Honda Insight

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2003 Honda Insight

Honda Insight
Body styles:2-door hatchback
Engines:Gas: 0.995 L lean-burn I3 12 valve SOHC
Electric: 144 volt 10 kW
Length:3945 mm (155 1/8 in)
Wheelbase:2400 mm (94 1/2 in)
Height w/o antenna:1355 mm (53 1/3 in)
Curb weight:Manual w/o AC 1847 lb (838 kg)
Manual w/ AC 1878 lb (852 kg)
CVT w/ AC 1964 lb (891 kg)
Similar models:Honda Civic Hybrid
Honda Accord Hybrid

The Honda Insight is a 2-seater hatchback hybrid automobile manufactured by Honda. It was the first mass-produced hybrid automobile sold in the United States, introduced in 1999 (in Japan, however, the first generation of the Toyota Prius was launched in 1997). According to the EPA, the 5-speed manual transmission variant of the Insight is the most fuel-efficient mass-produced automobile sold in the United States; the CVT variant and the 2004 model of the Toyota Prius share the second place.1 The Insight is also one of the cleanest: the CARB rated the 5-speed variant ULEV and the CVT variant SULEV. This trade off is due to the 5-speeds unique lean-burn ability which increases effeciency at the expense of emissions.

The Insight has a 3-cylinder engine and a brushless electric motor located on the crankshaft. Behind the driver's and the passenger's seats there is a set of 144 V NiMH batteries. During acceleration and a drive uphill, the electric motor provides additional power; during deceleration and a drive downhill, the motor acts as a generator and recharges the batteries in the process called regenerative braking. A computer control module regulates, how much power comes from the internal combustion engine, and how much from the electric motor; in the CVT variant, it also finds the optimal gear ratio. The Insight has the first generation of the Honda hybrid technology; the next generation, used in the Honda Civic Hybrid, is much more space-efficient. The current charge of the batteries is shown on the dashboard, as is the current state of the electric motor: whether it is assisting the engine or charging the batteries as a generator.

Unlike the Toyota Prius, which has a planetary gearset, the original Insight had a conventional manual transmission. Starting with the 2001 model, a CVT variant of the Insight has been available; the CVT is similar to that used in the Honda Civic and the Honda Logo. Also, unlike the Toyota Prius, the Insight cannot run on the electric motor alone, where as the Prius can not run on the ICE alone. A feature shared by the two hybrids is stopping the engine when it is idle (for example, when the car stops at a traffic light). Since it is more powerful (10kW) than most starters of conventional cars, the Insight's electric motor can start the engine nearly instantaneously.

The Insight is assembled at the Honda factory in Suzuka, Japan, where the Acura NSX and the Honda S2000 are also assembled. The three cars all share an all-aluminum body. Sales are slow, but Honda sees the vehicle as more of a halo car than a volume seller. As of 2004, under 2,000 Insights are sold per year in the United States, with just 5 sold in November, 2004.

At the 2003 Tokyo Auto Show, Honda introduced the concept car Honda IMAS, an extremely fuel-efficient and lightweight hybrid car made of aluminum and carbon fiber, which was perceived by most observers to be the future direction where the Insight is heading.


The Insight's engine won the International Engine of the Year award for 2000, and continued to hold the "Sub-1 liter" size category for the next five years. The Insight was nominated for the North American Car of the Year award for 2001.


While formidable, the Insight is not the most fuel efficient mass-produced car ever sold in the United States, which was the Messerschmitt KR200, a three wheel vehicle similar to the Corbin Sparrow and about the size of a Commuter Cars Tango. Today it might very well be classified as a motorcycle rather than a car.

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