Will Third Time Be a Charm for the Insight?
Honda has revealed that its third-generation Insight hybrid will make its world debut next Monday, Jan. 15 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Called the “Insight Prototype,” the company says the all-new car will be positioned above the Civic as a “premium compact,” offering a roomy interior and civilized road manners.
It’s easy to forget that the Insight name started the hybrid era in the U.S. back in December 1999. The tiny, tear-drop-shaped two-passenger with flared rear wheels boasted an EPA fuel economy rating of 61-mpg city/70 highway/65 mpg combined. (Converted to present standard, the EPA reckons it at 49 city/61 highway/53 combined.)
It started small back in 1999
Then, in June 2000 the Plain Jane four-door Prius arrived and took the wind out of the Insight’s sails. To fight back, Honda introduced a second-generation Insight in 2009, a four-door compact hatchback that looked a bit like a Prius but didn’t approach the Toyota’s fuel economy. Honda touted it as the “least expensive hybrid,” but it never caught on with buyers and was discontinued in 2014.
This new third-generation model apparently takes the place of the Civic Hybrid, which was dropped from the lineup with the compact car’s latest edition in 2015.
“The new 2019 Honda Insight signals we are entering a new era of electrification with a new generation of Honda products that offer customers the benefits of advanced powertrain technology without the traditional trade-offs in design, premium features or packaging,” said Henio Arcangeli, Jr., senior vice president of automobile sales and general manager of the Honda Division, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “The Honda Insight is anticipated to receive fuel economy ratings competitive with the best hybrids in the segment, with styling that will have universal appeal inside and out and best-in-class passenger volume.”
“In Excess of EPA 50 MPG”
Honda says the new Insight is expected to receive an EPA fuel economy combined rating “in excess of 50 mpg,” competitive with other compact hybrid offerings. Just to keep pace with competitors’ hybrid offerings, the Insight will need to deliver 56 or 58 mpg to top the highest-mileage versions of the Toyota Prius Liftback and the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, respectively.
To meet or beat the competition’s fuel economy, the Insight will be powered by a version of Honda’s third-generation two-motor hybrid system and multimode direct-drive transmission, the same as found in the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid. It features a highly efficient 1.5-liter Atkinson cycle engine, a powerful electric propulsion motor and lithium-ion battery pack. In most conditions, the new car will operate on electric power only, drawing energy from the battery pack or, if depleted, starting up the gas engine to act as a mobile generator.
Looks Like a Civic
Looking like part of the family
While Honda hasn’t disclosed what is under the sheet metal, the Insight has a distinct Civic look. It is long and low, with an aerodynamically tapering roof line that echoes a four-door coupe that appears to be optimized for aerodynamic efficiency. It features LED lighting in the front and rear, and its grill shares the “flying wing” styling with other cars in the Honda lineup. Its long wheelbase translates to roominess for the five passengers, according to Honda.
Inside, the Insight appears to be more upscale than the Civic with a seven-inch digital gauge cluster, a larger, eight-inch central touchscreen with volume knob and the push-button shifter found in several other Honda products. A host of premium features includes available perforated leather seating, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and Wi-Fi-enabled over-the-air system updates.
Inside the Insight is all of Honda’s latest tech
It will also incorporate the Honda Sensing suite of active-safety features. Those include adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure alert, and a new traffic-sign recognition feature. Honda’s LaneWatch blind-spot-camera system will be offered on EX and above trims.
Where Does the Insight Fit into The Honda Lineup?
When it arrives this summer, the Insight’s EPA rating and sticker price will be key to the new version’s success, but those won’t be known until next week at the Detroit show at the earliest. What also may be clear with more info is how this new hybrid fits into Honda’s lineup range. The company has just finished launching the Honda Clarity series, a trio which includes the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid along with battery-electric and fuel cell-electric models. On top of that, the larger 2018 Accord Hybrid is also set to go on sale in the next couple of months.
Like fuel economy and price, we will have to wait and see.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy:
Test Drive: 2010 Honda Insight
Flash Drive: 2017 Honda Clarity Electric
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Road Test: 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid
Small but top of the list
Small Cars Lead List of Greenest Automobiles.
Maybe it’s the time of year. We’ve got Olympics competition and all of the medals and ranking of athletes and countries that goes with that. We’ve got the Academy Awards and all of those statuettes. So it makes sense that this is the awards season for automobiles as well. Magazines hand out their “Best of” trophies and multitudinous “Top 10” lists. We’ve been guilty of that as well.
