2010 Honda Insight Long Term Road Test

Audio & Technology


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2010 Honda Insight EX: Suspense in the Fast Lane

June 18, 2010

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I love my 10-year-old Acura TL, but it's definitely an antique when it comes to its audio system (AM-FM/ CD changer, and -- wait for it -- cassette player). I'm addicted to recorded books, but my aftermarket solution for in-car listening to the scads of books I have on my iPod is completely inadequate for city driving, relying as it does on finding a clear FM channel on the very crowded L.A. band.

So while there are a lot of things I don't like about driving the Insight, such as its sluggish acceleration and less-than-posh interior, I am enjoying its (relatively) simple-to-use iPod interface. Listening to a mystery by Swedish writer Henning Mankell really makes the miles fly by. Who did kill that Latvian police major, anyway?

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @20,211 miles

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2010 Honda Insight: Day 8 on the DL

May 25, 2010

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It's been a week in the Insight and oddly, I haven't gotten sick of it. That can probably be chalked up to only commuting 18.4 total miles daily through heavy traffic and only briefly getting to "enjoy" the brittle ride coupled to excessive high-speed wind noise. I also haven't been chauffeuring around anyone, so the lack of back seat headroom hasn't been an issue.

As a strictly commuter appliance, then, I've found the Insight to be pleasant. Its stereo has actually been the most surprising element of the car this week, as it exhibits relatively strong bass and crisp sound quality even through the iPod interface. I figure if you're going to be stuck in traffic, that's a pretty good attribute to have.

I'll be turning over the Insight to John DiPietro for a few days so he can put some long-distance miles on it, and in the meantime, I'll be heading into Ye Olde Prius. It'll be interesting to see how commuting life is in Toyota hybrid land. Hopefully I don't career wildly into a tree.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor on the DL @ 18,359 miles

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2010 Honda Insight EX: Kink in HandsFree Link

May 06, 2010

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I jumped into the Honda Insight EX last week for a trip from LA to Palm Spring, thinking I'd have time to catch up on a few phone calls on the two-hour-plus freeway drive. Before taking off I hit the Bluetooth HandsFree Link/Voice Command button on the bottom-left quadrant of the steering wheel, also thinking that pairing my iPhone 3GS would be a snap.

But it wasn't. And I'm familiar with the HFL system and know its quirks since I compared the vehicle's tech against a Prius for an Edmunds.com feature story. The system kept looking for a previously paired phone, and I got trapped in a loop until I realized I needed to delete a previously paired phone before I could pair mine.

Before you start bitching that this is a minor car journalist gripe -- and you'd be partially correct, since if you drive the car on a daily basis this probably wouldn't happen -- I have to point out that one of the pitfalls of the HFL system is that it only allows pairing a phone via the Voice Command system, and not using the touchscreen. If I could have seen that the system's phone capacity was full I could have saved myself a lot of frustration. Otherwise there's no way to know.

So HandsFree Link in the Honda Insight didn't pass my litmus test on how easy it is to pair a phone with a Bluetooth system, which is to ask: Would my mom be able to use this system?

Or your mama.

Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology, Edmunds.com

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2010 Honda Insight: Nav/Audio Interface

March 15, 2010

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In my weekend with the Insight, I was reminded of how badly Honda's nav/audio interface needs an upgrade. Honda's interface isn't that bad -- to its credit, it's got an intuitive layout and is easy to use.

But when compared to the interfaces offered by other manufacturers competing in this price range, it comes off as being a bit behind the curve. I'm not a fan of all those smallish buttons, and the interface doesn't look properly integrated into the center stack. What do you think?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @14,286 miles

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2010 Honda Insight EX: Conflict of Interest Climate Control

December 17, 2009

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For some strange reason (and no, I did not have the windshield defroster on) the Insight's climate control has the A/C default to "On" when you switch on the climate control. I always shut off the radio and the climate control when I park a car. (Take note of this, staffers who leave the radio and/or the climate control blasting when you park the car).

Anyway, I noticed that every time I started the car up and switched on the climate control (either by pressing the fan or mode button), I'd hear the a/c compressor kick on and would then have to press the "A/C" button to shut off the a/c. Yes, this even happened in "Eco" mode.

