KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 11/4/2011
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.
You'll Like This Car If...
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.
You May Not Like This Car If...
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.
What's New for 2012
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.
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.
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.
Notable Standard Equipment
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.
Notable Optional Equipment
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.
Under the Hood
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
All 2012 Honda Insights – especially within the context of this model year – provide excellent value in their segment. A base 2012 Honda Insight hybrid can be purchased for a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of well under $20,000, while a fully loaded EX with navigation goes for just under $25,000. And, while Honda dealers enjoy small margins on small cars, check kbb.com's Fair Purchase Price for an indication of what consumers are paying in your area. With gasoline prices being volatile, so are the purchase points of hybrid vehicles. We expect, however, the Insight to enjoy a resale value going forward fully competitive – or superior to – other hybrids in its segment.