Honda has revealed the production version of its new Insight hybrid, ahead of its debut at the New York motor show later this week.
As you've probably gathered, the car's styling doesn't deviate far from the concept shown off last year. With broad, horizontal headlights and a slim grille, the nose shares plenty with the new Accord sedan sold in America.
Although the styling is (whisper it) a bit boring, what lies beneath is anything but. Power comes from a third-generation two-motor hybrid system, making use of a 1.5-litre Atkinson Cycle petrol engine, an electric motor and a compact lithium-ion battery pack.
Under most conditions, the setup operates as a 'series hybrid' – rather than driving the wheels, that means the petrol engine feeds the lithium-ion battery pack or acts as a generator for the electric motor. Total system outputs are 113kW of power and 267Nm of torque.
There are three drive modes – Normal, Econ and Sport – and drivers are able to toggle three levels of regenerative braking with steering-mounted paddles. In Normal, the car can be driven for 1.6km without any internal-combustion interference.
Because the electric motor takes care of most driving, there's no transmission required, although a lock-up clutch connects the petrol engine to the drive wheels at highway speed for more efficient operation.
Built on the Civic platform, Honda boasts the Insight has a "generous" 2.7-metre wheelbase, with 95cm of rear legroom and a 428L boot. By storing the lithium-ion battery pack under the rear seats, the designers have been able to fit a folding 60/40 rear bench.
Up front, there's a 7.0-inch TFT driver's display, leather seats with optional heating, and an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Entry-level LX models come with LED lighting at both ends, 16-inch alloy wheels and push-button start, while the mid-range EX gains keyless entry a larger central touchscreen and SiriusXM radio.
The range-topping Touring rides on 17-inch wheels, and gains LED fog-lights, rain-sensing wipers, a power moonroof, leather seats, dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation with live traffic updates, a Wi-Fi hotspot and over-the-air updates.
Honda Sensing, with lane-keeping assist, forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and traffic sign recognition is standard across the range.
As for the way it drives, Honda says the chassis is designed to be "refined, confident and composed" on the move. There's a dual-ratio rack-and-pinion electric power steering system, and the car rides on MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear.
There's also extra sound insulation under the bonnet, in the front fenders, firewall and and floor for a quieter, more refined drive experience.
At the moment, the Insight is an American-only proposition, although Honda Australia is "aware of the opportunity" offered by hybrid vehicles locally.