So, recognizing that the value of a Top 10 list may be in direct proportion to its focus, we’d like to present the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s Top 10 Greenest Cars and throw in some explanation and commentary. Let’s start with the list:
- Smart ForTwo ED – pure electric – two-seat minicar
- Toyota Prius c – hybrid – subcompact
- Nissan Leaf – pure electric – compact
- Toyota Prius – hybrid
Toyotas dominate the Eco list
- Honda Civic Hybrid – hybrid – compact
- Lexus CT 200h – hybrid – compact
- Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid – plug-in hybrid –
- Mitsubishi Mirage – gasoline – compact
- Honda Civic Natural Gas – natural gas – compact
- Honda Insight – hybrid – compact
Bubbling just below the list were the conventional Smart ForTwo and the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid. Our colleague Jim Motavelli of Plugincars.com did some digging into the criteria used to rank the “greenness” of the cars. He found that the weight of a vehicle was a big factor in the non-profit group’s “complex” formula along with manufacturing-related emissions. The ACEEE’s summary of their methodology is explained this way:
“We analyze automakers’ test results for fuel economy and emissions as reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board, along with other specifications reported by automakers. We estimate pollution from vehicle manufacturing, from the production and distribution of fuel and from vehicle tailpipes. We count air pollution, such as fine particles, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and other pollutants according to the health problems caused by each pollutant. We then factor in greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide) and combine the emissions estimates into a Green Score that runs on a scale from 0 to 100. The top vehicle this year scores a 59, the average is 37 and the worst gas-guzzlers score around 17.”
As you can see by the scores, it’s a tough test and no one does that well. ACEEE is 30-plus-year-old nonprofit organization that is very serious about promoting energy efficiency. But I see as the subtext of the ACEEE’s approach a negative view of the private automobile. What kind of ranking has the best contestants scoring 60 percent? The curve with these guys starts low and goes down from there. Cars are bad, but some are worse than others.
Eco trucks should also be on the list
Our approach at Clean Fleet Report is a little more accommodating. We believe people need a variety of different vehicles for different uses and different situations. Yes, vehicles have negative environmental impacts, but so do most other activities. We should be aware of them and do our best to minimize or mitigate them, but activity cannot stop because of a heavy vehicle or fuel economy that doesn’t reach Prius levels. We know that full-size pickup trucks are unlikely to ever reach Prius-level MPG; that’s basic physics. They can get better and we’re reporting on that regularly because you should be able to choose the best vehicle for the job.
Not that ACEEE doesn’t also make a nod toward the different uses of vehicles, breaking out the best vehicles by class in their list, but I’m afraid being told the best vehicle in a class scored a 35 out of a possible 100 is not exactly a ringing endorsement – nor does it make anyone who values these ratings a likely buyer.
For my money, I think you need to do what we do here at Clean Fleet Report, evaluate vehicles in the real world and show their capabilities and deficiencies, with a heavy weight given to environmentally positive attributes. But putting a two-seat, 8-foot-long Smart on the same list as a full-size half-ton pickup doesn’t give the reader very valuable information.
Photos by Michael Coates and the manufacturers
Posted Feb. 23, 2014
Related article you might enjoy:
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My Top 10 Cars & Trucks for 2014
Top 10 Fuel Economy Cars for 2014
2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid-The Best Buy
“Hybrid” has become a magic word that’s synonymous with fuel economy for many car buyers, thanks mainly to the Toyota Prius. The common assumption is that the hybrid version of a car will deliver great fuel economy–or at least better mpg than a comparable gas version, resulting in a more economical vehicle to own. While the fuel economy part of that line of thinking is correct, as you probably know, the total cost of owning a vehicle is much more than the cost of the fuel you put in it. In fact, according to some analysts, the fuel portion of vehicle ownership is only about one-fourth to one-fifth of the cost of owning a vehicle. It’s a higher percentage for non-hybrid models (27 percent compared to 20 percent for hybrids on average) according to the Michigan-based automotive analyst organization, Vincentric.
