Hybrid car, Honda's Insight.
Hybrid car, Honda's Insight. Contributed

Insight into cheapest hybrid

HONDA'S new Insight small car may use two-thirds more fuel than the 2001 version of the car with the same name, but the car maker claims it will have a more beneficial effect on the planet.

The Japanese maker says the new Insight, which will become Australia's cheapest hybrid when it goes on sale next month, will sell in much larger numbers than the original, and in the process make a bigger dent in CO2 emissions.

Unlike the 2001 model, a quirky two-seater that cost $55,000 and attracted roughly 50 buyers in total during five years on sale, the 2010 Insight will start from $29,990, $10,000 less than the world's best-known hybrid, the Toyota Prius.

The entry level Insight will offer more than just the promise of lower fuel bills, with standard equipment including six airbags, stability control, keyless entry, Bluetooth, climate control air-conditioning and parking sensors. A USB port is standard, while the steering wheel gets audio control buttons and paddle-shift levers for changing gears manually.

It will also have a speedo that glows green when you drive efficiently, linked to a reward system that allows you to grow digital plants on your dashboard.

The more expensive VTi-L model will cost $33,490 and adds auto on/off wipers and headlights, a leather steering wheel, bigger wheels, fog lights and a satellite navigation system that includes a reversing camera.

Honda expects to sell about 200 Insights a month, with two-thirds of buyers tipped to opt for the more expensive model.

Honda's marketing and sales boss, Stephen Collins, says the car should appeal to drivers who “want to drive a hybrid but they still want something that is fun to drive as well as fuel-efficient and affordable”.

Honda says the Insight is 37% more fuel-efficient than the average petrol-powered small car. It uses 4.6 litres of fuel per 100km and emits 109g/km of CO2. It's still a far cry from the original Insight, which used just 2.8L/100km.

But it remains significantly more efficient than Australia's top-selling small car, the Mazda3, which uses 8.2L/100km.

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