Honda revived the Insight name in 2010 in the form of a stylish, roomy hatchback featuring a hybrid electric powertrain. With an affordable entry price and lots of great features, the Insight has been an instant winner.
The Insight draws its power from a 1.3L 4-cylinder gasoline engine which produces 98 horsepower mated to a DC brushless electric motor that puts out 13 additional horsepower. The two units work as one system, which Honda calls Integrated Motor Assist (IMA). The electric motor is ultra-thin, and sits between the gasoline engine and the transmission. The motor assists the engine, but also does double duty as a starter--quickly spinning the engine up to idle speed after a stop. The batteries are of the nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) variety, which are stored beneath the rear cargo area. Putting power to the front wheels is a continuously variable transmission, which constantly adjusts to provide the most fuel-efficient drive ratio possible.
The Insight comes in a base, LX and EX trim. All Insights provide ample interior head and leg room for both front and rear passengers, and with the rear seat folded down, cargo space is rated at 31.5 cubic feet.
Standard equipment on the base trim includes HID headlamps, LED brake lights, rear wiper, a 160-watt CD/MP3 stereo, a tilt/telescoping steering column, power windows and locks, anti-lock brakes and Honda's Vehicle Stability Assist.
The LX adds power mirrors, remote keyless entry, automatic climate control and cruise control.
The EX adds Bluetooth, alloy wheels, heated mirrors and variable wipers. Navigation is optional on EX models--the system adds other goodies such as Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, steering wheel-mounted audio, navigation and phone controls.
The Insight goes beyond being merely a hybrid and by providing direct feedback, challenging drivers to be aware of the impact of their driving habits. Honda calls the system Ecological Drive Assist System. It's made up of two components--an ECON button that optimizes how the CVT and engine work together and a unique feedback system that uses ambient colored lighting on the instruments to display whether a driver is being aggressive (blue lighting) or environmentally responsible (green lighting). At the end of each drive, drivers are awarded with an Eco Score based on how efficiently they performed.
All Insights are loaded with standard safety features including dual-stage front airbags, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, active head restraints, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution and a tire pressure monitor.
The first-generation Honda Insight was a wacky three-door contraption with wheel spats. The second-generation Honda Insight was a five-door hatchback that, despite being the least expensive hybrid on the market when it launched, never caught up to Toyota's stalwart Prius.
Third time's a charm, right?
Now a spiritual successor to the discontinued Civic Hybrid, and slotting into the lineup between the Civic and the Accord, the Insight takes the best parts of both cars and injects them with a dose of green cred that's hard to beat. And, unlike the latest Prius, you can look at it without your face going all Raiders of the Lost Ark. Success!
The Good The Insight meets and beats EPA estimates with ease, its styling is on point and it's great to drive.
The Bad There are some light NVH issues when the gas engine kicks in, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren't available in the base trim.
The Bottom Line If you want the benefits of a Prius without having to look at or own one, the Insight will scratch all your itches.
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