The original Honda Insight, sold from 2000 to 2006, was odd-looking. But as the first mass-produced hybrid available in the United States, its unique status and strange looks made it cool. When the Insight departed, the Toyota Prius took over hybrid dominance, and Honda hasn’t been happy since.
The Insight returned in 2009 as a 2010 model and Honda is ready to go head-to-head with the Prius by offering its new base model Insight for less than $20,000 — the country’s least expense hybrid. Toyota has responded with new Prius. It’s more expensive and in its recent tenure, several times more Toyota hybrids have sold than any other hybrid. So Let the competition begin.
The Weekly Driver’s Ratings
The Insight has 98 horsepower, so it’s not a sports car or even a peppy sedan. But it’s not the slowest car around, either. Steady is as good as it gets for the Insight.
It’s all what might be expected. Small, tight turning radius and a confident feel on the road. Braking is solid with no hesitation or mushy feeling feeling like pushing the pedal to the floor.
Cargo Room (5)
It’s a five-seater to the hatchback opens to a good-sized cavern, particularly considering the Insight is a small sedan. A few, well-placed bins and trays, but the glove box is tiny. Eight cup holders? That’s a lot potential for caffeine.
Simply designed, thoughtfully positioned and easy to use. It’s a motto more manufacturers should utilize. Technology has its place, but so does a straight-forward approach. Dials are large and intuitive. Even the instrumentation that details electric use versus gas use and when the vehicle is running most efficiently is easy to decipher. The odometer is recessed in its own compartment, just like other Honda sedans. The steering wheel position is adjustable, but unless it’s at lowest position, it blocks the odometer reading.
With a $21,000 price point, there’s a lot to offer. No leather, fancy trim or wood paneling. But the lines are smooth and plastic and cloth combination work, if rather plainly.
Front Seats (5)
For anyone under 5-foot-10, leg room and head room are fine. I’m 6-0 and 185 pounds. I had the driver’s seat as far back as it configured. A few more inches would be nice.
Fuel Economy (9)
The EPA estimates are 40 mpg in the city and 43 mpg in highway conditions. Many owners are reporting higher averages.
Hybrids are quiet, period. But on the freeway, the Insight does have wind rush.
Rear Seats (5)
With its spacious cargo area, something had to give, right? It’s the back seat. Head room is satisfactory, but leg room is tight for any passenger who’s not petite.
Ride Quality (6)
It’s a satisfying improvement, and nothing’s better for a hybrid than the compliment that you wouldn’t know it’s a hybrid unless you know it’s a hybrid. Enough said.
Total (63 out of 100)
Class — compact hybrid
Primary competition — Toyota Prius
Standard equipment — (Mechanical) 1.3L SOHC MPFI 8-valve i-VTEC I4 engine w/permanent-magnet electric motor, Integrated Motor Assist (IMA), Nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) 101-volt battery, Drive-by-wire throttle, Direct ignition system, Continuously variable automatic transmission, Front wheel drive, MacPherson strut front suspension, Torsion-beam rear suspension, Front & rear stabilizer bars, Electric power rack & pinion steering, Power ventilated front disc/rear drum brakes;
(Exterior) — 15-inch steel wheels w/full covers, P175/65SR15 all-season tires, Compact spare tire, Body-colored bumpers, Projector-beam halogen headlights w/blue-tinted chrome bezels
LED brake lights, Body-colored folding power mirrors, 2-speed intermittent windshield wipers, Rear window wiper/washer, Tinted glass, Body-colored door handles.
(Interior) — Reclining cloth front bucket seats w/active adjustable head restraints, 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback w/adjustable head restraints, Tilt & telescoping steering column, Illuminated steering wheel-mounted multi-information display (MID) controls, 2-tier instrument panel w/blue backlit gauges-inc: digital odometer, (2) digital trip meters, ECON button, tachometer, multi-information display (MID), outside temp display, Indicator lights-inc: idle-stop, IMA charge/assist, low oil/fuel, coolant temp, passenger-side airbag status, digital fuel-mileage, average fuel consumption, trunk/door-open, Maintenance Minder system, Power windows, driver-illuminated window switch, Power door locks, Remote entry, Security system, Immobilizer theft-deterrent system, Automatic climate control, Rear window defroster, 12V power outlet, eight cup holders, Front door pocket storage bins, Cargo area light.
(Safety) — 4-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) w/electronic brake distribution (EBD), Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, Side-impact door beams, Dual-stage, dual-threshold driver & front passenger airbags, Dual front side-impact airbags w/passenger-side occupant position detection system, Side curtain airbags, 3-point seat belts in all positions-inc: front automatic tensioning system, front adjustable seat belt anchors, Child-proof rear door locks, Outboard lower anchors & tethers for children (LATCH), Tire pressure monitoring system.
For more standard equipment/option package information, visit: Honda Insight
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price — $21,300.
Price As Driven — $21,970.00.
Mileage Estimates — 40 mpg (city), 43 mpg (hwy).
Warranty — Full warranty coverage: 3 years/36,000 miles; Conventional portion of powertrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; Hybrid Battery Pack: 8 years/80,000 miles; Various computer, control and power modules: 8 years/80,000 miles; Catalytic converters: 8 years/ 80,000 miles.
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words — All things considered, the new Insight looks much better and has a lot more to offer than its predecessor. But to go head-to-head with the Prius, Honda should have done something different. The two hybrids could be twins — at least on the outside.
Article Last Updated: September 8, 2021.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.