Why Does the 2010 Honda Insight Look So Much Like the Prius?
There are two principal reasons, one having to do with aerodynamics and packaging and the other having to do with marketing. First, both the Toyota Prius and the 2010 Honda Insight are designed to replicate the slipperiness of an airfoil, which is why they have low, sleek front ends, sharply angled windshields, and long, gently curved rooflines that taper off sharply at the high deck of a hatch door. If you are trying to propel a heavy glass-and-metal object through the air, this is one of the most efficient ways to do it. The Insight's front-end styling might look familiar to you, in fact, because it's derived from the look of the FCX Clarity, Honda's new hydrogen-powered car.
Second, Honda clearly recognized that the Prius shape has seeped into the consciousness of American society as THE shape for a Hybrid automobile, in the same way that a long, rectangular box reads "SUV" to most of us. So, Honda is simply trying to replicate Toyota's success with the Prius. The fact that the hatchback configuration also gives the 2010 Honda Insight even more cargo space than the Prius (15.9 cubic feet versus 14.4 cubic feet) is just a bonus.
Honda's Hybrid Powertrain Is up to Its Usual Clever Tricks
The 2010 Honda Insight is powered by the fifth generation of Honda's well-known IMA (Integrated Motor Assist), a parallel hybrid powertrain that debuted in the original, 2000 Honda Insight. In the 2010 Honda Insight, the IMA consists of a 1.3-liter gasoline i-VTEC engine that serves as the primary power source; a 10-kilowatt, lightweight electric motor that provides additional power as well as electricity generation; a lightweight and compact battery; and a continuously variable transmission. (The Civic Hybrid, by comparison, has a 15-kilowatt motor.) Thus configured, the 2010 Honda Insight provides a total output of 98 hp @ 5800 rpm and maximum torque of 123 lb-ft at 1000-1500 rpm. The gasoline engine itself is rated at 88 hp and 88 lb-ft.
While "IMA" refers to the 2010 Honda Insight's hybrid powertrain as a whole, the various parts that comprise IMA are spread throughout the car. The gasoline engine, as you would expect, is located under the hood. What Honda calls the Intelligent Power Unit (IPU) is located under the rear cargo floor. Anyone who has ever seen the original Insight's high rear cargo floor can easily understand how much smaller the IPU is now than it was nine years ago, because the 2010 Honda Insight's cargo floor is as low and easily accessible as it is in any conventional hatchback car, including, we'd guess, the Honda Fit. Anyway, the IPU consists of the battery pack; the electric motor; and a cooling system that sucks air in from the cabin, routes it through the whole IPU and around the back of the car, and then ejects it into the left rear wheel well.
As for the nickel-metal-hydride batteries, there are seven modules of them, each containing twelve D-size batteries, for a total of 84 batteries. By comparison, the Civic Hybrid's IPU contains 11 modules of batteries, but the 2010 Insight's batteries are some 30 percent more efficient than the Civic Hybrid's. They are also 30 percent more durable, Honda claims.
It's Easy to Maximize Efficiency
Honda makes it easy for Insight owners to track their fuel economy and maximize the efficiency of the IMA powertrain through easy-to-read displays on the instrument panel. The digital speedometer, visible above the steering wheel, changes its background color from blue (you're driving inefficiently) to blue-green (you're driving somewhat efficiently) to solid green (you are driving very efficiently and using less fuel). It's easy to modulate your behavior to keep the speedo in the green zone.
Another efficiency measurement is the Eco Guide, which is in the Multi-Information Display. The number of digital "leaves" displayed indicates the level of environmentally responsible driving performance over a particular driving cycle. The more leaves you see, the less fuel you're using. There are two displays: one for the current trip, and one for the lifetime of the vehicle. There are also several bar displays that measure efficiency of acceleration, braking, and other parameters. And, of course, at a glance you can see your instantaneous mpg figure and a cumulative figure since your last start-up.
To read more about the 2010 Honda Insight, go to our 2009 Detroit auto show blogs coverage. All the latest blogs from the Editors of Automobile Magazine can be found HERE. We've got our whole staff wandering the floor at Cobo Hall bringing back live photos and more information about all the new debuts from Detroit.
For complete coverage of the 2009 Detroit auto show, click HERE.