Best of the Paris motor show - 5. Honda Insight

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Honda has been building hybrids for 20 years, but you get the feeling that in these eco-conscious days its timing for the launch of the new Insight is impeccable.

The Insight is a petrol-electric car that will be launched simultaneously in Europe, the USA and Japan next year.

It uses a similar drive system to the Civic IMA, with an electric motor for low-speed town work and a petrol engine to take over at other times.

It is based on an all-new platform and styled to look like the CRX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell car available for lease in California.

Honda says that by using all its experience with hybrids it has been able to make many of the Insight's components lighter, smaller and cheaper.

That will allow it to go on sale at 'thousands less' than the £17,000 Civic IMA.

What is perhaps surprising is that Honda is making the car only as a five-door hatchback – American buyers who will make up a major portion of the customer base, as well as those in Japan, much prefer four-door saloons.

Honda aims to make 250,000 Insights a year compared with around 70,000 Civic IMAs now.

The car you see here is a concept, but the real thing will be unveiled at the Detroit motor show next January.

Three more hybrids – the sporty CR-Z, a replacement Civic IMA and a Jazz – will be added in the next few years, taking Honda's annual petrol-electric car production up to half a million.

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