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by Matt Brogan

Honda has given us a sneak peak at its latest offering in the fuel efficiency contest, the Honda Insight, which was unveiled to invited media in Melbourne this morning.

Launched onto the Japanese market less than two weeks ago, the Insight Concept will be on show at the Melbourne Motor Show from next Friday, but we were able to get up close and personal with it today.

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The car has already proved a huge hit in Japan and since its launch onto the market 10 days ago Honda has sold 10,000 units, and that’s contrasted against a monthly sales target of 5000!

Sales of the car should begin in Australia early next year, after launches onto the US and European markets.

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Honda Australia CEO Yasuhide Mizuno, said the car, which he describes as the world’s most affordable hybrid car, also offered exceptional fuel economy.

He said the Insight was designed to set the standard for compact cars for a new era, combining outstanding environmental performance with fun, responsive driving and efficient, versatile packaging.

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The all-new Honda Insight was developed with the goal to provide these attributes in a car that is affordable for more customers across the globe.

Insight features a newly developed hybrid system including a 1.3-litre i-VTEC engine and Honda’s proprietary Integrated Motor Assist (IMA).

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The aerodynamic body achieves a world-leading coefficient of drag of 0.28 and to further support fuel-efficient driving, the Insight features the Ecological Drive Assist System (Eco Assist) as standard equipment on all variants.

Mr Mizuno said the Insight is the culmination of over 20 years of hybrid development and more than 35 years of lower impact petrol engine development, which started with the CVCC engine in the Honda Civic in 1972.

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He said that the Insight would be sold alongside Honda Australia’s current low-emission vehicle the Civic Hybrid, which currently sells abut 90 vehicles a month.

Honda spokesman Mark Higgins said this figure was somewhat supply constrained and he expected that the Insight would sell in larger numbers.

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Given the huge demand for the insight in overseas markets and in Japan Mr Higgins said Honda Australia was going to have supply issues for the Insight when it did go on sale in Australia.

He said that following the closure of its Formula One racing operation the primary focus for Honda development was in fuel efficiency vehicles and this would be exemplified by the release of the Insight, which will be hollowed by the CRZ and the Jazz Hybrid.

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Mr Mizuno said that the reduction of CO2 emissions particularly was both a long and short term goal for Honda on a worldwide basis and the Insight was a part of that goal.

He said the current production facility in Japan could build about 200,000 Insights a year and with demand so high this facility may have to be supplemented by others.

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A key part of Honda’s global philosophy is to be “a company that society wants to exist”. And while that may at first sound like another piece of marketing strategy speak, it is a mantra that is followed the world over, starting with the R&D centres.

This philosophy helps explain why the marketing of a more affordable hybrid car; is part of Honda’s efforts to have a positive impact on society.

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Honda could have chosen to place this cleaner technology in high-end cars; showpiece environmental machines to sell at a premium rate to a low number of customers. There’s probably an argument that says there’s more money per unit in that approach.

However, in line with Honda’s philosophies, beliefs and heritage, the approach was to bring low emission hybrid technology to the masses by using our engineering experience to reduce the costs and therefore the retail price.

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As well as introducing new sections of society to cleaner cars, this should also help increase the sales volume of hybrid cars – which will have a positive effect on overall emissions figures, and therefore the environment.

The exterior evokes the design of Honda’s flagship for environmental performance, the zero emissions FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle.

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The line traversing the middle of the body in a single motion emphasises the low vehicle height, contributing to a sporty design. The high tail adds to both the aerodynamic performance and the stylish look of the Insight.

The interior is advanced and futuristic-looking and features a two-tiered instrument panel divided vertically, allowing the driver to access important information at a glance.

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The interior features elegantly contrasting colors, textures and materials to further emphasis the futuristic hybrid feel.

Pricing and Australian delivery dates are yet to be finalised.




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