By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 6.6
When Honda reintroduced the Insight hybrid in 2010, the company was sure the car's 5-door hatchback configuration coupled with its sub-$20,000 price tag would be all that was needed to knock the Toyota Prius from its lofty perch. But, for whatever reasons, sales still haven't boomed, which is why the 2012 Honda Insight hybrid has been given a refreshed look, revised interior styling and a few new options aimed at drawing in younger buyers. What hasn't changed is the 2012 Honda Insight hybrid's impressive fuel economy, up by 1 mpg this year to 41 city/44 highway. It also doesn't hurt that you can get into a nicely equipped model for around $20,000 and a fully loaded model for less than $25,000. Perhaps the Insight's problem connecting with the public is that it looks a bit too much like the Prius, or maybe it's just that Honda hasn't really promoted the car, at least not in the way Toyota did when they launched the Prius. We know from the hot-selling Civic Hybrid that consumers know about and like Honda's hybrid technology, so the market is there. It remains to be seen, however, if the enhancements are enough to bring in the crowd Honda is hoping for.
While its fuel-economy figures are not as impressive as the Toyota Prius, the 2012 Honda Insight hybrid nevertheless is a gas mileage champ. And, unlike some hybrid cars, the Honda Insight is priced competitively enough as to be able to justify the added hybrid cost relative to future gasoline savings.
If you're looking to a hybrid car only to save on gasoline, there are actually some non-hybrid alternatives that come pretty close to matching the 2012 Honda Insight hybrid's fuel consumption. Among the more notable cars are the 40-mpg Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruze, and the 42-mpg VW Golf TDI clean diesel.
For 2012, Honda gives the Insight hybrid hatchback a refreshed front end, new headlights and taillights, a cool backlit blue bar running across the grille, more rear-seat headroom and legroom and a revised interior with a more tech-centric instrument cluster. Also new is the addition of a rearview camera to navigation-equipped models.
Driving Impressions With the 2012 Honda Insight hybrid, Honda has created a fuel-efficient hybrid vehicle that will deliver savings at the pump without requiring you to fork over an arm and a...leg at the dealership. A 1.3-liter engine developing 98 horsepower is aided by a 13-horsepower electric motor sandwiched between the gasoline engine and the continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic. The electric motor assists the gasoline engine when passing or climbing hills and in certain situations (namely low-speed driving) can even move the car on its own. Of course, nothing in this powertrain setup suggests a thrilling day of driving fun (unless you consider saving gasoline to be fun), but in normal day-to-day driving, the setup is more than sufficient. However, we must admit we do appreciate the EX trim's steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters that make the driving experience somewhat sporty. We like the 2012 Honda Insight hybrid's well-connected steering and well-controlled ride. And, despite the need for low-rolling-resistance tires, the 2012 Honda Insight delivers 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, falls far short of the 2012 Honda Insight hybrid's 40-plus mpg figures.
Boasting hatchback access and (with rear seats folded) an expansive load floor, the 2012 Honda Insight hybrid 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 2012 Honda Insight hybrid takes a good interior design and makes it better. By carving out deeper sculpting in the headliner and front seatbacks, Honda has increased rear-seat headroom and legroom to better accommodate the very tall. New seat fabrics on the LX trim look handsome, as does the new synthetic leather-and-cloth setup on the EX. The 2012 Honda Insight hybrid's interior is made versatile by the car's 5-door configuration that includes a large rear hatch and folding 60/40 rear seats. From the driver's point of view, the Insight's instrumentation is both functional and futuristic, with lots of little LCD readouts and gauges to monitor your use of fuel and even help you attain better fuel economy. By using what Honda describes as Eco Assist, the driver is given feedback via the varying-color cluster background and by way of an Assist/Charge meter. The 2012 Honda Insight hybrid is also equipped with an ECON button that enhances efficiency by making adjustments to the throttle, CVT, idle-stop duration and air-conditioning on/off mode.Exterior
While we really like the new face and blue lighting theme on the 2012 Honda Insight, it still clearly looks like a Prius knockoff rather than an original Honda design. The Insight's wedge-like profile and fastback rear hatch are its strongest selling points, that and the cool split-glass rear window a la the second-generation Honda CRX. We actually like the new grille and headlight setup that includes cool blue lighting surrounds inside the headlight casing, which also runs between the horizontal chrome grille bars. Honda says the new bumper, headlight and grille design led to a 2-percent increase in aerodynamic efficiency. New wheel and wheel-cover designs this year give the 2012 Honda Insight a more sophisticated look.
As with most Honda offerings in the U.S., the marketing execs have worked to keep the purchase of a 2012 Honda Insight hybrid hatchback very simple. The base model is (obviously) more Spartan than an LX or EX, but still comfortably equipped with automatic climate control, power windows with auto up/down, tilt-and-telescopic steering column, and manual height adjustment for the driver. The LX ups the ante with cruise control, a USB audio interface, center armrest storage and floor mats, while the EX models gain steering-wheel paddle shifters, faux-leather and cloth seats, heated side mirrors, alloy wheels, 6-speaker audio and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.
The only option offered is the EX's available navigation package that includes a 16 GB flash memory system (as opposed to last year's DVD data file setup), 6.5-inch display screen radio, voice recognition, rearview camera, and FM traffic.
All 2012 Honda Insights – regardless of trim – are powered by a 1.3-liter SOHC 4-cylinder gasoline engine 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 @ 5,800 rpm
123 lb-ft of torque @ 1,000-1,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 41/44
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