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New York show: Production-ready Honda Insight shown

Sight to be seen: While Honda’s Insight hybrid electric vehicle was available in Australia in the past, the new third-gen model will be exclusively made in left-hand-drive form.

Third-gen Honda Inisght steps out in production guise but Oz sales remain unlikely

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Honda logo27 Mar 2018

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

HONDA Australia has reiterated that the Insight hybrid electric vehicle (EV) will not be imported as it is destined to remain a left-hand-drive-only proposition.

Unveiled in final production form at this week’s New York International Auto Show – but looking for all the world like the so-called concept Insight that debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January – the company also divulged performance and fuel-consumption data for the model it hopes will reel in the popular Toyota Prius in the United States and Canadian markets.

Key to boosting the Insight’s appeal is its Civic-esque four-door sedan shape, the favoured configuration by North American consumers and a departure from the usual five-door hatchback silhouettes offered by the Prius and the conceptually similar Hyundai Ioniq.

Size-wise, the Insight has grown to the point where it sits between the Civic and Accord – both of which have also been offered in hybrid guises for a number of years now.

Honda reckons no rival hybrid offers as much passenger space – partly due to the fact that the batteries are now housed beneath the rear seat, minimising their impact in the occupant cell or boot area behind.

Driving the Insight’s front wheels is a third-generation iteration of Honda’s two-motor hybrid system, which combines a 1.5-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine with a propulsion motor and a lithium-ion battery pack.

Together, total power is rated at 112kW while net torque comes in at 267Nm.

This compares to the 72kW/167Nm outputs available in the previous Insight (sold in Australia from 2010 to 2014), which used a 1.3-litre single-cam four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor combo.

In regular driving conditions, the Insight operates like a series hybrid, in which the engine supplies either the electric motor via a generator motor or recharges the battery pack, which consists of 60-cell lithium-ion units. About 1.5km of pure electric driving is possible.

There are three modes – Normal, Econ and Sport – while the driver can also use wheel-sited ‘deceleration’ selectors to operate three levels of regenerative braking to help save otherwise wasted energy.

One key departure for both the Honda and its hybrid rivals is the abolition of a conventional automatic gearbox (the old one employed a continuously variable transmission), since the electric propulsion motor powers the front axle directly and, at higher speeds, a lock-up clutch connects these and the engine.

Honda says this helps the latest Insight achieve a city-driving fuel-consumption average of 4.3 litres per 100km, which is about on par with the Prius and Ioniq hybrid in North America’s region-specific economy rating procedure.

Dynamically, the Insight adopts a variation of the current Civic’s ‘Earth Dreams’ architecture that includes a variable-ratio dual-pinion electric rack and pinion steering set-up, MacPherson-style struts up front and a multi-link independent rear suspension system. The latter usurps the old Jazz supermini-based torsion beam arrangement as found in the preceding model.

Finally, along with Honda’s typical 8.0-inch capacitive touchscreen, LaneWatch camera system, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and 7.0-inch LCD digital driver’s meter, most Insights will also offer autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow and traffic sign recognition.

As reported earlier, the model will be manufactured exclusively at Honda’s Greensburg, Indiana plant in the United States. Sales commence Stateside mid-year.

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