Today Honda Motor Company announced it will release refreshed Insight hybrids including a somewhat more upscale version with larger engine to the Japanese market.
The 1.3-liter 40-plus mpg version will be joined by a 1.5-liter model Honda is calling the Insight Exclusive, and the company says dealers will get them Nov. 11.
No word was given whether these tweaked models will find their way to the U.S., but it’s certainly possible.
Changes to the base model include new exterior styling elements and a more refined interior for the vehicle that is smaller and less expensive than a Prius, but rated with lower mpg.
The i-VTEC engine merged with Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) electric motor and a comparatively tiny flat nickel metal hydride battery pack that sits below the cargo floor are said to offer improved fuel economy.
Unfortunately we can only tell you the Japanese mileage numbers and that these are an easy 20-25-percent higher than would be EPA numbers.
Honda says the 1.3 gets 27.2 km/L as measured in JC08 mode and 31.0 km/L as measured in 10·15 mode.
The EPA rates the 2012 model at 41 city/44 highway, and if nursed on relatively flat terrain with some coasting, the car can see its dashboard’s instantaneous mpg readout coaxed to as high as 65 mpg.
If calculated into miles per gallon, Honda’s figures would translate to an exaggerated 64/73 mpg respectively, but again, these should be taken with more than a grain of salt.
The new Japanese market Insights now come standard with Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA).
Newly designed bumpers, a physically wider appearance, and a re-contoured rear seat are among subtle alterations.
Honda added more sound insulation as well to improve interior quietness.
As for the Insight Exclusive, this model shares upgrades and adds a 1.5 liter i-VTEC engine delivering lower economy, but more power than the current 1.3-liter U.S. version’s 98 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque.
Honda does not list the 1.5-liter’s power output, but says acceleration and highway cruising are improved at the expense of fuel economy.
Mileage figures are stated as 23.2 km/L as measured in JC08 mode and 26.5 km/L as measured in 10·15 mode.
The Japanese test cycle figures would translate to 54.6/62.3 mpg, and these too are significantly higher than the EPA tests would declare.
The Exclusive is further distinguished by a premium front grille, LED accessory lights, bumper and trim styling elements and shark fin antenna.
The more upscale vehicle also makes a navigation computer available that can also receive HD television broadcasts.
The refreshed Japanese Insights’ starting yen prices convert to $24,221 and $26,103 respectively.
Last month U.S. sales of the Insight faltered by nearly 47 percent compared to the month before with sales of only 512 units.
By comparison, the industry-leading Prius sold 9,325 units in September while declining only 1.7 percent from the month before.
Current year to date Prius vs. Insight sales as of September was 93,243 Prii compared to 13,618 Insights.
The Insight was redesigned for the U.S. in 2009 and intended as a Prius fighter. It does not appear to be winning the prize, although it is an excellent car in its own right.
We shall see what the time frame is for the U.S. to get the refreshed models and whether they will help Honda which also suffered this year with its fellow Japanese automakers after the March earthquake and tsunami.