When the Honda Insight two-door hybrid-powered hatchback first arrived on American shores, few people knew what to make of it. Dwarfed by the day's massive SUVs, this two-seater's oddball styling made it look as if it came off the set of a futuristic movie. Little did we know that it really was the car of the future -- thanks to the volatility of gas prices in the following years, hybrids soon became prized for their superior fuel economy. However, while the original Insight was remarkably fuel-efficient, it ultimately lacked the practicality found both in "real cars" and Toyota's four-door Prius.
Years later, Honda revived the Insight name, determined to rectify the original Insight's shortcomings. Like the first Insight, the current-generation model combines a small gas engine with an electric motor that's powered by a battery pack. The current powertrain falls short of its predecessor's impressive 60-plus-mpg potential on the highway, but the second-generation Insight is a superior car in all other respects. Its convenient four-door hatchback design provides decent cargo space and a tight but usable rear seat, and it still returns around 40 mpg combined. Compared to other modern hybrids like the Ford C-Max and Toyota Prius, however, the latest Insight comes up short in fuel economy, features and overall refinement.
Current Honda Insight
The latest Honda Insight, a four-door hybrid hatchback with seating for five, is available in base, LX and uplevel EX trim. Standard equipment for the base model includes 15-inch steel wheels, antilock brakes, stability control, automatic climate control and a two-speaker sound system. The LX adds cruise control, four speakers for the sound system and an iPod/USB audio interface. The EX comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, steering-wheel audio controls and six speakers. The EX can also be equipped with a navigation system (that includes a rearview camera) and Bluetooth.
Under the Insight's hood is Honda's familiar Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system. IMA starts with a 1.3-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 88 horsepower and 88 pound-feet of torque that's supplemented by an electric motor that kicks in when needed to add another 13 hp and 58 lb-ft. A nickel-metal hydride battery pack keeps the electric motor whirring, and regenerative braking helps keep the battery pack charged. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) directs the power plant's output to the Insight's front wheels.
In reviews, we've found that the current Honda Insight delivers on the promise of miserly fuel economy. However, that fuel economy is still below what rivals like the C-Max and Prius achieve. Other downsides to the Insight include an unsophisticated ride, mediocre rear seat room and elevated amounts of road noise.
Read the most recent 2014 Honda Insight review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Honda Insight page.