After retiring its first, two-seater hybrid Insight a few years ago, Honda revives the name with this five door midsize sedan. The car is a dedicated hybrid and is coming to showrooms in April of 2009, priced at less than the Civic Hybrid.
Toyota isn't conceding any space in the hybrid market, giving its iconic Prius a much-needed update for the 2010 model year. The new Priuses will go on sale in the spring of this year, around the same time as the Insight. Pricing hasn't been disclosed yet, but expect it to be higher than for the Insight.
Honda says the Insight gets it body styling from the FCX Clarity, Honda's fuel cell vehicle. The seats have room for five people, and there is a hatchback, allowing more cargo room than a trunk.
With the new Prius, Toyota kept the same basic body style as the previous generation, with seating for five and a hatchback. For 2010, Toyota moved the roof peak back 3.9 inches, giving rear passengers improved headroom. Toyota boasts a drag coefficient of .25--the lowest of any mass-produced production car.
The Insight uses Honda's Integrated Motor Assist hybrid system, with batteries under the cargo area. The gas engine displaces 1.3-liters, and the 10-kilowatt electric motor contributes 13 horsepower. Honda claims 40 mpg city and 43 mpg highway.
Toyota says the power train in the 2010 Prius is 90 percent new over the previous generation. It uses a 1.8-liter gas engine with an exhaust heat-recirculation system, which lets the engine remain off for longer periods of time. The hybrid system can drive the car under electric power only, and the total system horsepower is 134. Toyota says the combined mileage for the new Prius is 50 mpg.
The Insight gets a three-bar grille and these hexagonal headlights. The car styling features an A-pillar that reaches down the car's body, cutting off the beltline and making the hood look like a separate piece.
Toyota will offer LED headlights as an option on the Prius, a first for a car in this price range. The lighting-case design is almost a boomerang--similar to Nissan's new styling-- but Toyota doesn't carry this look very far. The side of the Prius shows a more traditional beltline than the Insight.
Honda's standard navigation unit is evident in the dashboard, and the steering wheel looks very similar to that on the Civic. Bluetooth cell phone controls are mounted on the wheel. The Insight's instrument cluster features a display with instant fuel economy, and a leaf graphic that grows the more economically you drive, similar to that in the Ford Fusion Hybrid.
As in the previous generation, navigation and Bluetooth cell phone support are available in the Prius. The interior has been updated with a driver-focused center stack and a new digital instrument-cluster display at the top of the dashboard. Drivers will be able to choose EV, Economy, and Power modes. A number of driver aids will also be available, such as adaptive cruise control and lane-departure prevention.
Although the Insight will cost less, the Prius beats it in every other area, so in our estimation, the Prius gets to put our imaginary "Best New Hybrid" award under its hatch.
Here is what the Prius' new instrument display looks like, in this case showing steering-wheel button feedback. This graphic lights up any button you push on the steering wheel, so you don't need to look down at your hands. On the right is the standard powerflow animation, available on this display for Priuses without LCDs.
This display shows the graphic for the available adaptive cruise control, which uses radar to determine the speed of the car in front. This option also enables a precollision system and the lane departure-prevention feature.
A solar roof is also available as an option, which provides electricity to run ventilation. With this option, the car's air-conditioning system doesn't have to work as hard, keeping it from using drive energy. This option can also keep the car's interior cool when parked.