Another debut that could easily get overlooked at the glitz and glamour of the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show is nevertheless quite important for Honda: the 2012 Honda Insight.
True, the changes aren’t radical, but they are both necessary and a long time coming. Here’s what’s new in the latest freshening of the subcompact five-door Insight hybrid:
The Insight now looks more like the new Civic with a new grille in the front, slightly lower air intakes, and a redesigned rear spoiler that’s intended to improve rear visibility through the Insight’s two-part window in the hatch door.
Honda also paid attention to aerodynamics and weight reduction via a front lower suspension made of aluminum instead of steel, and added new tires to reduce cabin noise.
Use of higher quality materials inside the Insight’s cabin should mute some of the current model’s criticisms. The Japanese automaker also increased headroom. Aiding rear visibility, the new Insight now features a slimmed-down spoiler and the wiper unit has been reduced in size as well.
U.S. Insights will boast upgraded audio system and navigation features. Some of the improvements shown on the 2012 Insight revealed at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show will also apply to models sold in North America.
Revisions to hybrid powertrain
A big complaint about the current Insight is its lower mileage than the gorilla in the market, the Toyota Prius. To help address these concerns, Honda has modified the powertrain of the 2012 Insight to result in better gas mileage. As our sister publication GreenCarReports points out, the new Insight returns 57 mpg (96 g of CO2 per km) on the European testing cycle, which usually means gas mileage figures 10 to 20 percent higher than ratings in the U.S.
The current 2011 Honda Insight has an EPA-rated 40 mpg city/43 mpg highway/41 mpg combined. Although we’ll have to wait for the EPA to issue its ratings later this year, speculation is that the 2012 Insight may have a combined gas-mileage-rating as high as 46 mpg. While that’s still not Prius territory, it’s at least closer.
Other improvements include changes to the continuously-variable transmission (CVT) and a more efficient air conditioning system.
Look for the U.S. version of the 2012 Honda Insight at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, just prior to the hybrid’s on-sale date that month. And when further details are available, we’ll be all over it.