Rather ironic that a car designed for max fuel efficiency would have its air conditioning system default to on.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 10, 400 miles

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2010 Honda Insight EX: Hybrid System Walkaround

November 06, 2009

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Ever wondered what it takes to build a hybrid? Well, that depends on what sort of hybrid you're talking about.

The hybrids that Toyota and Ford put out are complex (and effective) series-parallel hybrids, meaning they can run on gas, electricity, a direct parallel blending of the two or a series piggyback mode where the gas engine generates electricity for the battery while an electric motor uses that electricity to drive the car. It takes two powerful electric motors that are integrated into a mind-bending (but mechanically quite simple) planetary CVT system to pull this off. Powerful control software continually switches between these modes so you don't have to think about it.

But our 2010 Honda Insight is based on a simpler parallel-only setup, in which the engine and transmission are prised apart so a thin, flywheel-sized electric motor (just over 2-inches thick) can be slipped between them. This electric motor goes by the name of Integrated Motor Assist or IMA, for short.

It's basically laid out like this: Engine --> IMA --> Transmission

Let's have a look, starting at the back of the car.

The above shot from my suspension walkaround series shows why the simple twist beam suspension configuration was used here: it leaves plenty of room between the wheels for a deep central well that houses the spare tire and battery pack.

I see a spare. But there's something else under there.

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2010 Honda Insight EX: Hey, Shorty

November 05, 2009

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Honda cars usually come with pretty spiffy audio features. Our Insight is no different. My only complaint is that the connector in the center storage compartment is awkward to reach. It's not that it's in a bad place. But the cable itself is so short, it makes it difficult to reach when you want to plug in your device.

It's nice that it doesn't take up a lot of space in the smallish storage compartment. And I like that there is a pocket for my iPod. But another six inches of cord would really makes things easier and not be in the way.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2010 Honda Insight EX: Auto Stop

October 26, 2009

2010 honda insight auto stopIn good hybrid form, when you come to a full and complete stop in the Insight, the gas engine and electric motor shut off. The idea is that a vehicle that's not running doesn't use any fuel or energy. As long as you keep your foot firmly on the brake pedal, the car remains off until you lift your foot. When the car senses that you've lifted your foot, it immediately starts back up again in preparation to moving forward.

I've noticed that the new four-door Insight is very sensitive to a reduction in pressure on the brake pedal while "auto stop" is engaged. Frequently while I'm waiting at a stoplight with auto stop engaged while driving the hybrid hatchback, I'll feel the Insight start itself back up when I don't intend it to. I must have a really light foot, or maybe I ease the pressure off just a tiny bit without realizing it. Nice to know that it's so sensitive. I wouldn't want it to be the other way around. But I'd be interested to hear if this happens a lot to other Insight drivers or if I just need to bulk up my right leg.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com @ 4,352 miles

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2010 Honda Insight EX: Information Aplenty

October 08, 2009

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There's a lot of information that can be gleaned from our Insight's gauges in a quick glance. Of all the screens available in the multi-information display, I tend to use the eco guide (pictured above) the most. I had some questions on the readout, and after consulting the manual, the answers were clarified and I even got an interesting surprise.

The leafy stems show how eco-friendly you're driving (it will further reward drivers with blossoms atop the stems, but I have yet to see one). The moving bar underneath indicates how efficiently you're accelerating or decelerating. The gray boxes on the high and low end are the areas you want to avoid. Stomp the accelerator and the bar shoots to the left, well into the gray box, and you begin losing leafs. No big surprise, but hard braking is also inefficient, since the momentum is scrubbed off by the brake pads rather the regenerative braking. Smooth and steady is the most efficient, but that also sets you up for getting cut-off by other drivers. In L.A. traffic, an open space in front of your car is basically saying, "go ahead, I'm in no rush and don't bother using your signal either."

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2010 Honda Insight EX: The surprise music card

September 01, 2009

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Our 2010 long-term Honda Insight's radio is all high-tech with WMA and MP3 CD capability, ipod interface, but no Sat radio.

However, I opened the radio door yesterday and got a surprise.

For those of you who have harped on our long-term Nissan R35's compact flash card port, and have expressed incredulity regarding the Lexus ES350's cassette player, I present to you the Insight's PC Card adapter.

Although cassette is archaic, and CF is almost dead, at least most non-nerds have heard of these formats. But PC Card? Ask most non-geeks what that is and you'll probably get a stupid look.

What kind of fossil would own one of these?! Uh, me.

