from North America. Toyota sold about 180,000 Priuses in the US last year, but that was after two generations and ten years in the market. However, if Insight proves to be more fuel efficient than the Prius, and is a few thousand dollars less (we’ve heard a rumor of less than $19,000, although Honda did not confirm a specific price; anything under $21,500 would undercut the Prius), the Insight may meet Honda’s sales expectations. Honda also plans to introduce a hybrid sports car based on the CR-Z concept shown in Detroit earlier this year (pictured at right), as well as a Fit hybrid. After the failure of the V6-powered Accord Hybrid and the discontinuation of the first-generation Insight, Honda found itself almost completely out of the hybird limelight while Toyota took all of the accolades (and sales) in spite of bringing the first mass-market hybrid vehicle to the US market.
The Insight goes on sale in the US next spring as a 2010 model.
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