Honda engineers update an established engine design with leading-edge technology to create an extremely fuel-efficient powerplant.
The Insight’s engine makes for excellent efficiency as well as responsive power output.
Developed many decades ago, the original Atkinson-cycle engine improved fuel efficiency by reducing the volume of air and fuel introduced on the intake stroke and compressed on the compression stroke.
This smaller intake charge would then burn more efficiently during ignition, while still providing adequate torque on the power stroke.
For the Insight, Honda engineers used the flexibility of the VTEC® system to simulate the original Atkinson-cycle principles, with operating efficiency that goes far beyond a traditional internal-combustion engine.
Specifically, one of the VTEC cams delays the closing of its assigned intake valve until much later than usual on the compression stroke.
The resulting smaller volume of air/fuel mixture then burns more completely and efficiently during the power stroke.
However, the other intake cam is timed more like a conventional engine’s for greater power output.
Bottom line, the 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine is like having two engines in one.