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New Honda Hybrid

The 2010 car model year (which starts in calendar year 2009) promises to be an exciting one, with the debut of a revamped Toyota Prius, and Honda's long-awaited entry into the stand-alone hybrid market.

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The midsized 2010 Honda Insight is named after Honda's original, now-retired 2-seater, which broke the 70 mpg barrier in 1999. So what's the big deal about the new Insight? Price and fuel economy: If rumors turn out to be true, the sticker for a well-equipped model will be around $19,000, and MPG could be as high as 71.

And then there's the design factor: While the new Insight's Prius-like, cheese-wedge shape is dictated by squeezing a big battery, trunk space, and 4.5 adults into sheet metal that won't clog a wind tunnel, we're encouraged by the wheels on the concept car. One of the dead giveaways of any econo-box are the tiny, low-rolling-resistance go-kart rims; but the Insight appears to sport the high-profile rubber of a performance car. An illustrator's embellishment or the real deal? We'll know for sure on October 2, when the Insight will officially be unveiled at the Paris International Auto Show.

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