Since we're talking about a hybrid, and hybrids are generally regarded as technologically-advanced products, the powertrain hidden under the hood differs from the ones seen on “regular” cars. Not too much though, as the biggest difference is actually in how the whole assembly works and how it manages to save fuel.
As we do know, the Insight is a combination of a traditional combustion engine and an electric motor. Therefore, we have a 1.3-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that develops as much as 88 horsepower and 88 lb-ft of torque, plus an electric unit that produces an extra 13 horsepower and 58 lb-ft of torque. The electric motor is backed by a 108V battery pack with nickel-metal hydride cells manufactured by Panasonic.
The whole hybrid system is named IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) and also comprises the so-called Intelligent Power Unit (IPU) which is in fact a kinetic energy recovery system that stores the energy from vehicle braking and deceleration and supplies extra power when needed.
Nevertheless, it's not possible to drive the car on electricity alone. The best you can get is actually a some kind of fuel-cut electric mode that shuts the valves and the intake and runs the car on electric power at speeds of up to 30 mph (48 km/h). However, the switch is almost unnoticeable mostly because the engine is still spinning so the only way to see that the electric motor is the one propelling the car is actually taking a sneak peak to the power gauge.
The Ecological Drive Assist System, briefly known as Eco Assist, supposed to make driving a bit more environmentally-friendly, also includes the ECON mode that, once activated, optimizes the settings of the CVT unit plus other powertrain components to maximize efficiency. Feedback is transmitted through multiple “interfaces”, including the plant graphic on the dashboard and the speedometer display with blue/green background changing colors. The stop-start system, which automatically idles the engine when not in motion, is also a key part of the system, thus it can be completely disabled by switching off the ECON mode.
It's naturally to expect a better performance when switching the gear stick into Sport mode. This practically means that the CVT is a bit more responsive, turning the Insight into a slightly more aggressive vehicle. The results aren't that impressive, but the engine is indeed a bit punchier than before. The electric assist basically provides the torque from as low as 1,000 rpm so, with the help of the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, you might get some sort of electric WRC feeling.
If we're going to trust Honda's figures, the car should burn around 4.4 l/100km (53.4 mpg) in combined cycle, but the best we could get was 5.1 l/100km (46.14 mpg), which is still impressive following the extremely crowded traffic we had to face in the city. The 0-100 km/h acceleration is completed in 12.5 seconds, while topping at 185 km/h (115 mph).Continue reading