By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 6.5
Although it hasn't knocked off the public's darling hybrid, the Toyota Prius, Honda's Insight is staking out a space of its own. The 2013 Honda Insight hybrid offers a sleek and modern 5-door hatchback design, intriguingly advanced powertrain technology and a sub-$20,000 price tag. Its EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy is a miserly 41/44 mpg. But it's also true the car's actual over-the-road performance is modest – likely less than what its advanced wedge-shape styling promises to most eyes. Honda's own Civic Hybrid is selling briskly so it isn't that consumers are resistant to the company's hybrid technology. Buyers just have to get used to the idea of advanced design and lively handling in the service of efficiency rather than driving thrills.
While its fuel-economy figures are less astounding than those posted by the Toyota Prius, the 2013 Honda Insight is still a gas-sipping wonder. And its price of entry is not so steep that buyers have to wonder if they'll live to see the payback in gasoline savings.
Honda gave the Insight hybrid hatchback a mild makeover last year, and for 2013, there are no substantial changes.
Driving Impressions In the 2013 Insight, Honda has a fuel-efficient hybrid vehicle that will deliver real savings at the pump without costing a fortune up front. The 1.3-liter gasoline engine develops 98...horsepower and is boosted by a 13-horsepower electric motor. The electric motor seamlessly assists the gasoline engine when passing or climbing hills. If this doesn't sound like a thrilling driving experience, well, it isn't. But there is an entertaining aspect to using technology and new driving habits to save the planet. The EX model's paddle shifters do make the driving experience vaguely sporty, and the Insight's steering feels well connected and its ride well controlled. Honda's own conventionally powered Fit makes an interesting comparison: It's certainly more driver-involving in a conventional, gear-jamming way, but simply out of the Insight's league for pure, high-tech efficiency.
Boasting hatchback access and flexible load space, the 2013 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 just 172 inches.
It is driver-selected so you don't have to use it. But once you've purchased a Honda Insight hybrid, why wouldn't you? Eco Assist helps teach you how to drive more efficiently, saving you money and reducing your carbon footprint.
The 2013 Honda Insight hybrid has a modern and practical interior design. The LX trim uses handsome cloth upholstery while synthetic leather-and-cloth graces the EX. Deep cutaways in the headliner and front seatbacks aid rear-seat passenger space. The 5-door configuration with a large rear hatch and folding 60/40 rear seats adds versatility. Instrumentation is both functional and futuristic, and can encourage better fuel economy. There's an Assist/Charge meter to monitor current flow to and from the battery, and Eco Assist gives feedback via the varying-color cluster background. An ECON button adjusts throttle, CVT, idle-stop duration and air-conditioning on/off mode.
The Insight's wedge-like profile and fastback roofline are its strongest visual features, with the cool split-glass rear window (remember the second-generation Honda CRX?) a close second. The grille and headlight treatments that include cool blue lighting were instituted in last year's facelift, and they still look good. Honda says the bumper, headlight and grille revisions led to a 2-percent increase in aerodynamic efficiency, and that's something the hyper-efficient cars in this class can always use.
As with most Honda offerings in the U.S., the marketing execs have worked to keep the purchase of a 2013 Honda Insight very simple. The base model is naturally 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 seat-height adjustment for the driver. The LX ups the ante with cruise control, a USB audio interface and center armrest storage, while the EX models gain steering-wheel paddle shifters, faux-leather-and-cloth seats, heated outside 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, 6.5-inch display radio, voice recognition, a rearview camera and FM traffic reports. Among the available accessories are a leather steering-wheel cover, an automatic-dimming inside mirror and SiriusXM satellite radio.
All 2013 Honda Insights are powered by Honda's Integrated Motor Assist system. This hybrid powertrain uses a 1.3-liter SOHC 4-cylinder gasoline engine – boasting i-VTEC variable valve timing – in combination with a 10-kilowatt (13-horsepower) electric motor. The compact nickel-metal hydride battery pack recaptures and stores energy from vehicle braking and deceleration, which the electric motor can then turn into a power boost to aid acceleration. The transmission is a continuously variable type (CVT) with paddle shifters on the EX model. The engine itself, with but two valves per cylinder, is relatively low tech, but everything else is appropriately high tech.
1.3-liter inline-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 mpg