Honda's hybrid petrol-electric Insight
The world's most fuel-efficient Production car AFTER two years on the market the Honda Insight remains one of the most technologically advanced cars on Australian roads.
The first petrol/electric hybrid car in the world, it holds the Australian fuel economy record of 45.3 kml (128.4mpg) and has been driven from Brisbane to Melbourne on one tank of gas. Rumour has it that the Insight is actually a loss-leader for Honda and running through the spec sheet, it's not hard to believe Honda subsidises the price as the technology shoe-horned into the package belies the $50,000 price.
Key to the Insight's fuel efficiency is Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) which combines a lightweight, 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder VTEC engine and an ultra-thin electric motor to produce 56 kW of power.
The engine is a ripper and has won the one litre category of the International Engine of the Year Awards for the last three years running. Regarded as the "Engine Oscars", the awards are judged by 40 international motoring journalists who assess drive characteristics, technical excellence, economy, refinement, envirofriendliness and performance.
Despite its remarkable fuel-efficiency, there are few indications to the driver that there's anything different under the accelerator pedal. At low speeds or on hills, the electric motor assists, and the two motors combine to offer torque characteristics far in excess of a one litre motor. It's a seamless transition, though the video-game dashboard keeps the driver fully informed and we spent our entire time in the vehicle monitoring the guages and feathering the throttle in order to eek out the optimum economy.