For 2012, Honda is planning to revise the Insight hatchback to address several of the criticisms levied against its smallest four-seat hybrid.

Now, it's released a few details of the revised 2012 Insight before it officially unveils the updated model at the Frankfurt Motor Show, which opens September 13.

In the two years it's been on sale, the Honda Insight hybrid hatchback has been far from a sales success.

The subcompact five-door is saddled with a noisy interior, far less interior space than its gasoline Fit hatchback cousin, and gas-mileage figures noticeably lower than the 50-mpg combined rating of the larger, more comfortable, quicker Toyota Prius hybrid.

To address these criticisms, Honda has modified the powertrain to improve the gas mileage. The 2012 Honda Insight now returns 57 mpg (96 g of CO2 per km) on the European test cycle, which usually gives gas-mileage figures 10 to 20 percent higher than U.S. ratings.

The current 2011 Honda Insight is rated at 40 mpg city, 43 mpg highway, for a combined EPA rating of 41 mpg. The increase might take that combined gas-mileage rating as high as 46 mpg, but we'll have to wait for the EPA to issue its ratings later in the year.

The improvements come from a more efficient electric air-conditioning system and changes to the continuously-variable transmission (CVT).

Exterior styling updates include a new grille in the front with slightly larger lower air intakes, plus a redesigned rear spoiler meant to improve visibility through the Insight's two-part rear window in the hatch door.

2011 Honda Insight

2011 Honda Insight

Inside, Honda is said to have "enhanced" the quality of the materials, though given the acres of hard plastic the company used on the 2012 Civic line, we'll be curious to learn what those upgrades may consist of.

The company has also tweaked the 2012 Insight's suspension to deliver a better ride.

If Honda in the States follows the lead of its European arm, it won't raise the price of the Insight much, despite the upgrades. The current 2011 model-year Insight starts at $18,970 (including a mandatory $770 delivery fee).

We'll have more details on the 2012 Honda Insight when the little hybrid hatchback is officially released here in the States.



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