That company looked at 36 hybrid models from 2012 and 2013 (and 12 trim levels within those models) and their conventional counterparts and found that when you look beyond fuel economy to the initial cost of the vehicle and expected depreciation, not all hybrids delivered a lower cost of ownership. They found the incremental cost of a hybrid car or truck to be on average $5,285 more than a conventional model. The good news is that cost differential has gone down by more than $3,000 compared to Vincentric’s similar comparison last year. Hybrids make up some of that cost differential by having better residual values (the value of a car at the end of a lease or ownership, in this case after five years) and of course deliver great savings in fuel costs. But overall, hybrids, again on average, during a five-year, 100,000 life will cost $1,582 more than a non-hybrid model.
Cost of Ownership Lower For Some, But Not All
In spite of those discouraging numbers, hybrids continue to increase their popularity and Vincentric found that among the 36 models, some did deliver better total cost of ownership than conventional models. Some did not,
2012 Ford Fusion-Better Buy than the 2013?
including the Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Prius Liftback (the best-selling hybrid) and some models of the popular Ford Fusion Hybrid.
Vincentric made the comparison based on heavy use, typical of commercial fleets, assuming 20,000 annual miles drive over five years. As well, they took into account depreciation, financing, fees and taxes, fuel, insurance, maintenance and repairs.
What you will notice in this compilation is that some of the more expensive luxury hybrids ended up delivering better value because of the significance of the fuel savings as well as higher residual value. Of note is how some of the most popular hybrid models fared–the three Prius models (c, Liftback, V). The problem with these three is there are no exact comparable models, so Vincentric compared the Toyota c to the Toyota Yaris (on which it is based), the Liftback to a Corolla and the V to a Matrix. In order, after five years, the c cost $624 less than the Yaris while the Liftback cost $1,823 more than the Corolla and the V did the best of the three, coming in at $1,707 less than the Matrix.
So, here are 10 models that Vincentric said will deliver the best return after five years. These are the hybrids that actually will save you money in the long run.
Top 10 (*good comparison car, i.e., a non-hybrid version of the same model)
*2012 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid (which is offered at the same price as conventional MKZ)
*2012 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid S400HV
*2013 Porsche Panamera Hybrid S
2013 Lexus HS 250h (now out of production)
*2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE Premium
*2013 Lexus ES 300h
*2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid (not as good in 2013)
2013 Honda Insight
*2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
2012 Toyota Prius V
The range of savings among the Top 10 is fairly large, from $6,402 for the Lincoln MKZ to $1,707 for the Prius V. Spread out over five years, the Prius V savings equal a little more than $340 a year, or a little less than a $1 a day. The glass half full version of that is: You’re saving money every day. That’s what hybrids have promised and many deliver. The promise is even more will deliver better savings in the future as the incremental cost of hybrid systems continue to drop due to improvements in technology and increased production.
For more articles on this subject, check out:
The Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars in May 2013
Microhybrids Are Big MPG Boosters, Report Says
The Top 10 2014/2013 AWD & 4WD SUVs/Crossovers With the Best MPG
The ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) has been singling out the greenest vehicles for a decade and a half, so their list is eagerly awaited for those focused on fuel efficiency and low pollutant emissions. The 2013 list has some familiar models, but has more new vehicles than any previous list, which shows the rapid shift the market has taken to high-efficiency vehicles.
Here’s the list:
1. Toyota Prius c Hybrid
2. Honda Fit EV
3. Toyota Prius Hybrid
4. Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid
5. Honda Civic Hybrid
6. Honda Insight Hybrid
7. Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid
8. Smart fortwo convertible/coupe
9. Scion iQ
10. Ford Focus EV
High-scoring cars like the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt are not on the above list of 2013 model years, because ACEEE has only scored the 2012 models.
Rigorous Evaluation on Paper
Compared with some of the vehicle awards, such as those from enthusiast magazines or even Consumer Reports, the ACEEE awards are based on information submitted by the manufacturers rather than physical testing of the vehicles. The group weighs tailpipe emissions of criteria pollutants, fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions (or conversely, fuel efficiency). This year the organization also factored in emissions related to manufacturing, upstream fuel emissions for gasoline, diesel and natural gas as well as the environmental impact of electricity production for electric and plug-in vehicles. Though the ACEEE scale theoretically goes to 100, the best vehicles generally are only slightly above the mid-point. This year, the best 10 were only seven points apart, ranging from 51 to 58, an indicator of both the advances of technology and relative greenness of many vehicles today.
