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2010 Honda Insight Long Term Road Test - New Updates: What's It Like to Live With?

Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2010 Honda Insight EX as our editors live with this car for a year.

Honda Insight 2010

What do you want to know about?


Scientists have this clever knack for sucking the fun out of things. A fellow named Will once went on about roses and how, by any other name, they would smell as sweet. It's possible. But would we even bother with the act of stimulating olfactory receptors with organic floral hydrocarbons originating from Rosa Berberifolia if it was called such?

Yes, we're talking about the 2010 Honda Insight.

You see, this side effect of scientific emotional sterilization has plagued the hybrid car market from the day the first Toyota Prius rolled off the assembly line. Honda tried to counter in 2000 with the first-generation Honda Insight hybrid. In contrast to the first- and second-generation Prius, the Insight was brash and uncompromising in its fuel-efficient intentions and a beacon for the green set. The little coupe with the three-cylinder gasoline engine and battery-assisted speed was quirky and light and got stellar mpg. It was fun. It had a real manual transmission. It was also a sales disaster that faded away as the third-generation Toyota Prius took the road to total world domination.

Since then, Honda has tried (with some lack of success) to make hybrid technology seem simple and mainstream with its Civic and Accord hybrids, but now after four years it's returning to the market for dedicated hybrids with a Prius fighter. A more grown-up, practical Insight promises to bring the emotional life back to the hybrid car set at a price point nearly everyone can agree with. And we here at Inside Line have wrangled a 2010 Honda Insight EX with Navigation for a 12-month long-term road test.

What We Got
Like all Hondas, the 2010 Insight has options bunched together and then sold as different trim levels. This is the Honda Way, perhaps the result of a study done by some statistician who found that people are willing to pay more for a higher trim level than they would for an option package. All we know for certain is that EX with Navigation is the highest level you can get on a 2010 Honda Insight, and that's what we have. This also means that our Insight is the most expensive version of the model, with a sticker price (including destination and delivery) of $23,810. This is a big step from the $19,800 MSRP ($20,510 with destination and delivery) of the entry-level Insight that helps Honda lay claim to the title of "Cheapest Hybrid in America." We chose it because it matches up well with the similarly equipped 2010 Toyota Prius with its $25,550 price tag, making a direct comparison of the merits of the two cars easier to make.

The EX carries a six-speaker audio system with USB (iPod-friendly) input, traction and stability control, shift paddles on the steering wheel, cruise control, and 15-inch cast-aluminum wheels wearing 175/65R15 low-rolling-resistance Dunlop SP37 all-season tires. But that only brings us to the $21,300 EX model, and as soon as you add the "with Navigation" to the description, another $1,800 buys you a voice-activated navi system, Bluetooth, and audio and cruise-control buttons integrated into the steering wheel. Navigation and iPod have become gotta-have-its for road trip cars in our fleet; once you've had them, it's hard to go without.

Regardless of style, every 2010 Honda Insight is propelled by the 88 horsepower and 88 pound-feet of torque from a Civic Hybrid-derived i-VTEC 1.3-liter inline-4. Thankfully, this little engine doesn't have to go it alone. Nuzzled up to it is an electric motor capable of generating 13 hp and a whopping 58 lb-ft of torque. Together these two propulsion sources complement each other with separate power peaks, creating an inventive contraption that Honda tags IMA (integrated motor assist). The combination is rated at 98 hp at 5,800 rpm and 123 lb-ft of torque from 1,000-1,500 rpm. All of this power is pushed through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and then on to the front wheels.

These power numbers won't impress anyone down at your local AutoZone, but the combination of everything here results in an impressive EPA fuel-economy rating of 40 mpg city/43 mpg highway with an EPA combined average of 41 mpg. We've already shown in our Full Test of a 2010 Honda Insight that these numbers are not only attainable but also easily exceeded, as we averaged 51 mpg during our test. We'll see if this is repeatable throughout the next year and 20,000 miles.

Why We Got It
As the OG readers will recall, this isn't IL's first trip around the Insight block. We leased one in 2000, before the beloved blogs went live, for a two-year span. When the test concluded, reactions were mixed. "Low-rolling-resistance tires, a three-cylinder engine and no useful space," argued one side, while the other shouted, "Fuel-efficiency, quirkiness, attention magnet!" From the logbook, impassioned associate editor Brent Romans wrote, "A few select cars in this world, such as a Corvette or a Mercedes S500, make me feel like a champion when I drive them. The Insight is the only car I know of that makes me feel like a hero."

