By KBB.com Editors
Honda was the first brand to bring a hybrid to the American market, so the fact that the Toyota Prius from the company's arch-rival has come to represent all hybrids in the minds of many American consumers caused no small amount of irritation within the halls of Honda. Now Honda is re-engaging in combat over hybrid supremacy with its all-new 2010 Insight, a vehicle designed to bring the advantages of a hybrid powertrain to a new, less-affluent set of buyers. The new model combines a 1.3-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 10-kilowatt electric motor plus serious computer power to create a reasonably simple but still very effective hybrid drive system. Called Integrated Motor Assist, the hybrid system works well while keeping costs down and it offers the additional advantage of being packaged in the four-door hatchback so efficiently that the Insight offers foldable rear seats.
If you want the world to know you are committed to being "green" without breaking the bank, the Honda Insight is more than worthy of serious consideration.
If you routinely have adults ride with you in the rear seats, they might find the accommodations both difficult to enter and confining.
With a starting suggested retail price right around $20,000, the 2010 Honda Insight is designed to make hybrid technology affordable to buyers who otherwise would not be able to purchase a hybrid.
Driving Impressions Knowing that they'd like the Insight to appeal to a young and presumably active audience, Honda execs talked up the Insight's sport-driving aspects, and one could say that in comparison...to other hybrid offerings it does deliver that to some degree. But with low-rolling resistance tires and a 98-horsepower gasoline engine (that's boosted by a 13-horsepower electric motor in strategic instances), the Insight is much more suited to hyper-miling than autocross. Acceleration in normal mode is adequate enough, but while ECON keeps you in the "green" more often, it makes the car seem awfully slow. As an around-town commuter, though, the Insight is quiet, comfortable and accommodating.
Although we have a slight sense of Big Brother, we have to applaud the Insight's Eco Assist system that actually teaches you how to drive more efficiently and rewards you with pretty green leaves.
Seems like the young and the old not only want to save the planet but are often economically challenged. The Insight allows them to go green and save green at the same time.
The interior of the Insight is contemporary Honda, which means a creative use of attractive plastics that give the car a tailored look without any pretense of traditional luxury. The real attention-getter is the all-new Ecological Drive Assist System, designed to use feedback to help drivers achieve excellent real-world fuel economy. The system that Honda has nicknamed "Eco Assist" offers driving-style recommendations via a three-dimensional background within the speedometer that changes color to reflect how efficiently the driver is accelerating and braking. Be aware the car is watching you. As a driver, your behavior is continuously tracked, and the car displays economy ratings per drive cycle and on a lifetime basis. If your driving is sufficiently "green" up to five leaves will appear in the display. The system also offers you the opportunity to press the "ECON" button to enhance the efficiency of throttle control, the continuously variable transmission (CVT), idle-stop duration, air conditioning and, in the up-level EX version, cruise control operation.
Honda notes that the Insight has a front end inspired by its FCX Clarity fuel-cell vehicle, but we can't help thinking "Prius" when we look at the Insight's profile. In a way you can't blame the Honda designers for emulating the Prius, because this is what Americans think a hybrid car looks like. The wedge shape and the nearly horizontal rear windscreen recall the Toyota hybrid, but the details like the taillights and three-bar grille lend the Insight a degree of distinction.
Because the Insight has an appealingly low initial purchase price you might fear the base model is a rubber-mats-and-cheap-upholstery kind of car, but we are pleased to report that is not the case. In fact, the base 2010 Honda Insight LX comes with a laudable array of features including automatic (continuously variable) transmission, automatic climate control, power windows, power door locks with remote entry feature, tilt-and-telescopic steering column and driver's seat height adjustment. Other standard niceties include a better-than-average four-speaker 160-watt audio system with CD player, projector-beam headlights and LED brake lights, all the better to make its futuristic statement.
For those willing to up the ante a bit from the base model, the Insight EX offers still more good stuff. One that we heartily endorse is the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) electronic stability control system. Appearance upgrades include alloy wheels and heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals. If the base audio isn't enough for you, the EX upgrades it with six speakers and a USB audio interface. Another upgrade is the inclusion of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a bow to the Insight's supposed "sportiness," which, frankly, is largely in the eye of the beholder. The key stand-alone option is the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with Voice Recognition, which includes Bluetooth.
