A sharp looking compact that just so happens to achieve great Fuel Economy thanks to its hybrid drive-train.
Wayne Gerdes and Sean Welch - CleanMPG
- Jan. 11, 2009
2010 Honda Insight-II – 40/43/41 mpgUS city/highway/combined on the 08 EPA.
In late 1999, the first generation, 2-seat Honda Insight was launched as the first hybrid electric vehicle available to US consumers. It was an all out technological tour de force designed specifically to be the worlds highest fuel economy mass production automobile. To achieve its 49/61 mpgUS city/highway rating (per the 08 EPA) however, occupant comfort and utility had to take a (figurative) back seat. As a technology demonstrator for hybrid automobile early adopters, it served its purpose but with its limitations, only 13,889 vehicles were sold over the entire 6-year production run.
2010 Honda Insight-II Buyer
Although the Insight-II will not be capable of the fuel economy of its namesake, it is designed with a specific purpose in mind: to be a stylish yet fully equipped 5-door hybrid vehicle at an entry level price most any consumer can afford.
Just who are the target consumers for the Insight-II? Gen-Y includes students to working professionals from 20 to 29 years old looking for stylish yet responsible modes of transportation. Honda is also targeting higher income “Empty Nesters” -- 55 years of age and older -- who could afford more but are looking for an technologically advanced, yet environmentally friendly automobile.
Fuel Economy and Environmental importance are highest amongst those with incomes below $75,000 per year -- this is the Insight-II’s target audience.
2010 Honda Insight-II Trim Levels
The Insight-II will be available with two trim levels, an LX and EX. The EX can also be equipped with Navigation.
Major standard equipment under the LX trim includes the following:
- CVT – Automatic Transmission
- Power Windows w/ auto up and down for the driver, Power Locks and Power Mirrors.
- Tile and Telescopic Wheel
- Remote Keyless Entry
- Auto climate control
- 160W AM/FM/CD w/ 4-speakers, Speed -Sensitive Volume Control and MP3 Aux input Jack
- Rear Windshield Wiper
- 60/40 Split fold-down and reclining seat
- Auto/Stop and Charge/Assist Indicators
- Two a and an i FCD
- Outside Temperature indicator
- LED Rear lighting
The EX adds the following to the equipment included in the LX model:
- 15” Alloy Wheels
- Center console with USB Audio port
- Cruise Control steering wheel control
- Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA)
- Heated outside mirrors w/ external turn indicators
- All driver/passenger window switches lit
- Driver passenger Vanity mirrors and Map Lights
- Variable Int. wipers
- Seat Pockets
The EX w/ Navigation adds the following to the equipment included in the EX model:
- Satellite Linked-Navigation System w/ Voice Recognition
- Bluetooth hands free link
- Navigation, Bluetooth, Audio, and Cruise Control steering wheel controls
Honda expects consumers will purchase the Insight-II’s various trim levels in the following ratios: 25% LX, 65% EX, and the remaining 10% EX w/ Navigation.
2010 Honda Insight-II specifications
The Insight-II’s specifications can be viewed in the following: Honda Insight-II specifications
Familiar Engine and new IMA
The Insight-II’s 1.3L engine uses a 2-Stage i-VTEC system. The high output valve timing mode that allowed the HCH-II an additional 10 HP from the engine is missing in this iteration. The engine still features 4-cylinder deactivation but adds a late closing intake valve design (Atkinsonization) for improved fuel economy at the expense of torque.
Honda’s fifth generation Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) Hybrid drive-train (just like all those before it) allows the smallish 1.3L engine to perform as if had more HP and torque yet retain the fuel saving attributes that the powerplant is known for. The system still includes Auto-Stop capability, regenerative braking and just like Generation IV IMA in the HCH-II, an EV mode under low load and above a minimum of 11mph. Compared to the IMA system in the HCH-II however, power output per battery module (a module consists of 8-1.2V D-sized NiMH cells) is 30% higher. This allows a decrease from 11 to just 7 modules -- a 19% reduction in size and a 28% reduction in weight. The total battery system output comes to 100.8 Volts with a capacity of 5.75 Ah’s vs. the HCH-II’s 158V and 5.5 Ah’s.
The ECON button allows the driver chooses to mildly reduce performance for a small increase in fuel Economy. Overrides were built in; if the driver pushes the accelerator to the floor, the ECON Mode is immediately canceled without any other driver interaction.
Ancillary accessory functions have been changed as well.
- Throttle position to power output is smoothed.
- The Engine and CVT power output is reduced by up to 4% when ECON mode is engaged.
- Regen affinity increases slightly while ECON mode is engaged.
- Auto-Stop occurs at both lower intake and coolant temps.
- A/C unit cycle “On” time is reduced by upwards of one-half.
- A/C “On” time during Auto-Stop is reduced by allowing temperature band to increase further before reengaging.
Engine and CVT, Assist, Regen and AS plus A/C control all under ECON
Cruise Control action under ECON
The 2010 Honda Insight-II includes an all new Ecological Drive Assist System (ECO Assist™) that helps drivers achieve even higher fuel economy with more feedback than the standard “i” (instantaneous) and “a” (average) Fuel Consumption Displays. The simple yet extraordinarily effective ECO Assist “Guidance Function” shows a green background behind the speedometer to indicate the use of fuel efficient accelerations, decelerations and steady state cruise.
