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 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"
2 people out of 3 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!"
24 people out of 31 found this review helpful
By brtmdo on Saturday, May 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 19,200overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "price, mpg, quiet, comfortable, peppy, stylish,"
Cons: "little rear seat room, no toys, need snow tires"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"A very basic car as far as toys are concerned; but car is quiet, has great city and highway mpg, holds a lot in the hatchback, gives driver good all around visibility, especially to the rear; seats are comfortable in front, tight in back; drives okay in snow except it slides on icy streets; snow tires recommended for snowy city driving."
10 people out of 11 found this review helpful