Full 2013 Honda Insight Review
What's New for 2013
After numerous updates last year, the 2013 Honda Insight returns unchanged.
Though coming off a minor makeover last year, the 2013 Honda Insight continues to be a lackluster choice for a hybrid, despite its low, sub-$20,000 MSRP. A growing number of new gasoline- and diesel-powered compacts that are nearly as fuel-efficient add to the challenge it faces.
The Insight does have a couple things going for it. For one, its petite size and somewhat firm suspension tuning make it relatively fun to drive for a fuel-economy-oriented hybrid. It also remains one of the most fuel-efficient cars you'll find in America, with an EPA-estimated 42 mpg combined, since this is one of the few hybrids that gets great highway mpg as well as great city mpg. If a low entry price and high mpg are your main priorities, you'll probably be satisfied with the Insight.
Unfortunately for Honda, there are better choices out there with those same qualities. The most obvious is the Toyota Prius C. It is very similar to the Insight in terms of concept and price, yet has more available features and gets notably better fuel economy (50 mpg combined). You'll also get better fuel economy from the Honda Civic Hybrid, a more expensive but much nicer car overall. Non-hybrids like the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Golf TDI, which are EPA-rated at 40 mpg or better on the highway, are also worth considering. Overall, we think most people will be happier with one of the aforementioned choices.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Honda Insight is a four-door hatchback that's offered in three trim levels: base, LX and EX.
Standard equipment on the base Insight includes 15-inch steel wheels, automatic climate control, full power accessories, driver-seat height adjustment, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a trip computer and a two-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio input jack.
The midrange LX adds cruise control, a front center armrest and storage bin and an upgraded sound system with four speakers and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The EX comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system. The EX can also be equipped with a touchscreen navigation system that includes voice controls, a digital audio card reader and a rearview camera.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Honda Insight is propelled by a hybrid system comprising a 1.3-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine paired with an electric motor and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. The gas engine is good for 88 horsepower and 88 pound-feet of torque, while the electric motor contributes 13 hp and 58 lb-ft. Due to varying power peaks, the maximum combined output is 98 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque. Power flows to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
In Edmunds testing, the Insight accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 10.8 seconds, identical to the Prius C. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 41 mpg city/44 mpg highway and 42 mpg combined.
The 2013 Honda Insight comes standard with antilock brakes (front disc, rear drum), stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests, the Insight received the best possible rating of "Good" in frontal offset, side crash and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Honda Insight's passenger cabin is a little on the spartan side, especially in base models that lack the center console and have just a single pair of speakers for the stereo. On a positive note, gauges and controls are well-placed and intuitive. Especially noteworthy are the graphic displays that coach you on driving in the most fuel-efficient manner possible, with changing background color of the speedometer.
While the Insight's front buckets are comfortable enough, the rear seat is a little short of both head- and legroom. Interior cargo space -- 15.9 cubic feet behind the 60/40-split rear seats and 31.5 cubic feet with those seatbacks folded down -- is about as expected, though you'll find more from other hatchbacks.
On the road, the 2013 Honda Insight drives less like a hybrid and more like a familiar gasoline-only-powered model. This is due in large part to the fact that the four-cylinder engine is always used to propel the vehicle, with the electric motor kicking in when more power is needed. This is in contrast to hybrid powertrains like that in the Toyota Prius that can propel the car at low speeds via the electric power plant. This is why the Insight gives you both good city and highway mpg, while other hybrids deliver only good highway mpg.
The Insight's well-calibrated steering and firmer suspension make it more enjoyable to drive than the Prius C, though not as much as non-hybrid competitors like the Ford Fiesta and Mazda 2. The downsides here include a ride that may be a little too firm for some people's tastes and a cabin that is somewhat noisy.