All 2010 Insights are powered by a 1.3-liter single-overhead-cam i-VTEC engine with cylinder deactivation and auto stop-start, which is the key part of the new-generation of Honda Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system. The system also incorporates a 10-kilowatt (13-horsepower) electric motor and a compact Intelligent Power Unit (nickel-metal hydride battery pack) that enables it to recapture and store kinetic energy from vehicle braking and deceleration. The IPU supplies additional power for acceleration when needed, and it offers the over-rated benefit of operating exclusively on electric power in some low- to mid-speed driving conditions. With its 10.6-gallon fuel tank, the Insight delivers an estimated maximum driving range in excess of 400 miles.
1.3-liter in-line 4
98 horsepower @ 5800 rpm (gasoline engine); 13 horsepower (electric motor)
123 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1000 rpm (gasoline engine); 58 lb.-ft. of torque (electric motor)
EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy: 40/43
By Rambo on Wednesday, September 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 50,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "EPA-beating MPG, low cost, more "fun" than a Prius"
Cons: "No AC when stopped, engine wheezes on hills"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"We've had our 2011 Insight EX since new. It's had 50,000 trouble-free miles, with only normal maintenance like oil changes and a new set of tires (factory ones wore out after 15k miles). First off, fuel economy: we have a 20 mile commute roundtrip, with a mixture of hwy and city roads. We average around 46mpg, (calculated after refueling), soundly beating the EPA rated figures. On longer roadtrips, we've gotten 55-60mpg. Following the built-in efficient driving guides, you should absolutely get better mileage than the EPA figures. It's also a much more engaging car to drive than the Prius. We test drove both back to back, and the Insight has much more direct handling, and the manual shift paddles on the EX trim snap through pre-set CVT ratios instantly. It feels like a dual-clutch box in that mode. The car has no troubles getting up to freeway speeds and passing, although I'd recommending a few "downshifts" on the paddle shifters before passing. That said, the paltry 98hp does make hill climbing a chore, as the car will drone away at 5000rpm after the electric boost charge is used up. Even worse, the car has an alarming tendency to roll backward if you're stopped on a hill, and the start-stop system kills the engine. After you let off the brake, the car lags in getting enough torque to start rolling forward. This caused some hair-raising situations during a drive through San Francisco. At level grades, though, the stop-start function is seamless. The car does great in light snow. The skinny tires cut through light snow very well, and the car tracked great. I did have problems getting up an icy hill, but made it to the top after turning off the traction control. With judicious driving, the car can manage mild snowstorms without issue, just stick to plowed roads. The interior is comfortable, and the EX stereo has USB input and sat radio. It sounds decent for a car in this class, and has no problems connecting to an iphone, USB stick, or Android phone and navigating through playlists right from the dash. On our car, bluetooth was only available with the navigation, which we don't have. Later models changed that. In an obvious cost-cutting measure, the air-conditioning compressor is powered off the engine accessory belt, like a conventional gas car. However, this means the AC turns off when you stop at a stoplight, and can be very uncomfortable on hot days. There doesn't seem to be a way to force the car to idle, as it will shut off in both normal and ECO modes. The competition uses electric AC compressors to get around this, but also cost quite a bit more. The automatic single-zone climate control works great when the car is running. The sloped roof can make the back seat hard to get into for taller passengers, although there's plenty of headroom once they're seated. There's a sizable cargo space with the rear seats up, and this becomes massive with the seats folded down. I've gotten a full garage cabinet set in the back with the hatch closed. Overall, we really like this car, despite its relatively minor faults. It's never had a single problem, gets great mileage, and isn't entirely soul-sucking to drive (this coming from a Subaru WRX owner)."
3 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Pablo on Thursday, September 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 37,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "confortaable, convenient, economical"
Cons: "under-powered for general travel"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"The Insight is a great city car, but too severely under powered for general travel, especially in hilly/mountainous country. It needs a bigger engine and should have used the Toyota Prius transmission model. Otherwise it's a great little car. PB"
5 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Car on Sunday, August 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 50,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, fuel efficient, quiet running"
Cons: "No power seating for driver difficult for disabled"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Love this little car! Easy to drive and park. Comfortable for around town trips and so fuel efficient. Love the quietness of the motor and the lack of exhaust smells. Power seating for driver would make it perfect!"
