2012 Honda Insight Hybrid Ups Fuel Economy at Under $20,000


Eco Assist can help improve fuel efficiency, both by altering vehicle functionality to favor economy and providing driver feedback to change behaviors.

Honda’s latest attempt to catch Toyota Prius, the undisputed hybrid sales leader at almost 94,000 in 2011 compared to fewer than 14,000 Insights, results in an updated 2012 Insight hybrid with revised exterior and interior styling. There’s also  an improved EPA fuel economy rating. The new Insight’s city/highway/combined EPA fuel economy rating of 41/44/42 mpg, is up from 40/43/41 on the outgoing Insight hybrid model.

More significant is a low price as Insights are just now arriving in dealerships. Honda continues to offer the highest EPA fuel economy rating of any new vehicle currently available with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting under $20,000, which is really $19,120 for the base Insight delivered, plus state and local taxes.

The Insight remains a five-passenger, five-door dedicated hybrid with unique styling that is so important to early adopters and buyers who want “green” bragging rights. Hybrid conversions of existing body styles – starting with Ford’s Escape Hybrid, and notably Toyota’s  excellent Camry hybrid – have not been successful in what remains a small market in spite of their demonstrated fuel economy improvements with little to no compromise in performance or utility.

Insight styling  changes include a different grille design that has a thin, blue accent bar – another attempt to reinforce Insight’s high-tech hybrid bragging rights. Honda claims that restyled front and rear bumpers, along with changes under the vehicle, contribute to a 2% increase in aerodynamic performance..

As always, Insight is powered by an Integrated Motor Assist ( dubbed IMA in acronym speak) system with a small 1.3-liter gasoline- fueled 4-cylinder engine and a 10-kilowatt electric motor. The combination using arithmetic – not fuzzy green math – develops 98 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 123 lb-ft. of torque at 1000-1700 rpm. For 2012, friction-reducing measures in the engine and the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) contribute to the new model’s increased fuel economy. A 10.6-gallon fuel tank provides an estimated maximum driving range exceeding 400 miles.

The Insight has what’s called an Eco Assist System, which can enhance efficient vehicle operation while providing feedback related to individual driving styles. Eco Assist can help improve fuel efficiency, both by altering vehicle functionality to favor economy and providing driver feedback to change behaviors. Studies show that such driver prompting programs actually work, and as their use grows in far more popular conventional vehicles significant fuel economy gains can accrue.

Pressing the ECON button can further enhance the efficiency of multiple vehicle systems: throttle control, CVT operation, idle-stop duration, air conditioning and cruise-control operation – if equipped – but there can be a noticeable decrease in traditional automotive performance measures.

2012 Honda Insight MSRP

Insight $18,350
Insight LX $20,125
Insight EX $21,815
Insight EX with Navigation $23,540
* MSRP excluding tax, license registration, $770 destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

The 2012 Insight is offered in three models. The value-oriented base model, simply designated as “Insight,” is well equipped with a 160-watt, two-speaker audio system, automatic climate control, power windows, remote entry and more – if you can find one at a dealer.

The Insight LX adds a four-speaker audio system, USB audio interface, armrest console, floor mats and a security system.

The Insight EX adds alloy wheels, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, an audio system with six speakers, heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals and much more. For 2012, the EX gains Bluetooth HandsFreeLink3, automatic headlights and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The Insight EX is available with the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with voice recognition and rearview camera.

New exterior colors include Frosted Silver Metallic and Truffle Pearl, which replace Clear Sky Blue and Crimson Pearl.

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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