FCX Grill

Up front, the Insight's nose is almost an exact replica of the front end of the Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. Squint your eyes and you'll see a bit of a smiling Transformer face.
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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks / Caption by:

Is this the new Prius?

While Honda claims the body lines of the new Insight are an homage to the old model, it's fairly obvious that they were at least inspired by the silhouette of the Toyota Prius. Fortunately, the Insight's more-aggressive nose makes it, in our opinion, a more attractive vehicle than the Toyota hybrid.
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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks / Caption by:

Shape of the future

If Honda and Toyota are to be believed, this is the humpbacked shape of the vehicle of the future. Bleh.
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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks / Caption by:

Flat rear

The Insight's futuristic looks continue on its rear, with large, triangular tail lamps that blend into the curvature of the roofline's blunt edge.
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Two-panel rear window

Look out of the Insight's rear-view mirror and you'll see a split-glass view featuring a cross-member that horizontally bisects the field of view.

While this same configuration is prominent on the Prius, the first-gen Insight and, looking further back, the Honda CRX also featured split rear glass, so we can't 100-percent credit Toyota.

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1.3-liter IMA engine

The Insight features the same 1.3-liter IMA engine as the Civic hybrid, but has been tuned to output 98 combined gas and electric ponies (vs. the Civic's 110). Torque is rated at 123 combined pound-feet and, thanks to instant-on electric power, is all available as low as 1,000rpm.
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Futuristic interior

Inside, the Insight builds on the Honda Civic's already futuristic dashboard, featuring the same two-tiered instrument cluster and bright blue gauges.
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This looks familiar

The Insight's steering wheel is a Honda parts bin trispoke design that we've seen on the Fit, Civic, and CR-V. At the EX trim level, the wheel gains illuminated controls for audio and cruise control.
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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks / Caption by:

CVT Transmission

A continuously variable transmission (CVT) connects the IMA engine to the wheels. Spec your Insight as an EX model and you gain a Sport mode with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Who'd have thought a hybrid could be this fun to drive?
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Eco Assist mode

To the left of the steering wheel is this green ECON button. Pressing it puts the Insight into Eco Assist mode, which Honda claims further boosts efficiency by modifying various systems.

In practice, we noticed no differences between Eco Assist and standard Drive, but perhaps this is due to our vehicle's preproduction status.

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Instrumentation

The lower tier of the instrument cluster features (from left to right) the charge and assist meter, which monitors the flow of power from the batteries, the large center tachometer, the multi-information display in the center of the tachometer, which displays fuel-economy information among other parameters, and the ever-important fuel gauge.
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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks / Caption by:

Sci-fi dashboard

Fully illuminated, the Insight's instrument cluster looks fantastically sci-fi. At the top of the dash sits the speedometer. The speedo's backlighting, while normally blue, changes to a bright green to notify you when you're driving economically.
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Photo by: Antuan Goodwin/CNET Networks / Caption by:

Honda Satellite-Link Navigation

Honda's satellite-linked navigation is the same touch-screen GPS available throughout Honda's entire lineup. While the system features one of the best voice-command systems in this market segment, it's beginning to show its age.
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GPS navigation

The Insight's map doesn't feature traffic, but otherwise features an easy learning curve. Directions are easy to understand, though the inclusion of text-to-speech would greatly increase its usability. You can talk to the system; why can't it talk back?
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Voice command and entry

Destinations can be entered by hand or by speaking or spelling the names of streets or businesses aloud. If you're ever stumped about what you can or can't say, there's an extensive help system.
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Bluetooth and USB

Spec the navigation system and Honda will toss in Bluetooth hands-free calling and a center console mounted USB port. Bring your own sync cable and the audio system will read from your iPod.
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Audio quality

Sound from the six-speaker, 160-watt audio system was far from premium and, with the obvious omission of a subwoofer, lacked a powerful bottom end.
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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks / Caption by:
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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks / Caption by:

Aux input

Whether equipped with six speakers or four, navigation or not, all Insights feature a standard auxiliary input at the bottom of the center stack.
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HVAC controls

Honda has, for what we can only assume are ergonomic reasons, clustered the HVAC controls into this pod. While closer to the driver and easier to reach, this configuration is both difficult to understand at a glance and creates the new ergonomic problem of moving the touch screen further away from the driver.

We'd better touch up on our voice-command skills!

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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks / Caption by:

At the pump

Even with a few lead-footed excursions into the Insight EX's Sport mode, we had the darnedest time emptying its tank for an accurate fuel economy reading. Averaging 43.2 mpg over the course of the week, sights like this one will be few and far in between.
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