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.You'll Like This Car If...
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.You May Not Like This Car If...
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.
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.Favorite Features
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.Notable Standard Equipment
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.Under the Hood
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
While the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the base 2010 Honda Insight LX barely breaks the $20,000 price barrier and is filled with a nice array of standard equipment, we're inclined to think the EX versions, with or without navigation, are equal or even better values. For instance, the EX with navigation has an MSRP of just over $23,000, plus a $710 destination charge. As this is being written, the car is so new to the market that our Fair Purchase Prices show the typical transaction price being paid for the car is right in line with the MSRP, but be sure to check our values to see what others in your area are currently paying. We expect the Honda Insight to retain a better-than-average residual value in comparison to hybrid competitors.