2010 Honda Insight; photo by Paul Williams
2010 Honda Insight; photo by Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

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First Drive: 2010 Honda Insight

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By Jim Kerr

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2009 Honda Insight

Honda’s Insight is back. Introduced as North America’s first gas-electric hybrid vehicle in 1999, the Insight was an aluminum-bodied two-seat economy car that offered great fuel economy and performance in the same package. Now the Insight name has been applied to a new 2010 model with more advanced technology and room for five passengers.

The original Insight used Honda’s IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) technology which placed a thin but powerful electric motor between the gas engine and the transmission. This motor would assist the gas engine as needed to improve fuel economy and performance. Several Civic and Accord models have used succeeding generations of the IMA technology and the new Insight will incorporate the fifth generation of Honda’s IMA hybrid powertrain.

The IMA powertrain is really an integrated three part system: the 1.3-litre three-cylinder gasoline engine uses low-friction features such as offset cylinder bores, low tension rings and low friction pistons to reduce parasitic drag. The single overhead cam engine utilizes two valves per cylinder with dual-stage rocker arms that are controlled by the engine computer to change valve lift and timing for maximum economy and performance. This i-VTEC valve control system allows the engine operation on only some cylinders, and can also maximize electrical regenerative braking by reducing the gasoline engine braking during deceleration.

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