TOKYO -- To Honda Motor Co. design chief Nobuki Ebisawa, the differences between his company's Insight hybrid and the archrival Toyota Prius are subtle but significant.
Although the two cars look a lot alike, Ebisawa points to the Insight's low roofline and the Prius' raised engine compartment as proof that Honda did not simply imitate.
"I don't think these two models look alike, especially when you look at frames," Ebisawa said during a visit last week to Honda's design studio just north of Tokyo.
The Insight's sleek wedge shape is the result of a new Honda design philosophy that has been in the works since 2005, Ebisawa said. That's when Honda's stylists began sketching the FCX Clarity fuel cell concept and settled on a new key word for their design language: "efficiency."
The fresh look strives to imbue Honda cars with a futuristic, fuel-efficient aura, Ebisawa said. The cues can be seen in the Insight, the Fit compact and the FCX Clarity. And they will surface again in next year's CR-Z sporty hybrid.
The common elements include a pushed-forward cabin, a long roof and a raised deck.
In short: Form follows function. And in Honda's case, the desired function is aerodynamics. A low drag silhouette not only improves the car's mileage; it telegraphs the car's green credentials.
Said Ebisawa: "Efficiency is the necessary condition."