Honda Insight

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.

Editors' Review

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The 2020 Honda Insight makes hypermiling an effortless endeavor. Drive one of these cars and you no longer have to overinflate the tires, refuse any passengers or cargo, tailgate tractor-trailers or squander a single brain synapse contemplating the pulse-and-glide acceleration technique. Honda has made it so ridiculously easy to get superb fuel economy you almost won't believe it.

Absolutely without trying, I managed to average better than 44 miles per gallon during my week-long stint in an Insight Touring, the range-topping model. Admittedly, that figure is fractions of an mpg less than the car's combined rating, but what makes this impressive is that it delivered said fuel economy when I drove it more aggressively than any typical owner would. I subjected the car to plenty of wide-open-throttle blasts and a large amount of high-speed interstate driving. Operate it more conservatively or predominantly in an urban setting and you should expect far greater efficiency. 

The car stickers at 51 mpg city and 45 highway. Combined, Uncle Sam's minions at the Environmental Protection Agency say it should return 48 mpg. If, for some reason that's not enough, you can forego a few features by grabbing either an entry-level LX version or a midrange Insight EX, either of which will get you even greater fuel economy. Those cars are rated at 55 city, 49 highway and 52 combined.

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The Good Supremely efficient, the 2020 Honda Insight also has an upscale interior, is spacious in all the right places, comes with generous standard equipment and even looks like a normal car.

The Bad This machine's powertrain is unexpectedly annoying for something built by Honda, plus its front seats are soggy and the available LaneWatch system's camera is disappointingly low-res.

The Bottom Line The Honda Insight is a high-quality small sedan that feels premium and returns crazy fuel-economy numbers without even trying.

Editors' Rating
  • Performance 8
  • Features 9
  • Design 8
  • Media 8

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