By on March 12, 2008

k-sightwm3.jpg Iconoclasts that we are, we love it when people experiment with automotive irony. Case in point: LHT Performance's K20a Insight. The Floridian tuners (tunas?) stripped a red Honda Insight of its earth-friendly gas – electric innards and dropped in a Civic Type-R K20A engine. We're talking over 200 horses mated to a six-speed tranny. (How kinky does that sound?) The resulting car "goes like a rocket" and still gets 48mpg. The K20a is no stripped-out street racer. You got your power steering, AC, ABS, and an uprated suspension and frame. While building what could be the ultimate sleeper, LHT has raised (however unwittingly) an important eco-point. While automakers spend billions in a technological arms race to develop ever more complex drivetrains, these guys have proven that simple, small, aerodynamically efficient cars can be fun, fast and frugal. Who knew?

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25 Comments on “De-hybridized Insight. How Cool is That?...”

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    I’ve wondered how a non-hybrid Prius would stack up MPG wise.

    Last year I recall reading about someone who was using the Body of an Insight as the basis for a Bonneville Flats record contender. He choose the body as it has the least drag of anything available.

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    I have often wondered how much of the Hybrid mystique is due to the powertrain, and how much is due to the low rolling resistance tires, light weight components, and aero tricks.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    these guys have proven that simple, small, aerodynamically efficient cars can be fun, fast and frugal. Who knew?


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    Paul Niedermeyer

    How long before we see a RWD V8 Prius drifter?

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    The CRX lives!

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    I am SO not surprised. But very pleased! I used to wish they’d put an ICE in the EV1.

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    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the EV1 built on the same platform as the Saturn S-series? Of course, the EV1 had a much more aerodynamic shape, so that should make a difference.

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    Wait, stop the presses! You mean you can have fun and fuel efficiency if you make your car light and aerodynamic??? We must get someone to denounce this car immediately – the answer to our problems must be more tech, not less.

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    Martin beat me to it. 3 points for him.

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    A non-hybrid Prius would need a much bigger increase in the size of the gas engine.

    This worked so well with the Insight because Honda’s hybrid design is basically a mild assist to a slightly smaller gas engine. The Prius design, on the other hand, has the two engines as roughly peers in output.

    I think the gas engine in the Prius is smaller than that in even the hybrid version of the Insight, for instance.

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    Very nice sleeper.

    I’ve always been interested in seeing what hybrids would do for mileage if they didn’t have the hybrid part. The only thing we know is that they wouldn’t sell, as demonstrated by the 1995 Civic VX.

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    The 2765 lb Prius has a 70 hp, 82 lb-ft 1.5L engine, while the 1878 lb Insight has a 67 hp, 66 lb-ft 1.0L engine.

    The hybrid component of the Prius certainly is much larger: 44 hp vs. the Insight’s 12 hp.

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    Dude this is really cool. I would definitely not mind having that as a commuter and road trip car.

    I was reading up a bit on the company’s message board… Very impressive work.

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    For an example of the improvements possible with improved aerodynamics and so forth, but just an ordinary (if diesel) ICE, check out the Polo Bluemotion on I find it interesting that the fuel economy numbers they’re quoting are the same as the ones that were plastered on the side of a diesel Smart Fortwo at a local (Canadian) dealer, but the Polo is a bigger car, with back seats even.

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    My beater Saturn SL2 4 door has DOHC 1.9L and 130ish hp. It is EPA rated (old way) at 38mpg hwy. It will get 38mpg any day of the week with the cruise on 70mph while turning 3000 rpm in 5th gear despite 150K miles on the clock! This car weighs between 2400-2500 lbs. If I swap the taller 5th gear from the SL1 it would be over 40mpg easily, and it’s an easy swap since the trannys are exactly the same except the 5th ratio.

    Here’s an interesting point. The new Saturn Astra has a 138hp 1.8L engine pushing over 2900 lbs! If you look at speed/rpm charts for the 5 speed it’s almost identical to my old SL2. It’s no wonder the Astra can’t get anywhere close to 38 hwy, despite the revised numbers. And my old SL2 will out run it any day of the week. This is supposed to be an improvement?

    If Saturn put a taller 5th in the Astra (2k rpm at 70?) it would probably break 40mpg. Sure, “top gear passing” would be zero but that’s the whole freakin’ point of a manual transmission! Saturn could advertise huge mpg and regain some of their tree-hugging, anti-car base that is now cruising in Corollas and Scions. Right now there is no reason whatsoever to buy an Astra over a Matrix, unless you just have to have a 3 door.

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    I say just call it a CRX.

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    Now that’s a sleeper car! I’d love to pull up next to some kid in his ricer and blow his doors off driving what appears to be an Insight and still get 40+ mpg in my daily driving.

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    Andy D

    Can you imagine what a 2000lb VW bug would get for MPG with a water cooled, EFI pancake 1.5L 4 banger? Or a SAAB 96?

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    Cars get larger and heavier, engines get bigger. I parked my xA beside a 4-door Geo a few weeks ago and was amazed to see how much smaller that car was to my “subcompact.” Cars don’t need to be as big as they are, nor as heavy. 260HP in a car should spin wheels, not just create torque steer.

    Maybe one day, one of these auto manufacturers will realize that aerodynamics and weight control can help ANY car, not just a hybrid.

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    I don’t think that Insight could pass many crash tests — that’s when all of the bloat started.
    Of course, with all of the 2-3 ton grocery getters running around these days, sixteen airbags in a 3000 lb “subcompact” is a “selling point”.

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    * shaker :
    March 13th, 2008 at 7:12 am

    I don’t think that Insight could pass many crash tests — that’s when all of the bloat started.

    Actually, the Insight passed all the crash tests very well. The problem is it’s still a less than 2,000 lb car potential up against the standard suburban behemoth. Trucks are both less safe for everyone else and less safe for the occupants – unless there is another car and its much smaller. Trucks are safer to the extent that they transfer risk to other road users. It’s the “get out of my way!” school of road safety.

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    As a previous owner of an SL1, the best I ever managed was 40 mpg highway. I still rarely saw anything below 35 mpg though, unless I absolutely flogged it (which really did nothing except make it louder), and I would still never do worse than 30 mpg.

    That said, I’d take this de-hybridized Insight over my old Saturn any day of the week. :-)

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    I believe you are mistaken. Single vehicle accident stats that I have seen show that trucks and large SUV’s do better in spite of lower safety regs. Overall, you are safer in a truck.

    Now, if you want to figure out a way to make me feel safer in a smaller vehicle that meets all my needs and otherwise offers the value to me my Land Cruiser does, I will look at buying one.

    I understand that smaller cars are at a disadvantage, but I am playing by the rules. I don’t believe people are driving SUV’s due to malicious intent against people in subcompacts.

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    I don’t believe people are driving SUV’s due to malicious intent against people in subcompacts.

    But, regardless of intention, that is the end result. Many people driving SUV’s makes it less safe to drive a small car around. SUV’s are allowed to be built like tanks, and they tend to demolish any small car in an accident. That’s because the car is made to crumple on impact, not plow right through.

    SUV’s make the driver more safe, but everyone else is a little less safe sharing the road with such a large vehicle.

    Back on topic, I can’t get over the look of the Insight enough to actually buy one, though the 200 horsepower of this one makes it mighty tempting.

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