It was around 2000 and my laptop at the time had only one USB port, taken up by the mouse.
Way to go Sony.

I needed a way to read the CF cards for my camera, but didn't want to swap out the mouse.

I was working for an international company at the time, and my colleagues told me I could get a PC card adapter as a workaround.

Do what now? Never heard of it.

Well, I got one, and if the mass were five time the actual it would make a great paperweight or doorstop.

That is, until I met the Insight.

Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 5860 miles

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2010 Honda Insight: Energy Management

August 20, 2009

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As Karl wrote in an earlier post, the 2010 Honda Insight's hybrid energy management display (accessed by scrolling through the various LCD menus) is pretty simple. There are animated dotted lines for gasoline engine power (it's either flowing or inactive) and battery (either charging or discharging). That's it. But what else do you really need? Plus, I like the location of the display as it's easier to check at a glance than if it were on the main navigation screen.

Also, check out what's going on with the display here. As you might know, the Insight's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system doesn't allow for electric-only propulsion like a Toyota Prius does. But I noticed that while descending a long mountain grade with the cruise control set (no throttle input by me or the car), the IMA would kick in just a slight amount of electrical juice to keep the car at the set speed. This is likely the only time you'd get to see this "electric-only" power flow on an Insight.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2010 Honda Insight: Driver's Information Panel, Low Tech Meets High Tech

August 03, 2009

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I just spent a weekend in our long-term Honda Insight, but it was the first time I really took a look at the driver's infomation panel. This is the little window between the two primary gauges on the dashboard, a screen you can scroll through by hitting the "i" button on the steering wheel to see various vehicle statistics like distance-to-empty, running time, average speed and average MPG numbers.

I've typically left this window in the "Eco Guide" mode to see how many "leaves" I can establish through my frugal use of non-renewable resources. I also find it interesting to ponder exactly what driving statistics the Insight considers "leaf worthy." I know you're supposed to keep that center bar as small as possible through light throttle and brake application to earn leaves, but I'm betting (hoping?) some honest-to-goodness mathematical equations are happeing somewhere behind that display panel.

For what it's worth, I seem to be a "two-leaf" kind of driver, meaning I can get a line of two leaves on every plant in the display without trying too hard (as pictured above on the left), but I've never gotten a third leaf on any of the plants. I would describe my driving style as roughly 80/20 (in the Honda Insight as well as just about any other car). This means 80 percent of the time I'm driving pretty casually with minimal throttle input and a stable rate of speed. However, when I see a hole in traffic I want, or a car I need to beat off the line to get into a specific lane, I don't hesitate to use all of the throttle spring's travel. Driving this way earns me the above level of leafage, and that's fine with me.

The other display I took a specific look at was the energy management display (on the right above). This one tells you where the energy is flowing in the powertrain, whether from the engine to the wheels, the battery to the wheels, the wheels to the battery, or any other combination possible.

I found this information in this small driver's information panel after searching for it on the LCD display in the center stack. But I quickly realized there is no energy management display on the LCD screen, which makes sense because you only get that display if you order the navigation system. The upside is that it makes the Insight's starting price cheaper than the Prius (because every version of the Prius has the LCD screen), but the downside is this somewhat rudimentary form of graphical energy management information.

Sure, it gets the job done. However, if you're used to the pretty Prius display that shows animated wheels turning and multi-color energy flows, this screen looks a little 1998 (think early navigation systems on German luxury cars).

Still, I'll take the Insight's superior driving dynamics, superior seating position and ergonmics, and lower price tag over the Prius, even if it means a "Pong" version of energy management information.

Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief @ 2745 miles

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2010 Honda Insight: Charged Up

July 27, 2009

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While en route to Temescal Gateway Park for a hike in the mountains this weekend, I noticed that my iPod was almost dead. Kind of a bummer, since I was hoping to use the alone time spent in the hills to immerse myself in a new Miike Snow MP3 (no, it's not a misspelling) that I'd recently downloaded.

What to do? Charge it in the Insight using the car's USB adapter cable, of course.The iPod fit unobtrusively in the car's center storage bin; with the top of the bin flipped down, you wouldn't even know it was in there. Thirty minutes later, my iPod had enough juice to entertain me for the duration of my hike.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 2,335 miles

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2010 Honda Insight EX: How's the Stereo?

