- The Washington Times - Friday, June 19, 2009

While many of the compact cars coming out of the Asian market are decidedly boxy-looking in design — Kia Soul, Nissan Cube, Scion xB — the 2010 Honda Insight is arrow-shaped. You might call the Insight a box cutter.

The razor-sharp lines pointed at the front end sweep with broad swiftness around to the tail end. The aerodynamic line is not only a matter of appearance; it’s also an emotional message about the bottom line, which is efficiency. The Insight isn’t setting time records in 0-to-60 mph, of course, but it’s setting new standards in the affordable-car market for environmental protection from emissions releases and achievements in fuel economy, at a starting price of under $20,000.

Honda’s all-new 2010 Insight Hybrid has EPA-rated fuel economy of 40 miles per gallon city and 43 mpg highway, and it is rated as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle by the nation’s toughest agency, the California Air Resources Board. Honda says the driving range on its nearly 11-gallon fuel tank is more than 400 miles.

Powering Honda’s 2010 hybrid is an electric motor/gasoline engine combo. The primary source of power for the Insight is its 8-valve single overhead cam four-cylinder gas engine with a miserly 88 horsepower. A 10-kilowatt electric motor helps give additional power for a combined horsepower output of 98 at 5,800 rpm. The Insight benefits well from the 123 lb.-ft. of total torque.

Mated to the hybrid powerplant is Honda’s Continuously Variable Transmission, which regulates an efficient operating range for the regenerative braking during deceleration, as well as offering smooth gear transitions during acceleration.

One of the main attributes to Honda’s all-new Insight, which was first introduced as a breakthrough model in 1999, is the Eco Guide. The Ecological Drive Assist System helps the driver in real-world driving achieve the best mileage ratings through a variety of recommended driving efficiencies. A 3D background in the instrumentation panel changes colors to reflect green driving methods. The Insight driver can turn on the ECON button, which sets into motion a whole range of economies that takes control of mileage-boosting practices. The ECON takes command of air-conditioning flow, as well as limiting power and torque.

The Honda features a two-tier instrument panel that is futuristic and minimalist. The two-tier system cuts down on the visual “noise” of what the driver’s eye can be distracted by in the information readouts. Honda’s Insight is focused on being easy to understand through quick recognition.

The 2010 Insight comes in two trims: LX and EX. The Insight LX starts at $19,800. This model is well-equipped with a tilt/telescoping steering column, which is considered a luxury in this segment, and power windows, anti-lock brakes, and head-curtain, dual-front and side-impact airbags.

I drove the more premium version: the EX with a base price of $21,300. It adds electronic Vehicle Stability Control, alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors and a host of comfort features. A navigations system is optional on the EX.

The Insight is a five-passenger, five-door model with a convenient 60-40 split-fold second row. A liftgate allows for ample clearance when loading items through the cargo bay, and the rear visibility is pretty good with a wide outward view through the rear glass liftgate.

In the hybrid market, Honda has taken its bow and arrow, and it has hit the mark.

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