Guidance Function – Green is Good
Scoring Function – Only ½ a leaf showing.
Among the wide array of standard safety technologies, Honda’s latest safety advance -- the ACE Body Structure -- is a stand out feature. It contributes enhanced protection and structural integrity in frontal collisions between vehicles of different sizes.
Along with the latest in structural safety, the Insight-II is equipped with dual-threshold driver/front passenger airbags (SRS), side curtain airbags, and driver/front passenger side airbags with a passenger-side Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS) -- all standard.
Active safety features include active front seat head restraints designed to reduce the likelihood of neck injury in rear collisions, anti-lock braking system (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), and front seatbelts with automatic-tensioners and load limiters. Again, all of this is standard equipment.
The Insight-II in EX trim also includes Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA).
The Insight-II was designed from the Fit platform while using a drive-train similar to the one found in the HCH-II -- it makes perfect sense to compare some of the basic attributes of these three side by side.
Honda Fit vs. Insight-II vs. HCH-II
2010 Insight-II Real World Impressions and FE capability
|Vehicle||2009 Honda Fit w/ CVT||2010 Honda Insight-II LX||2009 Honda Civic Hybrid-II|
| || || || |
|Performance|| || || |
|0 to 60 mph (sec.)||~ 11||12.3||11.9|
|FE (08 EPA - mpgUS combined)||31||41||42|
| || || || |
|Exterior|| || || |
| || || || |
|Interior|| || || |
|Headroom (in., front/rear)||40.4 / 39.0||38.4/35.9||39.4/37.4|
|Legroom (in., front/rear)|| 41.3 / 34.5||42.3/33.5||42.2/34.6|
|Shoulder Room (in., front/rear)||52.7 / 51.3||52.7/50.4||53.6/52.3|
|Hiproom (in., front/rear)||51.5 / 51.3||51.6/48.7||51.9/51.0|
|Cargo Volume (cu. Ft., seat up/down)||20.6 / 57.3||15.9 / 31.5||10.4 (trunk)|
|Passenger Volume (cu. Ft.)||90.8||85.0||90.9|
| || || || |
The Insight-II "Long Lead" media launch commenced with a technical presentation and some pre-arranged driving loops. One loop consisted of a 107 mile round trip and afterward, two optional shorter driving loops consisting of a FE challenge segment and a somewhat sportier driving segment through the local mountain passes around Phoenix, AZ. The media launch was held twice over a period of four days with twenty-five journalists attending on days one and two while another twenty-five attended the launch on days three and four.
Distance Driving segment
During the longer distance drive, there was a climb and fall of approximately 1,000’ between the starting and driver swap locations. Reaching the second location, we swapped drivers and drove a similar route back. This was achieved in a non-setup and brand new Insight-II...
Respectable FE for the first time out!
The Canadian Journalist I drove with was more of a sport oriented driver and tested the Insight-II’s real world performance capabilities as he saw fit. There was quite a bit of laughter at our expense later on in the day from other journalists as they heard how I drove him to insanity on the way out... and he did the same to me while I was holding onto the door handles for dear life on the way back!
Levity aside, he still pulled an excellent 46 mpg segment on the return trip with his foot on the floor and me cringing in fear.
When we completed the loop, it was time for lunch and a small respite before everyone prepared for the optional afternoon Fuel Economy Challenge or Sport driving segment(s). Most journalists achieved mid 40 to low 50 mpg totals on the long drive which again was quite respectable in my eyes -- especially considering the terrain challenges and general unfamiliarity with the vehicle. Add to this the typical car reviewer wring out for previews and the numbers are even more favorable.
Fuel Economy Challenge Segment(s)
Fortunately, many of the journalists from both groups decided to spend their afternoon pushing the Insight-II to fuel economy levels they have probably never experienced before. The course consisted of a 16 mile round trip with perhaps a 300-400’ climb on the way out and a similar descent on the way back. Unfortunately, there were 3 stop signs inconveniently located on the downhill section so soon after hitting terminal velocity, it was on the binders once again. Of course, we also had to contend with the all-important time limit of 35-minutes.
FE Challenge Results
|Vehicle||Technique Level||Time (min.)||FE Results (mpgUS)|
|Insight-II||Basic||35 ||66.x |
| || || || |
|Insight-I w/ CVT||Advanced/Competiton||35||83.4|
| || || || |
| || || || |
*Not enough time for a fourth run on Day 4.
** Caught behind a school bus for 4-stops
*** 7-Bars to 5-bars of Soc (20% SoC reduction worth maybe 20 mpg on this short a loop)
The fuel economy for both groups proved to be far beyond my expectations with an average of 65.x mpg! Aside my own experiences, the best segment went to a TOV driver named Jeff on Day 4 of the event. He achieved what I would call an amazing 70.x mpg trip. He also made it within the minimum time period IIRC. Nice job Jeff!
