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Honda Insight Value equation: The Insight is cheaper to buy than a Prius but will cost more to fuel.

Value equation: The Insight is cheaper to buy than a Prius but will cost more to fuel.

Insight to become Australia’s most affordable hybrid with starting price of $29,990

HONDA sent a shiver through the Toyota ranks when it peeled the covers off its new Insight hybrid at Darling Harbour this morning and announced it will go on sale December 6 priced from less than $30,000, making it Australia’s cheapest hybrid car.

There are two petrol-electric five-door Insight models, the VTi at $29,990 – exactly $10,000 less than the starting price for a Prius – and the VTi-L at $33,490.

However, while the Insight undercuts the Prius on price, it cannot match its efficiency, having a combined fuel consumption figure of 4.6L/100km (compared with 3.9L/100km for Prius) and CO2 emissions of 109g/km (versus 89g/km for Prius).

HondaInsight center imageLeft: Honda U3-X. Below: Eli Evans' Honda Civic Type R rally car.

Honda’s latest hybrid model employs a smaller, lighter and more powerful version of the Civic Hybrid’s electric motor-assisted 1.3-litre four-cylinder powertrain, but is encased in a lighter and more slippery body that has an aerodynamic drag co-efficient of 0.28Cd.

The new-generation Honda Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system incorporates a 10kW electric motor and a compact ‘Intelligent Power Unit’ that harnesses energy via regenerative braking.

The system can run on electric-only power in certain low-speed driving conditions, while the engine includes cylinder deactivation during deceleration and a stop-start feature at idle.

The Insight’s nickel-metal hydride battery pack is 31 per cent smaller and 35 per cent lighter than the Civic Hybrid’s.

Attention to detail in the packaging department has seen the compact battery and IPU located underneath the floor at the rear of the vehicle, allowing for a 60/40 split-fold rear seat.

Honda claims the 40-litre fuel tank can deliver a driving range of around 650km.

A comprehensive on-board computer scores how economical the driver has been driving, among other functions.

Honda kept the hybrid theme going in Sydney this morning by also showing the CR-Z coupe, which is due on sale here mid-2011.

Though it has been previewed before, Honda spiced up its new hybrid coupe offering by displaying a modified version by its Japanese tuning house, Mugen, with wings, bigger wheels and carbon-fibre interior highlights.

Meanwhile, personal mobility is back on the map – despite the Segway’s lack of traction – with Honda demonstrating its new U3-X mobility concept.

Looking like a boom box from the 1980s – only more rounded – and weighing just 10kg, the U3-X has fold-out pegs and seat, taking on the appearance of a futuristic unicycle.

Powered by a lithium-ion battery pack that provides an hour of charge, the user sits on the device and simply leans in the direction of intended travel. Keeping the U3-X upright is an inclinometer refined during Honda’s ASIMO robot development and a wheel structure that enables movement in all directions, including forward, backward, side-to-side and diagonally.

Honda’s entrant in the Australian Rally Championship, a Civic Type R driven by Eli Evans and Glen Weston, was also on display at Darling Harbour, fresh from its podium finish at the International Rally in Queensland.

As part of Honda’s new ‘What if, What’s next?’ brand campaign, the company also displayed a ‘Dream Wall’, which uses high-speed object recognition and software to detect faces and objects, determining gender, age and emotion.

Motor show patrons are greeted by a hummingbird, which detects their position and encourages them to smile before leading them through the experience of generating their own Honda dream on a wall of plasma screens.

2010 Honda Insight pricing:
VTi $29,990
VTi-L $33,490


Honda Insight Value equation: The Insight is cheaper to buy than a Prius but will cost more to fuel.



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