Honda’s hy­brid up­grade has In­sight

Honda reck­ons many mo­torists are put off hy­brid cars be­cause they view them as ex­pen­sive and elit­ist. So it’s aim­ing to change that at­ti­tude with its new In­sight, as Rob Maet­zig re­ports.

Kapi-Mana News - - MOTORING -

It’s now been more than 10 years since Honda launched its first petrol-elec­tric hy­brid car to the world. That car was called In­sight, and it was a swoopy-look­ing lit­tle twodoor car that achieved in­cred­i­bly low fuel con­sump­tion.

It never was made avail­able for sale in this coun­try, al­though Honda New Zealand did im­port one for eval­u­a­tion and pro­mo­tional pur­poses.

The aim be­hind that orig­i­nal Honda hy­brid was clear: To avoid waste. En­gi­neers rea­soned if en­ergy gen­er­ated from brak­ing and de­cel­er­a­tion could be har­nessed and stored in a bat­tery pack, it could then be used to power an elec­tric mo­tor that would sup­ple­ment the per­for­mance of the car’s petrol en­gine.

That led to devel­op­ment of what is known as a par­al­lel hy­brid sys­tem, in which the petrol en­gine is the main source of power and torque, and is as­sisted some­times by the elec­tric mo­tor.

Honda called its sys­tem In­te­grated Mo­tor As­sist (IMA), and it com­prised a low-fric­tion 1.3-litre en­gine as the pri­mary power source, an ul­tra-thin elec­tric mo­tor, and a light­weight and com­pact bat­tery pack, all mated to a con­tin­u­ously vari­able au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

This ba­sic set-up hasn’t changed much over the in­ter­ven­ing 10 years, but it has been vastly im­proved as it has been pro­gres­sively in­tro­duced to other Honda ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing the Civic hy­brid we get in New Zealand.

Now an­other Honda hy­brid has ar­rived – and ap­pro­pri­ately it is called In­sight.

It’s an im­pres­sive new five-door hatch­back that uses a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the 1.3-litre en­gine from the Civic, and fea­tures a fifth­gen­er­a­tion IMA sys­tem that is 24 per cent more com­pact than the fourth­gen­er­a­tion ver­sion cur­rently in the Civic.

Some real im­prove­ments have been made with this new IMA.

The elec­tric mo­tor is now much thin­ner than be­fore – 35.7mm com­pared to 61.5mm on the Civic – which helps make the en­tire sys­tem more com­pact and light.

Big im­prove­ments have also been made to the bat­tery pack, which is 19 per cent smaller and 28 per cent lighter, which al­lows it to be stored un­der the floor of the In­sight’s boot.

End re­sult of all of this is a new hatch­back that in ev­ery sense is just that – a hatch­back. The com­pact­ness of the lat­est­gen­er­a­tion IMA means so lit­tle stor­age space is re­quired that the tional price which, Honda New Zealand claims, makes it the most af­ford­able high-technology car on the mar­ket.

The base model S re­tails for $35,600 and more up­mar­ket E for $38,800, which is not only al­most in line with con­ven­tional hatch­backs of a sim­i­lar size, but way cheaper than the other hy­brids on the mar­ket here.

This is all part of a grand plan by Honda, which dis­cov­ered dur­ing re­cent over­seas re­search that most mo­torists con­sid­ered hy­brids to be too ex­pen­sive, and many oth­ers con­sid­ered them to be elit­ist sta­tus sym­bols rather than ef­fi­cient, cleaner modes of trans­port.

So the com­pany set about chang­ing that, em­bark­ing on a big ef­fort to bring the price of the In­sight down to much more ac­cept­able lev­els.

It did it by us­ing a large amount of ex­ist­ing com­po­nen­try. For ex­am­ple the sus­pen­sion, brakes and steer­ing are pinched from the Honda Jazz.

The en­gine com­part­ment is also from the Jazz, and the en­gine and IMA sys­tem are mod­i­fied ver­sions of what is al­ready aboard the Civic.

At a con­fer­ence for New Zealand me­dia in Queens­land last week, spe­cial guest Ya­sunari Seki, the In­sight’s project leader, said the aim of the devel­op­ment project was to re­duce the size, com­plex­ity and price of com­po­nents and sys­tems in a big ef­fort to drive the In­sight’s fi­nal re­tail price down­wards.

In­sight has been on the New Zealand new car scene for some weeks now, with po­ten­tial cus­tomers tak­ing the 40 demon­stra­tors based at var­i­ous deal­er­ships for test drives.

In­ter­est has been such that as at the re­cent me­dia con­fer­ence 175 or­ders had been taken, and HNZ boss Graeme Sey­mour is con­fi­dent things will set­tle to down to an av­er­age of more than 30 sales a month. rear cargo room is 408 litres with all the seats in use, which is more than most other hatch­backs, in­clud­ing the Toy­ota Corolla, and there is nor­mal leg and head­room through­out.

Even the hy­brid sys­tem works in a nor­mal and un­ob­tru­sive way. On its own, the en­gine pro­duces 65 kilo­watts of power and 121 newton me­tres of torque, and when com­bined with the IMA this in­creases to 72kW and 167Nm.

All this is al­low­ing Honda to mar­ket the new In­sight not so much as a hy­brid but as a hatch­back, al­beit one that has the technology to cost 40 per cent less to run than a con­ven­tional hatch.

In­sight also car­ries a con­ven-

Duel de­light: The new-age In­sight is a classy hatch­back and a con­sci­en­tious hy­brid.

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