Although it may be a five-door hatchback, like Toyota's Prius, the Honda Insight concept, unveiled at the 2008 Paris Motor Show, probably won't significantly displace the Prius. This concept, set to unveil as a production vehicle at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show and go on sale in the first half of 2009, uses Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system and, as such, is considered a mild hybrid, because it doesn't drive the car under electric power only. IMA integrates a small electric motor with the transmission, which provides extra boost when the car is accelerating, and includes an idle-stop program.
The Insight should get fuel economy similar to the current Honda Civic Hybrid, according to Honda CEO Takeo Fukui, who emphasized that the new Insight will be one of the most affordable hybrids on the market. The Honda Civic Hybrid gets an EPA-rated 40 mpg city and 45 mpg highway, although in road-trip testing we achieved 46.6 mpg. The primary drive unit of the Insight is a four-cylinder 1.3-liter engine. The IMA system has been refined by Honda from earlier versions--its batteries and control unit are placed under the cargo area in the Insight.
The Insight takes its name from Honda's first hybrid, a two-seat three-door hatchback produced from 1999 to 2006. The new Insight has interior instrumentation similar to that found in the Honda Civic, with a dual-layer instrument cluster that puts a digital speedometer on top, with an analog tachometer below. An LCD for navigation sits in the middle of the dashboard. The interior shows some nice back-lighting on the switchgear, although we don't know if this touch will find its way into the production vehicle.