The Honda Insight

Photo of the Insight, from Honda's website I had the chance to take one of the new Honda Insights for a brief test drive last week. I didn't take it out for a highway test, but a brief spurt around the neighborhood was satisfying.

It's a small car, two-seater/two-door hatchback, with much of the rear cargo area sacrificed for the batteries. It looks like a lot of fun to me, with reasonable performance and great fuel efficiency. Comparing specifications with our mundane 1983 Nissan Sentra shows that they probably could make a larger, more practical vehicle with the same power plant:

2000 Honda Insight 1983 Nissan Sentra
Curb weight1878 lbs1980 lbs
Engine1.0l inline 3-cyl.1.6l inline 4-cyl.
Power 73 hp @5700rpm
67 (gas motor only)
67 hp @5200rpm
Torque 91 ft-lb @2000rpm
66 (gas motor only)
85 ft-lb @3000rpm
Final drive3.2083.550
(both with manual 5-speed transmission)
Fuel tank10.6 US gal13.25 US gal
Mileage61/70 mpg30-35 (actual)
Range600+ miles!c.400 mi.
Electric motor10kW @3000rpm
Battery6.5 Ahr, 120 cell (144V) NiMH

Power and torque curves for the Insight, from the brochure
The Honda (as described) has AC, 4 wheel ABS, power windows and door locks and airbags, none of which my Sentra has. It uses the electric motor for a 50% boost in the low-end torque, and a 10% boost in top-end power. The batteries are recharged by regenerative braking. The gas engine has 12 valves with variable valve timing and lift electronic control ("VTEC-E").

One of the interesting things about driving it is that when you stop completely and shift into neutral, the motor shuts off. Shift back into gear, and it very gently bips back to life. I'm sorry I didn't pay more attention to the gages, as there are indicators for "charge/assist" and instantaneous and cumulative fuel efficiency that would have been fun to watch.

Honda's websight has more about the car's engineering if you're interested. You may get more information (with less bias) from this self-proclaimed independent site, Insight Central.

Disclaimer: I own a small amount of HMC stock. The last Honda I bought was a motorcycle, in 1972.

Jan. 29, 2000

Tom von Alten

Thursday, 22-May-2008 12:57:50 MDT