While the Insight has state-of-the-art safety features such as traction control, side curtain and front side airbags and driver and front-passenger active head restraints, the Prius offers all of those features plus a driver's knee airbag and Brake Assist technology that provides maximum stopping power in a panic situation.
The Prius pulled way ahead in safety tech with its Pre-Collision System (PCS). It uses radar to sense when an object in front or on the side of the vehicle is too close and gives a visual warning, sounds a buzzer and puts Brake Assist into standby mode. If the brakes aren't deployed and PCS determines that a collision is eminent, brake force is automatically applied and the seatbelts are cinched in preparation.
Our test car also came with Lane Keep Assist (LKA), which uses a camera to detect lane markings and alerts drivers with an instrument panel display and audible warnings when they drift out of their lane. An actuator also gently applies steering torque to guide the vehicle back between the lines. LKA works in conjunction with automatic cruise control and employs the radar sensor used with PCS. But remember, you'll pay for all this protection as part of the $4,500 Advanced Technology package.
Safety options: Prius
The fully loaded Prius also has a notable advantage in terms of specialized technology, while the Insight offers little more than steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters (an ironic performance feature given the car's fuel-efficiency focus).
The Intelligent Park Assist on the Prius automatically eases the car into a parallel or perpendicular parking spot and is another part of the Advanced Technology option. Toyota's Smart Key system (which allows you to lock and unlock the Prius just by grabbing the door handle), keyless push-button start, Hill Start Assist to keep the car from rolling backward on a steep incline, and a new feature called Touch Tracer Display (TTD) are also included with this option package.
TTD uses a hologramlike display in the instrument panel to confirm when buttons on a pair of round steering-wheel controls are pressed. While TTD may sound (and seem) gimmicky, it's helpful for confirming button inputs without requiring you to look down at the steering wheel. And while our test car didn't come with it, the moonroof with solar-powered ventilation is a popular option on the Prius II and IV models that keeps the car cool while parked.
Additional features: Prius
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The Prius came out on top in three out of six categories, while the Insight excelled in only two and tied the Prius in one. And while you may not consider buying either of these vehicles based on technology alone — outside of the hybrid variety — these bells and whistles can make a difference in your enjoyment of day-to-day driving.
The tech in the 2010 Toyota Prius V easily exceeds that offered in the 2010 Honda Insight EX with Navigation, as well it should given the massive $9,000 difference in sticker price. If cross-shopping the Prius and Insight, you'll need to decide which high-tech features really matter to you — and how much you're willing to spend on them.