A few tidbits I thought were interesting. Terminal speed on the downhill section of the FE challenge course showed that the HCH-II had the fastest non-powered roll achieving a top speed of 55 mph under a FAS. The Prius-II was number two at 50 mph under Warp-Neutral while the Insight-I and Insight-II saw a top speed of 48 mph.
During the initial climb out to the peak, the HCH-II saw a high of only 42 mpg which was far and away the lowest FE of all the vehicles driven and before the school buses held her back. Not a good showing. In contrast, the Insight-II saw a range from 46 to 56 mpg during the climb.
Another facet... Since I could not take the Insight-II to an empty parking lot for a seat of the pants handling test, I had the opportunity to run her through a chicane like segment as I entered the Resorts entrance and then into a parking lot area at the end of the multiple fuel economy challenge runs. The Insight-II handled the best of the group with its four wheels just beginning to chirp in a well controlled slight drift (no under or over steer) before I brought her down to 0 mph. The HCH-II had its standard understeer to balanced steering as she was brought to a halt. The Prius-II was an understeer and held onto the binders before she really got out of hand. Surprisingly, the Insight-II with its solid torsion beam rear suspension handled that section with the least amount of driver input while proving to be the most confidence inspiring of all the vehicles driven during the week.
This is an area of the preview that the Insight-II had some trouble. While it is a sub-compact, the rear seats were very hard to enter into without tapping your noggin on the rear roof line during entry (I'm over 6'0). There was plenty of headroom once you were seated. Second, the leg room behind the driver was at a premium. If there is a tall driver in front, there should not be a tall passenger directly behind as the pictures show. Finally, the rear foot well was so tight it was difficult to fit my shoes under the front seat.
And the good? With the 15.5 cu. ft. of storage space behind the rear seats with them up and ready to accept passengers bests the Prius’ 14.4 cu. ft. by a good margin. Unlike previous IMA implementations in the Insight-I, HCH-I, Accord Hybrid and the HCH-II, this vehicle has a fold down rear seat -- a wonderful and very welcome surprise.
2010 Insight-II team members
I was extremely fortunate and honored to meet the engineers responsible not just for the Insight-II but also the CRX-HF, Insight-I, HCH-I, Accord and HCH-II! They loved playing the Formula One Sim after each day’s events too.
The Honda Engineers who designed our rides from the wheels up.
From Left to Right: Yasunari Seki - Chief Engineer and Lead Project Leader,
Shinko Ogayo, Yuji Fujiki, Hideharu Takemoto Assistant Chief Engineer and Hiroshi Guto.
I was also fortunate to meet the many members of the US Honda American PR team responsible for not just the Insight but everything else including all the Honda/Acura vehicles, lawn mowers, outboard engines, and even generators. It is amazing that they have time to launch the vehicles when you consider the rest of the duties they are responsible for! This group of dedicated individuals works more like a business family than a collection corporate employees... which probably explains how they can do all the things they do with the limited resources available.
The American Honda PR and Media team.
From Left to Right: Chris Naughton, Angie Nucci, Sage Marie (back),
Christine Yu, Todd Mittleman, Chuck Schifsky and Kurt Antonius.
What about the Insight-II’s lower FE rating vs. the HCH-II? The Insight-II’s Cd is .01 higher but its frontal area is approximately the same percentage smaller so that is a wash. The Insight-II’s tires are not the lowest RR with the design team looking for a balance between good grip and great FE. This factor will only subtract a half mpg at best. The Insight-II weighs almost 150 pounds less than the HCH-II which should bump the FE rating up another few tenths. Still a wash and not worth the 2 mpg loss while on the highway.
So what could it be? For one, the EPA ratings were achieved without the ECON button engaged which is worth perhaps 1 mpg or so. The next answer came just two days ago when I received updated specs and sure enough, the answer was there. While looking at the Insight-II’s CVT and Final drive ratios, the answer became obvious. The HCH-II uses a taller top CVT ratio and 1” larger diameter tires. Even with the slightly shorter final, the HCH-II turns 1,679 RPM at 60 mph whereas the Insight-II is turns a still respectable but much higher 1,867 RPM at the same. Maybe the loss of the High Performance VTEC Valve Timing mode left the Insight-II in need of a shorter geared solution for better acceleration.
The distance segment is what displayed the Insight-II’s real prowess. Just like the HCH-II
, get her rolling and she will pay you back with saved $’s in your wallet while skipping gas stations by the hundreds. The new CVT programming is much faster than either the Insight-I and HCH-II allowing for possibly a much better result in and amongst a heavy traffic stop and crawl as evidenced by the HCH-II’s poor climbing FE during its challenge drive. Honda’s CVT implementation in the Insight-II is the best yet.
While behind the windscreen of the Insight-II, I judged it to be equally capable of the excellent fuel economy that many of us have experienced from its more expensive brother, the HCH-II.
If the estimated MSRP arrives between $17,995 and $18,995, Honda will have a hit on their hands for their target market.
A slideshow of the entire grouping of Insight-II pics can be seen through the following link: Insight-II Interior and Exterior
2010 Honda Insight-II -- Video Review