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by Tim Beissmann

Honda Australia has launched the 2012 Honda Insight, bringing sharper styling, more equipment and better fuel economy to the compact hybrid hatchback.

Upgrades to the engine and transmission, improved aerodynamics, a power-saving electric fuel pump and low-rolling resistance tyres have helped cut the updated Insight’s economy by 6.5 percent. It is now officially rated at 4.3 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, putting it 0.4L/100km off the pace of its key hybrid rival, the Toyota Prius.

First seen at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show in September, the 2012 Honda Insight gets a new illuminated grille, LED daytime running lights, redesigned front bumper and revised tail-lights.

Honda has attempted to tackle one of the big criticisms of the old model by taking a number of steps to improve rear visibility. The 2012 model features a thinner tailgate spoiler, revised roof lining, a new rear wiper motor and a longer wiper blade.

Inside, the new Insight benefits from a centre console storage bin and armrest, refreshed meters and gauges, new front headrests and upgraded seat materials. The new roof liner and upgraded seat design has also improved rear-seat headroom by 20mm.

The two existing model variants carry over with their prices unchanged. The $29,990 Insight VTi scores new wing mirrors with side indicators and integrated Bluetooth with steering wheel-mounted controls, while the insight VTi-L adds a leather-bound gear knob.

Two new colours have been added to the palette: Premium White and Carnelian Red (pictured).

Honda Australia will be hoping the updates can help Insight sales turn around having more than halved so far this year compared with the first five months of 2011 – down from 275 to 124.

The Insight lost its title as Australia’s cheapest hybrid in March when Toyota launched the Yaris-sized Prius C from $23,990. So far this year, 652 Prius C hybrids have been registered in Australia – more than five times that of the Insight.

Sales of the larger Toyota Prius, priced from $34,990, have also increased almost 70 per cent this year, up to 443.




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