The production version of Honda's new Insight hybrid has a cool interior, a Prius-like shape — and, Honda says, a competitive price.
"We think we offer a value package" that will make the Insight appealing, says Dan Bonawitz, vice president of corporate planning and logistics at American Honda Motor Co.
The Insight, which will be built at Honda's Suzuka factory in Japan, made its debut at the Detroit auto show and goes on sale in early spring. The company says it plans to sell 200,000 units worldwide in the first year, half of those in North America.
The long-awaited challenger to the Toyota Prius hybrid replaces the first-generation Insight, which was launched in 1999 and discontinued at the end of 2006.
The five-door, five-seat Insight is available in three trim levels. The top-end version includes a navigation system.
Power comes from a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine and a nickel-metal hydride battery system that offers 30 percent more power output per module than on the 2006 Civic Hybrid, says Yasunari Seki, chief engineer for the Insight. That allows a reduction in the number of battery modules from 11 to seven, the main cost saving for the new Insight. Battery weight is down 28 percent.
The top speed on pure battery power is 30 mph. Combined fuel economy is 41 mpg, says Honda.
Honda hasn't announced the price but says it will be below the Civic Hybrid, which starts at $23,650. The Prius starts at $22,000.
The Insight targets male and female professionals ages 20 to 29, says product planning manager William Walton.
"We want to match an age group that couldn't afford a hybrid before," he says.
Bonawitz calls the Prius the "nameplate hybrid vehicle."
The Insight resembles the Prius, although it is lower-slung and its hood less sloping. Seki calls the style "aero-athletic."
The interior has a split-level instrument panel. The speedometer is on top and gauges below register fuel-efficient driving. An arc of light shows green when the vehicle is being driven efficiently and blue when it is not. Punching an eco mode button boosts fuel economy but reduces acceleration.