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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.