By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 6.4
The Honda Insight hasn't been able to match the popularity or fuel economy of the Toyota Prius, but it does boast one characteristic that sets it apart: The 2014 Honda Insight remains the least-expensive new hybrid car you can buy. With its starting price around $19,500, the Honda Insight is over $5,000 less than a base Prius 5-door hatchback. And with its 41/44 mpg ratings, the Insight can certainly take you far for your money. But beyond its laudable fuel economy and tempting starting price, there are compromises. The Insight's driving manners are rather unrefined and lackluster, even for a hybrid, and base models lack common features like cruise control, a USB input and even vanity mirrors.
High fuel economy and low ownership cost is the name of the game for the Honda Insight. In addition to its low retail price, the Insight regularly earns a spot on the Kelley Blue Book's 5-Year Cost To Own Awards list.
In addition to being less powerful and less fuel-efficient than a Toyota Prius, the Honda Insight isn't as roomy. Other sore points are the Insight's unrefined hybrid powertrain operation and a climate control system that left us wanting (and too warm in summer). The Prius is a better hybrid, and many gasoline- or diesel-powered cars now offer around 40 mpg or better.
The 2014 Honda Insight remains unchanged from the prior year.
Driving Impressions For better and worse, Honda's Insight puts a priority on efficiency. In the better column, the Insight's combined 42 mpg rating is enviable, especially for the cost of entry. In...... the worse column come some of the compromises needed to achieve those numbers. We didn't expect the Insight's driving experience to be thrilling, and it isn't. Acceleration in normal mode is just adequate for day-to-day driving, but speed (or lack thereof) isn't our biggest gripe. Rather, it's the noticeable transition of power between the gasoline engine and electric motor that is not as smooth as that of the Prius. Another trait to beware of is how the Insight cuts engine power when idling, such as at stop lights. This saves fuel, but it also can affect the car's climate control, namely the air conditioning. We noticed this most when the A/C turned off momentarily with the engine on a summer day. Back in the better column are the Insight's well-connected steering feel and overall maneuverability.
Most people buy hybrids for efficiency, and the Insight lives up to that more-with-less mantra not only in fuel economy but also design. With its 5-door profile and folding rear seats, the Insight can hold a good amount of cargo given its compact footprint
COST TO OWN
It's hard to argue with the starting price of the Honda Insight. Even a loaded EX model with navigation comes in under $25,000. Further, the hybrid's low starting price and efficient operation mean low ownership costs in the long run.
The Honda Insight's cabin is modern and practical, with seating for five passengers and an appreciable amount of cargo space. Controls for climate function are simple to use and within easy reach, just to the right of the steering wheel. A big green "Econ" button to the left of the steering wheel, meanwhile, ekes out more efficiency by modifying throttle response, air conditioning and how long the engine stops during idle. Cargo flexibility is granted from 60/40 folding rear seats that open up over 31 cubic feet of space when down. The navigation system in top models is showing its age, and functionality for controlling nav and audio functions is hampered by frustrating buttons and touch-based controls.Exterior
At around 172 inches in length, the 2014 Honda Insight hybrid is deceptively compact – even shorter than a Honda Civic Coupe. That makes this tidy wedge of a car easy to park in both garages or at the mall. The rear of the Insight is especially notable with its split-glass rear window. That feature is aesthetically pleasing from the outside, but can present a blind-spot within from the horizontal line that stretches from one side of the hatchback to the other. In front, the Insight adds visual pizazz with blue-tinted chrome bezels near the grille and around the headlights.
Like other Hondas, the Insight is offered in a few trims that bundle features. The least expensive and most Spartan is just dubbed "Insight." Highlights for that base model include automatic climate control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. But its 160-watt AM/FM/CD system only has two speakers and you'll have to forgo aforementioned features like cruise control. Stepping up to an LX gains two extra speakers and a USB input for audio, cruise control, floor mats, and steering-wheel-mounted controls. EX models add paddle shifters, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, driver and passenger vanity mirrors, 6-speaker audio, and projector-beam headlights. In addition to a nav system, EX models with Navigation have Bluetooth streaming audio and a rearview camera.
With Honda's tiered trim system, you won't have to worry about checking many extra boxes when it comes to buying an Insight. In fact, most extras are left to accessories such as a cargo cover, all-season floor mats, and bumper guard. Also of note is satellite radio offered on LX and EX trims.
All 2014 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 (CVT) with paddle shifters on the EX model that allow drivers to have the sensation of manually shifting gears. 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 + 10-kilowatt 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
As previously noted, one of the Insight's highlights is its value, both in its initial price and its long-term cost of ownership. The base 2014 Honda Insight hybrid starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $19,515, while a top-line EX with navigation goes for $24,705. At these prices, the Honda Insight is substantially less expensive than its main rival, the Toyota Prius hybrid, which starts at over $25,000. Before buying, be sure to check KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Insight hybrid. In terms of resale value, the Insight's is expected to remain marginal, trailing that of the Prius.
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!"
2 people out of 2 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)."
12 people out of 25 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"
6 people out of 10 found this review helpful