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 oil burner on Monday, December 08, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,123overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun car"
Cons: "cup holders not good placnent for us"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"the overall car is great wife drives 80 miles a day just loves the car from driver seat every thing is total reachable but at about 60000 miles car is burning oil wish i could a fix.do not want to give up car"
4 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By kristicake on Friday, November 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 17,250overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"I have had this car for 2 1/2 years now, I went from a tiny gas guzzling VW. Overall, I really like the car, I haven't had any real issues with it. In the first year or so, I did experience some "whistling" when I drove over 70mph but it seemed to go away over time. It was really annoying though at first. My only major complaint about this car is that it's NOT made for steep hills. I spent the first 2.2yrs living in Los Angeles, I didn't have any really issues since there were VERY rare occasions where I was stuck on a steep hill, and it would roll back, so I'd scramble for the e-brake and hope for the best. I just however, moved to Seattle, the land of steep hills. It's been absolutely terrifying to drive!! I've rolled back multiple times now and its SO scary. It also jerks (almost like a manual) when you try and recover from the rolling. Just not good. Alas, this car is not made for someone living in Seattle and I am looking to trade in for something "hill friendly" so I can navigate the city without fearing my life (or someone elses!) If you live somewhere relatively flat, I HIGHLY recommend this car!"
7 people out of 14 found this review helpful
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)."
20 people out of 35 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"
10 people out of 15 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!"
18 people out of 28 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...."
16 people out of 28 found this review helpful