The 2010 Honda Insight looks to bridge the gap between the first-generation Hero Edition Insight and the Prius, King of Hybrids. Really, just look at the Insight and Prius together. Side by side, the differences stand out, because the Insight looks sculpted and crisp, while the Prius is soft and sort of droopy. Different, yes, but clearly cut from the same cloth. It's a practical and efficient layout that affords ample interior room and visibility. It's also the shape we've grown to associate with hybrids. If you want to sell MP3 players, play off the iPod; you want to sell honey, make it look like a bear; and if you want to sell hybrids to the greenies, evoke the Prius.

Shaping the Hybrid Future
Does the 2010 Honda Insight effectively benchmark the Toyota Prius while maintaining the character expected of Honda? After a year and 20,000 miles, will we still feel heroic driving an Insight with four doors and room for stuff? Will the Insight's driving character make us enjoy hybrid motoring on the American highway? Or will we discover some limit in practicality that will undercut the reputation of this Honda hybrid?

Thankfully, we don't have to decide today. We've got 12 months and a 20,000-mile goal for our new Insight. Follow along on our long-term blogs for real-world impressions of Honda's shot at the hybrid big time.

Current Odometer: 656 miles
Best Fuel Economy: 37.9 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 29.2 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 33.1 mpg

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Consumer Reports Is Wrong... IMHO

July 02, 2009

I read about Consumer Reports' dislike of the 2010 Honda Insight with some surprise: Among hybrids, the Mk II Insight simply is not a bad car.

Does it drive like other Hondas? Absolutely not. But I thought by now we all knew, that until we find a smaller, lighter solution than nickel-metal hydride (and even lithium-ion) batteries, hybrids will be weird, awkward things to drive. CR noted, "The Insight... is nothing like the [Honda] Fit on which it is based." No, of course it isn't.

But among all the hybrids I've driven in the last 5 years, the 2010 Honda Insight comes the closest to being a car I could stand to drive every day. It has something resembling steering feel as you add input going into a corner, and that's rare for a hybrid. I also happen to like the firm-ish suspension tuning, which lets you imagine that you are connected to what the tires are doing.

It's a stiff ride, mind you. And not a quiet one. But the Fit's not plush or quiet, either. If you want plush and quiet, you want a 2010 Prius though you'll still have the "clumsy handling" problem.

So, judged as a hybrid, the 2010 Honda Insight is a likable car. Ask it to play like a Fit, and well, it might disappoint you.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 882 miles

One Important Upgrade Over the Fit

July 03, 2009

Our 2010 Honda Insight EX has one very important thing that our 2009 Honda Fit EX does not: seat-height adjustment for the driver.

The ability to move the seat up and down goes some distance in making the Insight a more comfortable place to sit. I road-tripped an earlier 2010 Insight test car and found the driver seat adequate for 7 hours of driving.

That said, I think the lower-mounted seat and extra seat-track travel made possible by the Insight's longer wheelbase (100.4 inches versus 98.4 for the '09 Fit) also contribute to a more natural seating position.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 913 miles

First Impressions

July 06, 2009

Drove the Insight for the first time this weekend. It's only natural, of course, to want to compare it to the Prius, and I won't resist the urge to do so. I was struck by two things:

1) The Insight's ride is choppier than that of the Prius. Road imperfections make their way to the cabin. I suspect that the average hybrid buyer favors a more forgiving ride.

2) The Honda's acceleration is less brisk than the Toyota's. In this respect, the Insight feels like a Prius that neglected to drink its morning cup of java. I knew that the Prius has the edge in acceleration testing; I just didn't expect the difference to be so noticeable in everyday driving.

Even given the cost difference between the two (the Insight is cheaper), my initial feeling is that I'd choose the Prius over the Insight if I were shopping in this segment.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 875 miles

Cool/Hypnotic Gauges

July 07, 2009

These are the 2010 Honda Insight gauges, which like the Civic, features the controversial split decked design with an analog tach and digital speedo. Unlike the Civic, though, the Insight has a lot more going on. As you can see in the photo, the digital speedo readout seems to hover in the middle of the display like a hologram while the light blue background actually changes to green when you're light on the throttle and darker blue when you're lead footed. It's something that looks pulled straight from a concept car.

The analog stuff is less fancy, but its color and sharpness are striking. Although not in the picture, the center digital display can show how many little trees you've accrued in your ongoing green crusade. There's also a little bar that increases to the left and right underneath your wee forest, but I'm still trying to figure out what it does.

Basically, you have to try hard not to be mesmerized by your nifty gauges.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 895 miles

Who Needs Passengers

July 13, 2009

When Erin posted that she thought Consumer Reports was wrong in their confusing bashing of a pretty OK car, I was with her. (C'mon, it's not even close to as bad as a Caliber.) And then I talked to James Riswick, "Let me show you the rear headroom. It's unbelievably bad. I'l show you." I insisted that I wasn't interested, I don't carry rear seat passengers enough to care. But he was more insistent and I was bored. Oh, and we happened to have a 2010 Prius right next to it.

