NEW FOR 2010:

– All-new model

An all-new model for 2010, the Insight is Honda’s newest hybrid, named after the first hybrid model to be sold in North America in 1999. It’s a dedicated hybrid, meaning that it is available strictly in that configuration, and is not a hybridized version of an existing gasoline-only model.

The Insight uses a 1.3-litre four-cylinder i-VTEC gasoline engine, including Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) which virtually eliminates the pumping action of the cylinders during deceleration, allowing the motor/generator to more efficiently generate electricity to charge the battery. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) includes wheel-mounted paddle shifters for seven pre-set "gears" on the EX trim line. Its Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system uses a 10-kilowatt electric motor, along with a continuously variable transmission. The Insight can’t take off from a standing start on electric power alone, but it can run solely on its battery during steady cruising at around mid-40 km/h. It also shuts off at idle, and is started again by the electric motor, instead of a conventional starter. The nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery is stored under the floor, allowing for the rear seats to be folded flat.

The Insight also includes an all-new ecological drive assist system, or Eco Assist, to help drivers achieve better real-world fuel economy. An "Econ" button enhances the efficiency of multiple systems, including throttle control, CVT operation, idle stop duration, air conditioning and cruise control operation. The speedometer changes its background colour to indicate efficient acceleration and braking, and fuel economy ratings are continually tracked and shown as per-drive cycle and on a lifetime basis in the form of plant leaf graphics that can be brought up the multi-information display.

A four-door hatchback model is the sole configuration, available in two trim lines.

Features on the LX include 15-inch steel wheels, automatic climate control, active front head restraints, heated power mirrors, LED taillamps, Eco Assist, exterior temperature display, power windows with driver’s auto up/down, power locks with keyless entry, cruise control, tilt and telescopic wheel, cargo under-floor storage, driver’s vanity mirror, CD/MP3 stereo with four speakers and auxiliary input, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, driver’s manual height adjustment, and floor mats.

The EX adds 15-inch alloy wheels, vehicle stability assist, traction control, wheel-mounted shifter paddles, side mirrors with integrated turn signals, cargo cover, centre armrest with concealed storage, rear seatback pockets, passenger vanity mirror, glove compartment light, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite-linked navigation system, map lights, six speakers, wheel-mounted audio controls, and USB device connector.

Although it lacks the full battery-operation function of some of its competitors, the Insight’s features, fuel economy and reasonable price make it an excellent choice for many commuters. It feels far peppier than expected, handles very well, and includes a roomy and nicely-done interior, considerable cargo space, and handsome styling derived from the FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle.

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