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In just a few hours, CarAdvice will get behind the wheel of the latest petrol hybrid car to enter the Australian market – the Honda Insight.

Priced from just $29,990 the Insight is set to become the most affordable hybrid vehicle in Australia. It will undercut Toyota’s iconic Prius by near enough to $10,000 and that alone should see Honda’s second generation Insight find plenty of new homes across our busiest cities.

Satoshi Matsuzawa, Managing Director and CEO of Honda Australia, told the Australian motoring press that “Honda’s future starts with the Insight.”

In fact, Honda plans on having at least four hybrid cars in this market by the end of 2012, including an all-new Civic, Jazz, CR-Z, and the Insight.

Clearly, smaller, more efficient cars will figure strongly in Honda’s future automotive line-up, and the Insight is sure to feature prominently in that mix.

At the heart of the Insight is a 1.3-litre SOHC i-VTEC petrol/electric engine with Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) which when combined, produce an acceptable 72 kW of power and 167 Nm of torque from 1000-1700rpm.

As you can well imagine the Insight is the epitome of ‘environmentally friendly’ too with CO2 emissions down to 109g/km on a combined fuel consumption of 4.6-litres/100km.

Apart from the 1.3-litre i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine, Insight is loaded with a bunch of high-tech features that form the powertrain. There’s the high-power lightweight ultra-thin electric motor, the lightweight and compact battery (although it’s a Nickel-metal hydride unit and not the more advanced Lithium-ion type), Regenerative braking, Drive-by-wire throttle and CVT (continuously variable transmission).

The question that was posed by one of my colleagues was has Honda missed the mark as far as Hybrids go, and has everybody that ever wanted a Hybrid, already got a Prius? Quite possibly I suppose, given that they’ve sold over two million of them since 1997.

However, my guess is that Honda will sell plenty of these Insights. They look decidedly similar to the latest generation Prius, but at a significant discount on the Toyota offering.

That said the all-new Insight enters the market in the small car class, so it’s not in the same league as Prius when it comes to passenger space in the front and rear seats.

I had a chance to sit in the rear seats and while it’s comfortable enough, there isn’t an abundance of legroom back there, but then again, most cars in the small car segment share that same characteristic.

Up front, things look to be decidedly more exciting with an instrument display that looks more like a high-tech video game than automotive gauges.

It’s all about the Ecological Drive Assist system with the Insight – a myriad of virtual displays, which are supposed to help the driver deliver better fuel economy by providing a range of information about driver characteristics represented in a variety of super bright colours.

Honda is calling the exterior styling “Aero Athlete”, which of course, highlights the aerodynamic qualities of the Insight. The process has obviously worked wonders, as the drag coefficient is just 0.28, which means, this is one very slippery automobile.

Honda are expecting to sell 200 Insights each month in Australia although, production can be ramped up to handle additional volume, if need be.

CarAdvice will post a complete review of the Insight from behind the wheel on Thursday.




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