9 people out of 13 found this review helpful
By Ray on Wednesday, July 30, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 38,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Low cost - fun and always feels new"
Cons: "Mountain driving low battery power"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Still fun and enjoyable to drive. Lowest overall cost of any car ever owned. Climate Control is great (change cabin filter regularly) Good Feel of the road but stiff - Not a great mountain car but most front wheel drive cars are not either...Very handy hatchback but rear seats are not for large people...The EX model has the "Worth every dollar" features.. The Honda "Eco=Boost" Hybrid technology is far simpler and may be more trouble free in higher mileage years...."
11 people out of 19 found this review helpful
By Sadie on Tuesday, July 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 65,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great on gas"
Cons: "A very bumpy ride!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"This car is great on gas and handles well but is a very bumpy ride and you feel every and I mean every bump and crack in the road! It would probably be a good car for a kid or for local travel, but annoying on longer drives. I would not buy another one but will miss the wonderful fuel milage!"
8 people out of 12 found this review helpful
By TheDeliveryDriver on Wednesday, June 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great mpg, good price, comfortable, stylish"
Cons: "Requires reading the manual for best usage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have the EX w/Navi model of this car. I've looked at several reviews, and decided that if I was going to get this car, I wanted the additional features. I haven't been disappointed! I am a delivery driver, and average about 200 miles per day - including both highway and city driving. I bought this car for it's awesome gas mileage for BOTH city and highway (40+city, 44+highway), and haven't been disappointed. I have read several reviews about problems with braking in time. After READING the owners manual, it turns out that if you put the car into 'S' gear, you get more power for acceleration and braking (confirmed). Go figure - reading how something works... Also, if you don't tailgate, you'll have plenty of room to stop anyways. :P Problem solved. I've used several opportunities to play with different combinations of driving style during my deliveries. The best combination thus far (for me) would be this: In CITY DRIVING, short distances and less than 40mph - use the 'S' gear. This keeps the engine running at stop signs/lights, so you don't have to worry about the engine turning back on if you're in a hurry. Paddle shifters are optional for faster acceleration, but really, how fast do you need to accelerate in traffic? Getting on ramps, sure, but otherwise no. If you use the 'D' gear in city, I can see how people might be annoyed by the continual starting/stopping of the engine. Even so, it's a smooth transition and you don't really notice it after a while. I still suggest the 'S' gear however. On HIGHWAY DRIVING, long distance and more than 40mph - use the 'D' gear. You'll get better gas mileage, and you can still use the paddle shifters if you need a faster change in speed. As for comfort, I love the mix of fabric and leather. I use the a/c frequently, despite the fact that it does hinder the gas mileage, but not all that much if used smartly. - I suggest using the economy setting (cycles the air inside, rather than pulling from outside) on super hot days, as it gives the a/c a bit of a break and takes less energy. Even with the a/c running, I still get great gas mileage! The Vehicle Stability Assist makes taking corners a smooth ride, especially since it's combined with the Electronic Brake Distribution. This means that each wheel has a sensor attached to it's brakes, so that if you're taking a corner too sharply, it will apply the appropriate brakes to the appropriate wheel. It does all the hard work for you! In regards to the small rear window - Yes, it's quite a bit smaller than most cars. HOWEVER, I have noticed that the driver's side mirror, when angled appropriately, can provide visibility both behind and to the side of the car... which means I don't really need to use the rear-view mirror at all. It also helps being used to only using the side mirrors, which in all reality, you might as well get used to it if you plan on taking full advantage of the trunk cargo space by moving larger objects. I enjoy having the steering wheel controls/ voice command controls for things like music, gps, and phone calls. That means I can be a safer driver since I'm not having to take my eyes off the road. Still, this car is for the ECONOMICALLY MINDED DRIVER. This is NOT a sports car. This car will train you to be a better driver economically wise (via color cues to good/bad gas driving habits). This car is not meant for those who want to just jump in and speed off. Those cars are for beginner drivers (not including professional race car drivers - they have a lot of controls to worry about). If you do that with this car, you have no right to complain about the lower gas mileage you'll be getting... or for any car, for that matter (as they post their gas mileage claims with ideal driving conditions). Also, if you want to get the most of the car, READ THE MANUAL! There's a lot going on under that hood! This car requires a committed driver who will adhere to the gas mileage cues and will handle the car (accelerating/braking, etc) appropriately. Treat the car nicely, and you'll be rewarded with awesome gas mileage. Overall, I'm very pleased with my purchase. After calculating the gas consumption with my old car (and driving 200+ miles each day), I'm actually SAVING money despite the fact I now have monthly payments and an increase in car insurance. I'm essentially getting paid to own this car!"
26 people out of 33 found this review helpful