Honda Insight On Sale In Japan: Cheapest Hybrid On The Market

February 5, 2009

Hoping to spur a sales turnaround, Honda today introduced its new 2010 Insight gas/electric hybrid, resuscitating the nameplate Honda originally launched in 2000 in three-door hatchback form. The new Insight grows in size to a five-door hatchback format, is similar in size and layout to the Toyota Prius, and comes in at a lower base price than that vehicle.

2008 Paris auto show

2008 Paris auto show

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North America is the main market for the 2010 Insight, a market you well know is weathering historic sales downturns. Worldwide sales downturns handed Honda a brutal 90 percent profit falloff for their third quarter, which ended December 31. It seems the new Insight's intro is ill-timed; nonetheless, Honda has long needed a vehicle to do battle with the wildly popular Toyota Prius (also re-done and nearly ready for launch).

Honda's Accord Hybrid V-6 seemed to focus more on performance than on economy, and as such didn't meet with sales success. The Civic Hybrid has done better, but still hasn't proven a match for the Prius.

The 2010 Honda Insight launches with a base price of 1.89 million yen in the Japanese market, significantly undercutting the Prius' base of 2.3 million yen. The Insight is slated for a $20,000 base price in the U.S. versus the Prius' $22,000 base. But tech-savvy buyers may balk at the Insight's relatively rudimentary drivetrain, which is cribbed from the Civic Hybrid and cannot start up in efficient electric-only mode (though it can cruise at 30 mph powered solely by its integrated electric motor). Nonetheless, low base prices should resonate with cash-strapped buyers, and economy ratings should at least come close if not match the Prius' fuel efficiency.

[source: Detroit News]

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