New Insight hybrid thirstier, but more practical



Honda\’s new Insight small car may use two-thirds more fuel than the 2001 version of the car with the same name, but the car maker claims it will have a more beneficial effect on the planet.

The Japanese maker says the new Insight, which will become Australia\’s cheapest hybrid when it goes on sale next month, will sell in much larger numbers than the original, and in the process make a bigger dent in CO2 emissions.

Unlike the 2001 model, a quirky two-seater that cost $55,000 and attracted roughly 50 buyers in total during five years on sale, the 2010 Insight will start from $29,990, $10,000 less than the world\’s best-known hybrid, the Toyota Prius. The Toyota Hybrid Camry starts at $36,990.

The entry level Insight will offer more than just the promise of lower fuel bills, with standard equipment including six airbags, stability control, keyless entry, Bluetooth, climate control air-conditioning and parking sensors. A USB port is standard, while the steering wheel gets audio control buttons and paddle-shift levers for changing gears manually.

It will also have a speedo that glows green when you drive efficiently, linked to a reward system that allows you to grow digital plants on your dashboard.

The company\’s marketing and sales boss, Stephen Collins, says the car should appeal to tertiary-educated, city dwellers who are looking at both hybrids and small premium hatches.

\”They want to drive a hybrid but they still want something that is fun to drive as well as fuel-efficient and affordable,\” he says.

It uses 4.6 litres of fuel per 100km and emits 109g/km of CO2. It\’s not as frugal as the Prius, which uses just 3.9 litres of fuel per 100km. But it remains significantly more efficient than Australia\’s top-selling small car, the Mazda3, which uses 8.2L/100km.

The Insight\’s biggest advantage over rival conventional petrol cars is its fuel use in city driving, where it uses just 4.9L/100km, compared with 11.2L/100km for the Mazda3.

Honda has moved to allay customer fears about the life of the car\’s battery by offering an eight-year, unlimited kilometre warranty for the car\’s battery.

It says the battery should last up to 15 years and a replacement will cost just $1875 plus fitment costs, a figure it claims is \”half the price of competitors\’ batteries\”.

Honda says the Insight\’s new, improved electric motor is thinner than the motor in the current Civic Hybrid, which means the entire hybrid system is more compact and lightweight. Honda claims the load area of 408 litres is superior to the Toyota Prius.

\”Fun to drive was a key goal for the car, along with fuel efficiency and affordability,\” Collins says.
The Insight scored one of the highest crash testing ratings in history, notching up a five-star result in the process.