Follow the jump for a head-to-headroom comparison between our Long Term 2010 Honda Insight, and a 2010 Toyota Prius.

Instrument for Testing: James Riswick. Height: 6'3" Both front seats were set to mimic his driving position.

Vehicle 1: Toyta Prius

Acceptability level: High
Available space: 1 Riswick

Vehicle 2: 2010 Honda Insight

Acceptibility level: Very low.
Available space: 0.723 Riswicks

From a better angle:

So while a few of their complaints were, in mine and Erin's opinions, faulty, there's simply no excuse for making someone sit like this.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant

What's Missing Here?

July 14, 2009

You tell me. What's missing in this picture?

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 957 miles

Where's the Gas Door Release?

July 14, 2009

For those of you who fairly guessed, congratulations. For those of you who cheated by looking at the photo name, I'll try better next time. For those of you who insulted me, your mother's cooking sucks and your father is a descendant of gypsies.

But yes, the Honda Insight lacks the gas door release pull of every Honda product I can remember.* Pulling into the gas station, I opened the door and by instinct leaned down to the floor to pull (or push as is the case in many Honda products that split the lever between gas door and trunk). Instead, there was nothing but carpet.

Confused, I got out and walked to the gas door itself. There was no pull indentation like on a Ford. Therefore, I pushed the door like I would with a BMW, GM or many others — out it popped. Unlike other such designs, though, the door doesn't lock along with the doors. There's nothing to prevent someone from sticking a garden hose or something worse in your gas tank (like the sugar some idiots put in my dad's '69 Cougar), which is what I've always assumed was the point of the remote gas door release.

How do you chalk this up to anything but cost cutting?

* Update: Guess who's never filled up our long-term Fit? That would be me, who went down to the garage last night and popped open the Fit's gas cap by pressing it. Make it 2 Hondas.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

Requires Patience

July 16, 2009

As managing editor, my life is all about deadlines and schedules. Driving the Honda Insight in traffic while trying to make a morning meeting, well, it was just too slow for me.

To be fair to the car, if I didn't have time constraints and I was just running errands, I wouldn't mind so much. Its looks don't bother me and I found it to be fairly comfortable. But I had to be somewhere.

Any time of day, driving through L.A. is like going through an obstacle course. To make any progress you need a car that can respond quickly. You need action when you put your foot down.

But driving to work that morning was like one of those dreams where you are trying to run and you can't get anywhere. It was like trying to walk sideways through the ocean.

OK, I'm being a drama queen, but I was getting passed by Priuses!

I kept thinking of the lyrics to the Go-Go's song "stuck in my car, trying to get to you, stuck in my car, nothing I can do, turn the radio up, and scream along." The world was spinning and I was standing still.

You get a little more oomph with the Econ button off, but then, what's the point, right?

I'm not earning very many leaves.

I'll have to take this car over a weekend so I can explore its many features without a deadline.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor


July 19, 2009

You can connect your iPod to the 2010 Honda Insight using the USB adapter cable located in the center storage compartment.

Our Insight is equipped with the navigation system. Its touchscreen makes controlling your iPod very easy.

Here's a video showing how to "navigate" your music.

We'll be exploring the 2010 Honda Insight as car of the week. And we'll get editor Brian Moody to do a full stereo evaluation soon.

Tell us about the entertainment features in your car.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Don't Need No iPod

July 20, 2009

There are other ways to get your musical kicks in the 2010 Honda Insight.

If you don't have an iPod, or want to listen to music you didn't "purchase" from the music nazis, the Insight also has an AUX port on the center console.

Look behind the nav screen and you'll find a CD player and hard drive. And of course, there is the radio.

Notice on the nav screen, there is a "close" button. Nice touch. On a lot of these screens, you have to push the same button that you used to open it. This button, placed on the bottom of the screen is a nice convenience.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 2,110

How Noisy Is It Really?

July 21, 2009

In today's open thread for COTW, our 2010 Honda Insight EX, sealclubb3r asked, "How noisy is it really? I remember reading somewhere that it was much louder and less refined than a Prius. Is there as much interior noise as in y'alls 370Z?"

Well, here are a few excerpts from my personal notes when I drove a 2010 Honda Insight back-to-back with a 2010 Toyota Prius for a comparison test. I logged 400 highway miles in the Insight.

"Small gas engine isn't quiet, but it's fairly free-revving and not unpleasant to the ear... Insight has moderate wind noise, especially noticeable compared to the 2010 Prius, which doesn't have much at all... Insight has more road noise, but it's hardly what I'd call excessive."

But no need to rely on my possibly inaccurate notes — I have actual decibel readings to back up my haphazard statements. Join me after the jump.

