By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 5.9
Despite Toyota's dominance as the largest volume seller of hybrid automobiles, Honda has been in the segment since the 1999 introduction of the original Insight. A two-passenger, CR-X-type runabout with an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 61 city/70 highway, its launch was in response to a question few consumers (at that point in time) had asked; a decade later, everyone is seemingly asking. In its second iteration Honda targets the sweet spot of the hybrid marketplace with a 4-door hatchback, a simplified powertrain and an under-$20,000 base price. The product is compelling, but has failed to slow the momentum enjoyed by the Toyota Prius or, for that matter, matched the market mojo of its predecessor on the Honda showroom, the Civic Hybrid. Updates for the Insight in 2011 might move the market, as will the rising price of a gallon of gas.
With an EPA rating of 40 city/43 highway the 2011 Insight fails to join the 50 miles per gallon ranks, but its real-world utility – in combination with a well-equipped base price of under $20,000 – should prove compelling to the existing Honda enthusiast. In short, if you like Hondas you'll like the Insight.
Despite the complexity of a hybrid drivetrain, the estimated mileage fails to significantly exceed the best of the new entries in the subcompact segment. Forty mpg would seem to be the new thirty among economy-minded shoppers, and entries from Ford (Fiesta), Chevy (Cruze) and Hyundai (Elantra) might – and possibly should – prove a distraction for the Insight prospect.
The addition of a new, value-oriented model – with a base price of just under $19,000 – is the big news, along with additional features in the well-equipped Insight LX. The Insight EX remains available, and is the only Insight with (optional) navigation.
Driving Impressions If kept in perspective, Honda's Insight fully delivers on both its promise and premise. It is 98 horses assisted – strategically – by a 13-horsepower electric motor; all of that...is delivered to the front wheels via a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). Nowhere in the above menu is there even the suggestion of excitement; only day-in/day-out competence. With that, Honda typically delivers well-connected steering in combination with a well-controlled ride, and despite low-rolling resistance tires the Insight delivers a commendable performance. For driving enjoyment and the promise of decent fuel efficiency, Honda's Fit is undoubtedly the more involving experience. Its estimated mileage, however, is 27 city/33 highway with its 5-speed automatic.
Boasting hatchback access and (with rear seats folded) an expansive load floor, the Insight is the new SUV: Sensible Utility Vehicle. With the rear seat folded, the Insight offers over 31 cubic feet of cargo volume – and does so within an overall length of but 172 inches.
As a driver-selected fuel efficiency feature, you don't have to do it. But given your purchase of Honda's Insight hybrid, why wouldn't you? In the fuel efficiency equation, Eco Assist makes you smarter by teaching you how to drive more efficiently. And smarter saves you money while reducing your environmental impact.
The 2011 Honda Insight's interior space is defined by its 5-door configuration. And like other small hatches, the end result – in both design and utility – far exceeds expectations. Your initial impression, however, is formed by the instrument panel, which does exactly what a panel for a hybrid should do: Familiarize you with the here-and-now, while communicating a futuristic perspective on what's to come. And with what Honda calls Eco Assist, drivers are provided feedback designed to enhance their real-world fuel economy. An ECON button enhances that efficiency by adjusting throttle control, the CVT's operation, idle-stop duration and a/c operation. Of course, if while monitoring the dash you happen to hit something, you'll be protected by a competitive assortment of airbags: front, front-side and side-curtain.Exterior
If, when planning the original Insight, Honda had a CR-X in the styling studio, no one would fault them. If, however, while planning the current Insight Honda had a Prius in the styling studio, no one would be surprised. In its wedge-like exterior profile the Insight is a dead ringer for the 2nd generation Prius, and while 5-door profiles will typically share styling elements based solely on the number of doors and approximate size, the Insight comes closer to looking like a Prius than looking like any contemporary Honda. We'll note – as Honda does – some similarity with Honda's FCX fuel-cell concept in the nose, but the similarities essentially end there. If you like Toyota's Prius from fifty feet away, there's no reason to dislike the Insight from the same perspective.
As with most Honda offerings in the U.S., the marketing execs have worked to keep the purchase of an Insight very simple. The new-for-2011 base model is (obviously) more spartan than LX or EX, but still comfortably equipped (automatic climate control, power windows with auto up/down, tilt-and-telescopic steering column, manual height adjustment for the driver, etc.). The LX ups the ante with cruise control, a USB audio interface, center armrest storage and floor mats.
The EX moves the Insight several steps north with steering-wheel mounted audio controls, alloy wheels, six-speaker audio system, heated side mirrors and – exclusive to the EX – available navigation. With a 6.5-inch screen and voice recognition, the system also includes Bluetooth hands-free operation of your mobile phone, along with relevant steering wheel controls.
