Their inherently laudable mileage-making capabilities aside, hybrids have singlehandedly been responsible for a tidal wave of new and significantly improved dash designs aimed at optimizing the man-machine interface. The latest of these interactive packages to surface will be found in the 2010 Honda Insight. Although the production version of this gas-electric sedan won't appear until January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Honda did use the Los Angeles Auto Show to reveal and detail how its new Ecological Drive Assist System -- aka Eco Assist -- can provide the kind of real-time control, guidance and feedback that will help extend the range of every tank of gas.
The active element of Eco Assist lies in its "ECON" button, which optimizes control of the Insight's various powertrain elements as well as the operation of its continuously variable transmission (CVT) to enhance fuel efficiency. Engaging ECON mode also adjusts operation of the car's air conditioning, steps up the level of regenerative braking and allows for more aggressive implementation of the start/stop programming. Graphically, Honda's Eco Assist package uses an assortment of variable displays to reinforce frugal driving habits, starting with a color-changing, three-dimensional speedometer display that shifts from blue to aqua to green to reflect more economical immediate operation. On a longer-term basis, the Eco Assist's centrally positioned Multi-Information Display sprouts "leaves" as a driver incorporates these high-efficiency practices into an ongoing daily regimen. Like the equally colorful and interactive SmartGauge package that Ford Motor Company just introduced for use in its 2010 Ford Focus and Mercury Milan Hybrids, expect this new Eco Assist dash display to turn up in other members of Honda's burgeoning hybrid family in the months ahead.