Full 2014 Honda Insight Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the Honda Insight sees no changes.
Upon initial inspection, the 2014 Honda Insight looks like a solid choice for an economical car. With a starting MSRP under $20,000 when new, a hybrid powertrain and a Honda nameplate, the Insight has plenty of advertisement appeal. But do some deeper research and you'll likely find that this four-door hybrid hatchback isn't quite so compelling.
It's true that the Insight is one of the most fuel-efficient cars you can buy, with an EPA-estimated 42 mpg in combined driving. But the Insight is actually a mild hybrid, meaning it's one that cannot propel itself solely with electric power. The upshot is that it's not as stingy with fuel as a full hybrid, which can move without using the gasoline engine in slow stop-and-go traffic. Also problematic is the Insight's rather confining rear seat, which simply isn't adult-friendly. Further, we don't care for the car's stiff-legged ride quality over broken pavement.
The 2014 Honda Insight's most direct competitor, the 2014 Toyota Prius C, is similar in size, concept and price, yet it offers a wider range of equipment and even better fuel economy (50 mpg combined) thanks to its full hybrid design. You might also consider a non-hybrid that rides better and is better equipped, like the 2014 Ford Fiesta or the 2014 Volkswagen Golf TDI -- both of which have EPA combined mpg ratings in the 30s and are capable of 40 mpg or better on the highway. If a low entry price and high mpg are your main priorities, and you happened to only visit a Honda showroom, then you'd probably be pretty happy with the 2014 Insight. However, savvy consumers will find that other small cars offer all of the Honda's best qualities, but with fewer drawbacks.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Honda Insight is a four-door hatchback that seats five. It'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 2014 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 maximum combined output is 98 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. Power flows to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that basically functions like a regular automatic. An automatic stop-start system shuts down the gasoline engine when you're stopped in traffic to save fuel.
In Edmunds testing, the Insight accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 10.8 seconds, identical to the Prius C but slower than a Golf TDI. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 42 mpg combined (41 city/44 highway).
The 2014 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. A rearview camera is available on the EX via the optional navigation system.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the Insight received the best possible rating of "Good" in moderate-overlap frontal offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. Its seat/head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the Honda Insight offers fairly basic accommodations, especially in base models, which lack a 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 -- the background color of the digital speedometer changes depending on how frugally you drive.
While the Insight's front seats are comfortable enough, the rear seat is short on both head- and legroom. Interior cargo space (15.9 cubic feet behind the 60/40-split rear seats or 31.5 cubic feet with those seatbacks folded down) is adequate, though you'll find more in other hatchbacks.
On the road, the 2014 Honda Insight drives less like a hybrid and more like a familiar gasoline-only-powered model. This is due to the reality that the car's four-cylinder engine is always propelling the vehicle -- the electric motor kicks in only when more power is needed. Contrast this to full hybrid powertrains (as in the Toyota Prius C), which can propel the car at low speeds via the battery-powered electric motor.
One minor annoyance is that the Insight's air-conditioning compressor shuts off along with the gasoline engine when you come to a red light or stop sign. Although the A/C resumes operation (along with the engine) when you start moving again, you might not appreciate this efficiency measure on hot days.
Thanks to the Insight's well-calibrated steering and firm suspension, it's a bit more enjoyable to drive than the Prius C, though you'd still have more fun in a Fiesta or Golf. In addition, the Honda's ride may be a little too firm for your taste, while the cabin is noisier than we'd like at highway speeds.