Whereas the original Insight went for three (cylinders), today's Insight goes for four. All 2011 Honda Insights – regardless of trim – are powered by a 1.3 liter SOHC four cylinder boasting i-VTEC, in combination with a 10-kilowatt (13-horsepower) electric motor incorporated via Honda's Integrated Motor Assist hybrid system. The compact (nickel-metal hydride) battery pack recaptures and stores energy from vehicle braking and deceleration. The electric motor will provide additional power for acceleration, and can propel the car exclusively on electric power in some low speed conditions. The engine itself – boasting but two valves per cylinder – is relatively low tech; everything else is appropriately high tech.
1.3-liter in-line 4 (plus 10-kilowatt, 13-horsepower electric motor)
98 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
123 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 40/43
By Lisa on Monday, March 03, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 9,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Sleek, practical, great fuel efficiency vehicle"
Cons: "Bumpy rides"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"This is a very nice car. I love the looks and its hatch back cargo capacity. I am always amazed at all the things we can fit in the back when folding the back seats. The interior materials and ergonomics are very good. I was a little hesitant about having enough leg and head room but it hasn't been a problem at all. The fuel efficiency is greater than expected. I'm not crazy about the IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system and I would also prefer a smoother ride when driving. Hope future models will improve this."
By Collin - Las Vegas on Wednesday, February 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Looks Great! High Quality Feel. Navigation/Camera."
Cons: "IMA - Integrated Motor Assist - Horrible."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"Overall this is a very nice car. It looks great. I like the sharp wedge design, the chrome and blue accents, the wheels, the color (bright red). The interior materials and ergonomics are very good. The navigation system is mostly very good. I have only one complaint about the music file player and that is that clicking the forward and back (track) buttons do not work the way they should. If I double click the back button I should be at the beginning of the previous song. But I am not. The major complaint I have about this car is the IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system. It is horrible. If I had drove this car before I bought it I might have re-considered. Once they put the Earth Dreams engine into this car, it will be fantastic! I am hoping that happens soon. I say, spend a little more and get the new Accord Hybrid. The Earth Dreams engine seems to be a vast improvement over the IMA."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Jack on Saturday, January 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "relatively cheap, fun to drive, fuel efficient"
Cons: "no frills, can get cramped for bigger folks"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"All hybrids basically get compared to the Prius. In my experience the insight is cheaper, better looking, and funner to drive. Not to mention that it gets better mileage depending how you drive it. It's smaller, and pretty spartan when it comes to features, but it's got a simplicity and feel that I found superior. The dashboard is not that fancy but it has a very simple fuel economy indicator, when you're driving efficiently the speedometer is green, inefficiently it's blue. I've found that to be a great driving trainer, so far I've been able to keep my MPG around 52 in the summer and 47 in the winter. It's a smaller car, and I'm a tall guy, so there's little room for backseat passengers. Overall I'm very happy with it, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a nice, cheap hybrid."
6 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Sagegray on Sunday, January 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great little Car"
Cons: "Idle stop on too much"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Very convenient dependable/economical sporty little car - If you need a City Commuter you can't go wrong - Sportier looking/driving than Prius, and far simpler mechanically. Yes you can feel the road - I like to! No the back seat is not for grown-ups - AND it is definitely NOT a Colorado Mountain/winter car like my Subaru Outbacks... I get 40 to 45 MPG ALWAYS in STOP/GO traffic - even when I drive quickly - The car is pleasant on the highway at 80 MPH too. AT it's BEST in town commuter driving...."
10 people out of 13 found this review helpful
By Stormie on Sunday, December 08, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 48,500overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I had a Toyota Prius and it was comfortable and quiet. This is uncomfortable and no one wants to drive it. Plus somehow the dealer got me owing 20,000 when its value is 9000. I was an idiot and trusted him at the dealership."
3 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By Timber on Thursday, November 14, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 4,220overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I am in love with this car so far. It is so comfortable, it drives like a dream, and it is beautifully designed. I am always being asked why didn't you buy a prius? Well, for one, the prius looks like it has a crooked nose, and two its alot more expensive. I love the half leather half recycled cloth interior, i love the custom mats that I got with it and the mud protection add-ons (especially for Oregon). I really like the hatchback design. I've never had one, but you can fit an army in the back. My dog does not fit in the back however, he hits his head haha. So i purchased a Dickies back seat cover to protect my backseat from him. The inside is so nice and the comfort level is through the roof. The only thing I would say is that it is a little bit complicated trying to figure out the controls. Such as resetting the oil life indicator. Having trouble with that but I will figure it out!!!"
11 people out of 15 found this review helpful