July 24, 2009

Granted, the Insight EX is built primarily for getting great fuel economy and not as a rolling sound studio. Still, Honda's latest hybrid will likely see plenty of commuting miles and nothing helps blunt the tedium of a long trip home every night like a good sound system. Here's what you get and how it stacks up.

Opting for the EX version of the Insight means a single CD player with MP3 capability. Sound runs through six-speakers and the system is good for 160 watts. An aux input and iPod specific connection are part of the package and you can even play music from a PC card if you still have any of those. Since our long termer has the optional navigation system, that means audio functions such as tone and balance adjustment move to the nav's touch screen. Gettting the nav means Bluetooth as well.

How it Sounds -

Sound quality is good but not great. When the bass and treble adjustments are flat (right in the middle) the sound is rather thin and even a little tinny. You have to bump both up quite a bit for the sound to even approach well-rounded. After that bass is audible but not nearly deep or sharp enough for an audiophile. Highs are clear but that's were a little distortion starts to creep in even at moderate volume. There's a definite bias toward highs and in some cases downloaded songs were accompanied by hiss. Sadly, there's no midrange adjustment. Overall sound quality earns a B-

How it Works -

Most controls are easy to use and figure out even without cracking the manual. The graphic display that comes up when adjusting bass, treble, tone and balance communicates basic information in a simple format but you do have to pay for the navigation system to get this and the touchscreen feature. While it's nice to an iPod specific connection, the inter face is a little clunky. Unless you have that certain song you're just dying to hear in a playlist, good luck finding it. You'll have to arrow down five tracks (or albums or artists) at a time - this is incredibly frustrating. It may be easier to just switch to the aux jack and use the iPod's interface (provided the car's not moving). Redundant steering wheel controls mean you never have to take your eyes off the road to adjust volume or advance tracks. In terms of the interface, this system gets a C-

Brian Moody, Automotive Editor

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2010 Honda Insight EX: Pace Note Adjustment

July 24, 2009

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This is a feature found on all Honda and Acura navigation systems, but when I stumbled upon it again in our 2010 Honda Insight EX last night, I knew I had to say something here.

Honda allows you to adjust the frequency of the audio prompts that the navigation system gives you when you're in guidance mode. "Normal" usually works fine, but I have used "Max" before when I was driving in a very unfamiliar area and didn't want to miss turns.

I haven't seen this "quantity of guidance" feature on any other navigation system, and for me, it makes the otherwise low-buck navigation unit in our 2010 Insight quite desirable.

Video after the jump for a "demo" of pace notes at the "Max" setting. (Note: It's going to autoplay on you, so don't say I didn't warn you.)

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 2,276 miles

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2010 Honda Insight: HVAC Controls

July 23, 2009

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For me, it doesn't get much better than the traditional 3-knob HVAC control setup. It's intuitive, easy to use and it works -- never could see the point in trying to reinvent the wheel. However, I really like the layout that Honda's used for the Insight. It's well-located (very close to the driver) and the placement of the buttons, knobs and display is pretty user-friendly.

So it's easy to use, but how effective is the HVAC system at banishing the hot-and-stickies from the cabin?

In regular mode, it works quite well. But as Donna mentioned, the owner's manual states that when the Insight is in "Econ" mode, there are "greater temperature fluctuations." Hmm. In practice, this seems to mean that the system takes a longer time to reach full blast.

Today the temperature was in the 80s. In "Econ" mode, the air blowing out of the vents was cool but not cold for a good 10 or so minutes before settling into a comfortable frigidity. For shorter trips on hot days, I'll be skipping the "Econ" mode from now on.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2010 Honda Insight EX: Don't Need No iPod

July 20, 2009

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There are other ways to get your musical kicks in the 2010 Honda Insight.

If you don't have an iPod, or want to listen to music you didn't "purchase" from the music nazis, the Insight also has an AUX port on the center console.

Look behind the nav screen and you'll find a CD player and hard drive. And of course, there is the radio.

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2010 Honda Insight: Entertaining

July 19, 2009

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You can connect your iPod to the 2010 Honda Insight using the USB adapter cable located in the center storage compartment.

Our Insight is equipped with the navigation system. Its touchscreen makes controlling your iPod very easy.

Here's a video showing how to "navigate" your music.

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2010 Honda Insight in VA is:

$138 per month*
* Explanation
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