Honda going to offer a new, 2011 "value-oriented base model at $18,200

Honda announced today that it is going to offer a new, 2011 "value-oriented base model" of the Honda Insight hybrid starting at $18,200, plus destination charge of $750. That's $1,600 less than the current lowest-priced 2010 Insight, the LX.

The new value base Insight model, which goes on sale today, is rated with the same mileage as the other Insight models: 40 miles per gallon in city and 43 mpg on the highway.

When the Honda Insight was introduced in early 2009, it was intended to compete as a more affordable alternative to Toyota Prius. But the final sales price of the Insight, typically in the low $20,000s, is not that much cheaper than a Prius—and the fuel economy is considerably lower. As a result, the Prius outsells the Insight by a ration of about 5 to 1. Nonetheless, in recent months, the Insight has become the second best selling hybrid in the United States behind the Prius—beating out the larger more expensive Ford Fusion Hybrid.

In April, Takanobu Ito, Honda’s president, said he was not satisfied with Honda’s hybrid technology, and charged engineers with producing the next Honda hybrids with fuel economy that beats the Prius’s combined 50-mpg rating. At the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show earlier this month, Honda unveiled a new two-motor full hybrid system capable of achieving that goal. Coming at the heels of the L.A., the announcement of the lower priced Insight base model indicates Honda’s seriousness about hybrids—and its diligent efforts to simultaneously lower the cost of its hybrid models while significantly increasing fuel efficiency.

Honda said that all three 2011 Insight models will offer vehicle stability systems as standard equipment. The new base Insight comes standard with anti-lock braking, automatic climate control, power windows and remote entry, Honda's continuously variable transmission, a tilt and telescoping steering column, 60/40 fold-down rear seats, Honda's Eco Assist driving behavior feedback system, 2-speaker audio system with CD player and an auxiliary audio input and front, front-side and side-curtain airbags.

The LX trim level, which will be priced at $19,900, adds cruise control, a four-speaker audio system, an armrest console, floor mats and a security system. And the top-level EX, which starts at $22,240, includes alloy wheels, steering-wheel paddle shifters, six-speaker audio system and heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals.

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