Used 2000 Honda Insight Review

Edmunds expert review

Some cars make you feel like a champion. This one makes you feel like a hero.

What's new for 2000

Honda brings North America the first gasoline-electric hybrid for 2000.

Vehicle overview

Honda starts the new millennium by bringing the buying public the first production gasoline-electric hybrid. With its ultralow drag styling, aluminum body structure and innovative Integrated Motor Assist (IMA), the Insight can travel as far as 70 miles on a gallon of gas (with a 10.6-gallon fuel tank, you can drive from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City and still have a gallon of gas in reserve).

The heart of the system is a new 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine coupled with an ultrathin electric motor that assists the gasoline engine under acceleration. The package features an idle-stop feature, which shuts off the engine when the driver places the shift lever in neutral and releases the clutch pedal.

Unlike GM's all-electric EV-1, the Insight requires no external power supply to recharge the 144-volt nickel-metal hydride batteries. Electricity for the system is generated primarily by regenerative braking and ABS-assisted disc/drum brakes bring the Insight to a halt. With a full charge, and the electric motor providing full assist, the Insight accelerates swiftly, seemingly faster than a Toyota Echo.

Available only with a five-speed manual (designed with special gears to reduce rotational mass), the transmission has relatively short first, second and third gears for good city driving performance, with tall overdrive gearing in fourth and fifth to maximize fuel economy.

Like the Acura NSX, the Insight's unitized body is made of aluminum (except for the front fenders, which are made from plastic) and boasts a drag coefficient of only 0.25. Thanks to its aerodynamic bodywork, flat underbody, low rolling resistance tires and extensive use of lightweight materials, the Insight requires 30 percent less power to operate at highway speeds than the Honda Civic.

But the effort to save weight drag pays a price in the handling department. The Insight is highly susceptible to crosswinds and the narrow tires easily track any groove in the pavement, causing the driver to adjust the steering continually to compensate.

The Insight's interior is just as futuristic with a sweeping dash, aluminum trim surround and high-tech LCD analog/digital instrument display. Divided into three sections, the cluster displays engine rpm, coolant temperature and the engine's idiot lights on the left bank; a large digital speedometer, odometer, lifetime fuel economy bar graph and instant fuel economy in the middle; and fuel level, battery level indicator and the IMA charge and assist indicator on the right bank.

Dual high-back bucket seats feature good lateral and lumbar support and controls for power windows, mirrors, AM/FM cassette stereo, ventilation and available automatic HVAC controls are all within easy reach, but two large adults will find themselves knocking elbows in the tight cockpit. Built fully equipped (the only option is an automatic air conditioning system) with power windows, door locks, exterior mirrors, an AM/FM cassette stereo, dual airbags, rear window defroster and a whole lot more, the Insight is an incredible value for a hybrid vehicle.

Despite the handling shortcomings and quick-to-drain batteries, Honda has finally brought forth a realistic option to gasoline engine-only cars with an ultralow-emission vehicle that can be driven anywhere without the worry of having to find an electrical outlet. And while the competition scrambles to bring their hybrids to market, we bet Honda will sell every Insight they can produce.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.