With hybrid sales declining across America, Honda has introduced a new, low-content Honda Insight model that begs the question: how many speakers do you really need?
Even with the overall hybrid market in decline, sales of Honda’s Insight have fallen way short of early expectations, and the company sells significantly fewer Insights than cross-town rivals Toyota sell Priuses (Prii?), and – with new, 40 mpg competition coming form Ford, Chevy, and Hyundai on the way (or already here, depending on where you live) – Honda pretty much had to do something to try and rejuvenate interest in its Insight.
What Honda chose to do, in my opinion, stinks of desperation: they introduced a new, stripped-down Insight, featuring a single-CD audio system with 2 speakers, no cruise control, no USB audio interface (in 2011), and no floormats priced at “just” $18,200 (plus a $750 “destination and handling” charge). Keep in mind, in comparisons to the more mainstream, much better-equipped, and hugely more powerful 2011 Ford Focus (160 hp), 2011 Chevy Cruze Eco (138 hp), and 2011 Hyundai Elantra (148 hp), Honda’s 98 hp Insight isn’t a hands-down mpg winner. In fact, the Insight gives back just 43 miles of highway driving for each gallon of unleaded it receives, compared to 40 for each of the 3 competitors mentioned here … and each of those costs less than the stripper Insight, which has no real EV-only range to help make up the difference around town.
Where does this leave Honda?
Somehow, I’m reminded of an old Chrysler ad, where Lee Iacocca stands in front of the camera and says “You either lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Which is to say: if this Insight is the best Honda can do, they’d better get the Insight out of the way fast.
Honda’s official press release, below.
2011 Honda Insight Lineup Gains Standard Features and a New Entry Model
Gateway product to hybrid technology becomes even more affordable
Going on sale today, the 2011 Honda Insight hybrid gains new standard features and the addition of a value-oriented entry model that offers enhanced value, exclusive content and a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $18,200, plus a destination and handling charge1 of $750.
The range of Insight models for 2011 now starts with a new value-oriented base model, simply designated as “Insight.” As before, the well-equipped “Insight LX” continues to be available, yet with additional features, along with the top-of-the-line “Insight EX,” which continues to be available with the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System™. All Insight models are equipped with Vehicle Stability Assist™ (VSA®) for 2011, which was previously exclusive to the Insight EX.
The new Insight base model includes remote entry and has exclusive content compared to the other models consisting of unique seating fabric and a basic audio system with CD player and two speakers. The Insight LX gains features for 2011, adding cruise control, a USB audio interface, center armrest storage console and floor mats. The Insight EX adds to the LX features with steering wheel-mounted audio controls (previously exclusive to the Insight EX when equipped with navigation).
The distinctively styled, five-passenger, five-door dedicated hybrid vehicle is powered by an Integrated Motor Assist™ (IMA™) system comprised of a 1.3-liter i VTEC® gasoline engine and a 10-kilowatt electric motor that together contribute to an EPA-estimated city/highway/combined fuel economy rating of 40/43/41 miles per gallon2. The Insight features the Ecological Drive Assist System (Eco Assist™), an innovation that can enhance efficient vehicle operation while providing feedback related to individual driving styles.
A sleek exterior features a highly aerodynamic side profile with a front-end design similar to the hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity, a marquee environmental vehicle for Honda. The interior offers a roomy passenger environment with a configurable rear seating and cargo area enhanced by 60/40 split fold-down seats.
Major features standard to the Insight include front, front-side and side-curtain airbags; VSA; an anti-lock braking system; a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT); Eco Assist; automatic climate control; tilt-and-telescope steering column; manual driver’s seat height adjustment; power windows; an AM/FM audio system with CD player and two speakers; an auxiliary audio input for external digital music players; and much more.
The Insight LX adds or replaces to the Insight with cruise control (new to LX), a four-speaker audio system, USB audio interface (new to LX), armrest console (new to LX), floor mats (new to LX) and a security system.
The Insight EX adds or replaces to the Insight LX features with alloy wheels; steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters; an audio system with six speakers; heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals; and much more. Exclusively available on the Insight EX, the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System3 (6.5-inch screen) with voice recognition provides routing and guidance to individual addresses and more than 7 million points of interest within the continental United States. Models equipped with the navigation system also include Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink® for hands-free operation of compatible mobile telephones, along with related steering wheel-mounted controls for voice activation of the navigation and hands-free telephone systems.
A 1.3-liter, 4-cylinder engine with Intelligent Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (i-VTEC) and a DC brushless electric motor forms the foundation of the IMA hybrid system. The electric motor, positioned in-line between the engine and the transmission, adds power during acceleration and in certain cruising situations, and recaptures energy from the vehicle’s forward momentum during braking (regenerative braking).
The Insight’s IMA system has the capability to operate exclusively on electric power in certain low- to mid-speed cruising conditions. It can also provide cylinder deactivation during deceleration and an idle-stop feature when the vehicle is stationary. With a 10.6-gallon fuel tank, the Insight delivers an estimated maximum driving range exceeding 400 miles. Models for sale in California and states that have adopted the California Air Resources Board (CARB) ZEV standards receive an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) emissions rating.
The Insight uses Eco Assist to help drivers improve fuel efficiency, both by altering vehicle functionality and providing driver feedback, with fuel-economy dependent on their given set of driving conditions. 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). Eco Assist also provides feedback about driving style via a 3D-appearing background within the speedometer. The background changes colors from green to blue to reflect how efficiently or inefficiently the driver is accelerating or braking (green = efficient). The driver’s results are continuously tracked as fuel efficiency ratings are shown per drive cycle and on a lifetime basis in the form of plant-leaf graphics that appear in the Multi-Information Display (MID). Up to five leaves can be ‘earned’ as the driver demonstrates a fuel-efficient driving style. A real-time score is shown in the Eco Guide MID screen.
Standard safety features on all Insights include dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags; front-side airbags with a passenger-side Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS); side-curtain airbag system; anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution (EBD); driver’s and front-passenger’s active head restraints; and a front body designed to mitigate pedestrian injuries. All new Insights also feature Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body structure, which provides improved occupant protection and crash compatibility between vehicles of different sizes and ride heights in frontal crashes.
Honda is a leader in developing cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicle technologies, including the original Honda Insight, introduced as America’s first mass-produced hybrid car in December 1999. Honda is also a leader in the development of advanced alternatives to gasoline, including the zero-emission, hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity fuel-cell electric car, the world’s most-advanced production fuel cell automobile.
Honda’s diverse lineup of environmental vehicles also includes the Civic GX compressed natural gas-powered (CNG) sedan, the only retail CNG vehicle currently available from any automaker in the U.S., and three distinct gasoline-electric hybrid models: Civic Hybrid, CR-Z sport hybrid and Insight hybrid.
Honda was recently named America’s “Greenest Automaker” for the fifth consecutive time by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The award is earned by the company with the lowest combined score of its smog-forming and greenhouse gas emissions (primarily CO2) in its U.S. automobile fleet. Honda has led the UCS rankings of overall vehicle environmental performance since the first UCS study in 2000, marking a decade of Honda leadership in reduced vehicle emissions. Honda earned the recognition this year with an industry-best score based on model year 2008 data, the latest available for analysis.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks the 2011 Honda Insight as the third-best vehicle in the United States for fuel economy, tied with the Civic Hybrid, among all currently available 2011 model year vehicles evaluated by the agency.