Honda's a tricky little company. Seeing as how the Toyota Prius has become the defacto hybrid, they retooled their hybrid offering to be the everyman version of Toyota's popular model. They even dropped it on Earth Day! How's that for effective marketing. Even better is the price tag: The base Insight clocks in at $2,000 less than the cheapest Prius. What's not to like? It's like the Uniqlo of cars. To see if it was the real deal, we took one for a drive, see our complete analysis below...
PRICE: (base) $20,510, (as tested) 23,770
SPECS: 99 hp, 123 lb-ft of torque 1.9-liter i-VTEC 4 Cylinder with 13 hp, 58 lb-ft of torque Integrated Motor Assist.
MPG: est 40 city/ 43 hwy mpg
RIDE: Most, if not all, hybrids are about as fun to drive as a Gudda Gudda mixtape is to listen to. People buy hybrids not because they want a fun driving experience, but because they believe they are doing their part to preserve the planet and, more importantly, the money in their wallets. That said, we're not throwing the Insight into the four wheeled appliance category, well not completely. While not as poised as Toyota's Prius, the Insight is a hell of a lot more fun to drive. The steering doesn't feel completely numb and, for better and a little worse, the suspension is firmer, allowing for sportier feeling ride. But while it feels sportier, the suspension is not forgiving over potholes and bumps as other hybrids.
The Insight uses a slightly modified version of the same drive-train the Honda Civic Hybrid uses, only it packs a couple less horses, which is OK saying that it weighs 143lbs less than the Civic. The engine only packs a net 111 horses (98 hp from the gasoline engine, 11 from the Integrated Motor Assist), which isn't much, but is more than enough when tooling around town.
EXTERIOR: When the Insight first hit the block a decade ago, attractive wasn't one of the words used to describe it. It kind of resembled a Honda Civic coupe with botched ass implants. But the newest generation, with its Prius aping five-door body style, is a vast improvement. It may resemble Toyota's hybrid, but only in shape. Looking head on, it looks like the Prius' mischievous little brother. The angles are sharper, the grill doesn't appear to be smiling at you. The body looks tighter and less portly than the Prius, 'cause it is: it's about 6 inches shorter and over 300 pounds lighter. Out of all the dedicated hybrids (cars built only as hybrids), the Inight is the best looking.
INTERIOR: The best part of the Insights interior is gauge cluster. The two tier system features what Honda calls Eco-Assist. The first level shows you the RPM, fuel level, battery level and all the other functions you expect from a gauge cluster. Up top is a digital speedometer with a background that changes color depending on how "green" you're driving. It's intended to teach you how to drive the most fuel efficiently. You tend to ignore it after a while, but when you first start driving, you'll find yourself trying to keep it in the green. The rest of the interior is usual Honda fare: the same sharp angles find their way to the over-styled but cool looking steering wheel. Most of the controls upfront are angled towards the driver, giving it a cockpit feel. You begin to wonder how Honda saved so much money until you start touch the interior materials, which are all hard plastics and cheap cloths. And though there's less interior room in the Insight than in the Civic Hybrid and the Toyota Prius, there's still plenty of space for five to comfortably drive around.
AUDIO: The EX model comes with a 160 watt, 6 speaker system that allows you to plug in any MP3 player you want via its AUX cord or USB port. Overall, we wished the system was stronger. Crank it to the max and you can still hear road noise and conversations happening in the backseat. When we crank our stereo's we want to hear only music.
ONE MORE THING: Once behind the wheel, you'll notice a huge button labeled "ECON" button. If you feel like you should be getting better gas mileage, give it a push. The idle-stop will start sooner, and the start and stops of the gasoline engine will become a lot smoother—almost Ford Fusion Hybrid like. It also makes the air conditioning more efficient so you're not draining off gas on hot days.
SUMMARY: If you want to get into the world of hybrids, the Honda Insight is one of the best ways to do it. It's spacious, (more) fun (than other hybrids), attractive and, most important of all, cheap. It's not as posh and refined as the Prius, but if you're not looking for that, the Insight is the car for you.
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