Reintroduced and redesigned for 2010, the Honda Insight re-emerges as the main competitor to the Toyota Prius. While both share the same wedge-shaped profile, the two differ in many ways, e.g. the Insight does not have a push button start like the Prius. I finally got some seat time in the Insight EX, the higher end of two available trim levels, and for the fuel conscious buyer who would like a little more pizzaz from a green vehicle, the Insight delivers.
From the moment you sit inside the Insight, it’s clear that your mission is to save gas. The all-new Ecological Drive Assist System (Eco Assist) helps drivers achieve excellent real-world fuel economy. Pressing the ECON button enhances the efficiency of multiple vehicle systems: throttle control, CVT operation, idle stop duration, air conditioning, and cruise control operation (EX only).
Eco Assist also provides driving style recommendations via a 3D background within the speedometer that changes color, from teal (fuel efficient) to blue (less fuel efficient) to reflect how efficiently the driver is accelerating and braking. While many cars include some sort of fuel economy indicator, the Insight’s is subtle but elegant. Drivers’ results are continuously tracked as fuel economy ratings are shown per drive cycle and on a lifetime basis in the form of plant leaf graphics that can appear in the Multi-Information Display.
Estimated EPA fuel economy is 40 mpg city/43 mpg highway/41 mpg combined and that’s not bad, but according to the onboard fuel consumption readout, I achieved a little better than that, averaging 44 mpg. Up to five leaves can be ‘earned’ as the driver demonstrates a fuel-efficient driving style. I didn’t notice if I earned any but perhaps it takes more than a week to do so.
Low-rolling-resistance tires further enhance the vehicle’s efficiency. The body construction includes significant use of high-strength steel, which helps reduce weight and enhance rigidity.
Certified as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (AT-PZEV) by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the Insight complies with top-level emissions guidelines. It’s powered by a 1.3-liter i-VTEC four cylinder engine with 98 horsepower but surprisingly, I didn’t notice much sluggishness. I did note, however, that the air conditioning does fade at traffic lights.
Standard features on the base Insight LX include an automatic continuously variable transmission, automatic climate control, power windows, power door locks with remote entry, tilt and telescopic steering column, driver’s seat height adjustment, and anAM/FM stereo with a CD player. Features on the text model Insight EX included Vehicle Stability Assist, alloy wheels, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a six-speaker audio system, USB audio interface, and the Honda Navigation System the voice recognition.
Visibility is excellent and if you need versatility, the back seats will fold flat. Driving around Austin in the Insight, I fit in nicely (into parking spaces and as a fuel saver).
For the fuel-conscious driver, the Honda Insight delivers the essentials with minimal sticker shock.
Pricing on the Insight starts at $19,800 The as tested price was $23,810.