Of course the downside of using submitted information is that real world performance, such as recent complaints about hybrid fuel economy falling short of official EPA numbers, does not show up. On the other hand, ACEEE brings a wealth of data beyond what appears on a vehicle’s Monroney label in their evaluation. The group also takes into account different classes of vehicles and notes the greenest of each category as well as the overall top models highlighted above. And it did update its scores on 2011 and 2012 Hyundai/Kia models when that manufacturer admitted it had submitted inflated fuel economy numbers for several of its cars.
For comparison, the EPA on its FuelEconomy.gov website shows its Top 10 as electric cars since it ranks emissions only by greenhouse gas emissions including CO2, nitrous oxide, and methane. ACEEE 2013 ranks are based on 70% CO2 and 30% criteria pollutants, and appears to consider added lifecycle emissions. When they split up the top fuel economy winners by type of vehicle they end up with a mixture of EVs, plug-in hybrids and hybrids.
This Year’s Winners
The crop of Best 10 winners this year includes five hybrids, three plug-in vehicles (one hybrid and two EVs) and two small conventional gasoline internal combustion engine models. Half of the vehicles on the Top 10 list are new models evaluated for the first time. ACEEE noted that the number of models scoring 45 points or above (considered an above-average score for the 1000+ configurations that they evaluate) is at a record level this year with 150 models hitting that mark. Included in the larger group are additional hybrids, plug-in hybrids and EVs, clean diesels, a CNG model and additional internal combustion engine models. The proliferation of different technologies all hitting the mark for “greenness” is a sign of how far the auto industry has come already toward meeting future targets for fuel efficiency and reduced emissions of both greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants.
As the ACEEE says, the “greener choices” are multiplying and are not the province of any one manufacturer or even manufacturers from one country. The group noted that half of their Top 12 picks were from domestic manufacturers as an example. ACEEE also offers a tool on the subscription portion of its website where consumers and configure and compare different models as part of their shopping process.
Picking winners and losers in the “green” space is always fraught with difficulty, but in reality no more than any award process. There are always those who will agree or disagree with the picks and many more who will nit-pick the selection criteria or perceived bias. In ACEEE’s case it should be noted that several highly efficient vehicles didn’t make their Best 10 list because the organization set a minimum threshold of 1,000 units of sale to be considered, which took the Mitsubishi iMiEV and Tesla Model S out of consideration. For us, we believe more is better and any contest that highlights fuel efficient vehicles, as ACEEE definitely does, is to be encouraged.
Published – Jan. 17, 2013
Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Save Gas, Save the Planet: John Addison’s book about hybrid and electric cars, pathways to low carbon driving, and the future of sustainable transportation. © 2009 John Addison. All rights reserved.
Millions of hybrids are now on the road, saving fuel and making driving more pleasant. Most cars are only powered by an internal combustion engine fueled with gasoline. Electric vehicles are powered by electric motors that are often three times more efficient than a gasoline engine. A hybrid vehicle uses both an electric motor, or motors, and a smaller engine that is typically fueled with gasoline. Rather than being a pure electric vehicle, it is a hybrid-electric vehicle. That is why these vehicles are called “hybrid.” Because the engine is smaller and assisted by the electric motor, less fuel is used.
Hybrids also store braking energy, downhill energy, and engine-generated energy in advanced batteries and then supply the energy to an efficient electric motor(s). In effect, the engine is sometimes used as a generator. Capturing braking energy in batteries and then reusing the energy for power is called regenerative braking.
Since 2002, my wife Marci and I have enjoyed driving a hybrid Toyota Prius. In real driving it has averaged 42 miles per gallon, including times when we drove on highways with bicycles on the roof and through snow with skis on the roof. Some drivers of new hybrids achieve over 50 mpg.
The hybrid provides a quiet ride. In stop-and-go traffic the car only uses the electric motor and automatically shuts off the engine. When I accelerate past a slow speed, the engine is immediately engaged and away we go. The vehicle smoothly accelerates when entering highways. We can easily travel with up to four people and a full trunk. Hill climbing is a breeze.
Although Toyota leads in hybrid sales, a number of automakers have introduced appealing hybrids. My mother is delighted with her Honda Civic Hybrid. The new Honda Insight four-door sedan with an Ecological Drive Assist System may deliver better mileage, a lower price, and a smaller carbon footprint than the 2008 Prius. Toyota will respond to the competition, creating better choices for all of us.
Hybrid technology is improving the fuel economy of some SUVs. The Ford Escape Hybrid, for example, offers over 30 miles per gallon.