First, a qualifier: Due to extenuating circumstances on test day, we don't yet have decibel readings for the 2010 Prius. We'll get them for you, just not today.

So our 2010 Honda Insight is quieter than a 370Z. It's also a touch quieter at a 70-mph cruise than a 2009 Prius.

And it's quieter at full throttle than a Civic Hybrid — probably because you don't have to work its engine as hard. The Insight takes 10.9 seconds to hit 60 mph and does the quarter-mile in 17.9 at 78.2 mph, versus a 13.5-second 0-60 and a 19.3-second quarter at 72.5 mph in the Civic Hybrid.

2010 Honda Insight
Db @ Idle: 44.2
Db @ Full Throttle: 72.5
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 68.8

2009 Nissan 370Z
Db @ Idle: 47.4
Db @ Full Throttle: 83.1
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 71.0

2009 Toyota Prius
Db @ Idle: 39.8
Db @ Full Throttle: 70.7
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 69.7

2009 Honda Civic Hybrid
Db @ Idle: 45.9
Db @ Full Throttle: 76.0
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 68.0

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

Open Thread

July 21, 2009

What do you want to know about the 2010 Honda Insight?

Have you seen any on the road? Have you driven one?

Tell us in the comments section.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Should Honda Bother With a Manual Gearbox Again?

July 22, 2009

Pictured: 2001 Honda Insight cockpit

A few weeks ago I suggested that of all the hybrid cars currently out there, our 2009 Honda Insight comes the closest to being something I'd want to drive every day. But I ignored one rather important point: In a lot of ways, the original Honda Insight was more of a driver's car than this one will ever be.

Aluminum body panels and a ridiculously low curb weight (< 1,900 pounds) aren't what I'm getting at here. And, yes, I know the Insight Mk II has a lot more engine. But the 2010 Insight doesn't have its namesake's manual transmission.

For that first partial model year (2000), a five-speed manual was all you could get in the original Insight. It was a different time, when everyone was still figuring out what hybrids could be and what sort of drivers would buy them.

Then, sometime in 2001, Honda rolled out the CVT. And now CVTs are all we can get in hybrids. Undoubtedly, it's much, much more cost effective to make your hybrids all one way. And for more complicated setups, like in the Prius, I suppose a conventional manual gearbox could never work, what with all the blending of the electric and gas power sources that needs to happen.

But in the far simpler 2010 Honda Insight, a manual gearbox feels like the missing piece. Adding it wouldn't make the car sporty, but it would add back a crucial means of relating to the car as something other than commuter transportation. Maybe there's hope for the CRZ.

So now's your chance to tell me if I'm way off-base. Would you ever conceivably want a manual transmission in a hybrid car?

Suspension Walkaround

July 22, 2009

Car-of-the-Week status means it's our 2010 Honda Insight's turn to be put in a compromising position so we can have a look at the suspension. This won't hurt a bit.

Seeing as how the Insight shares significant chucks of undercarraige with the Honda Fit, one would think that we wouldn't see any major surprises. That's partially true, but there are some differences and I've included a lot more detail this time.

Up front, the Insight shares a lot of parts with the Fit. It's your basic MacPherson strut set-up with a coil-over spring and a single lower ball-joint. The steering pivot axis is illustrated by the thin yellow line.

In case you've wondered, a MacPherson strut suspension has no upper control arm because the strut itself is very rigid in the lateral direction, and can therefore define the path along which the suspension moves. To do that it must be bolted firmly to the steering knuckle with two large bolts (yellow), making the whole affair one solid, albiet telescopic, piece all the way to the pivoting mounting point at the top.

Struts also act as dampers, of course, so they have all the internal valving and oil that a shock would have. But even though all the parts appear interchangeable, the spring and internal strut damping of this Insight will be different from the Fit because of differences in vehicle weight and weight distribution.

By comparison, shock absorbers are relatively flimsy because they are not asked to take the lateral loads that are necessary to actually locate and define the movement of a suspension. Of course they do just fine at "absorbing shocks" when subjected to pure compression and tension loads, and they can be smaller and lighter because supesnion arms and/or links does the suspension locating for them.

The lower end of the Insight's suspension is located by an L-shaped lower control arm with a single ball joint at it's outer end. The steering rack and steering arm (green) are located behind the ball-joint because it's generally not possible to mount the steering rack ahead when a tranverse engine and transmission mounting is used.

The front subframe bolts directly to the unibody, a move that saves money and weight while it improves steering feel and direct response. This isn't the path to ultimate road isolation and extreme cabin silence, but Honda has never prioritized such things to the extent that some of their home-market competition has done.

The Insight's front stabilizer bar is direct-acting, as evidenced by this long, slender link that connects directly to the strut housing.

In most cars the upper strut mount is obvious when you pop the hood, but the Insight's hood is so short that the sturt-top is actually hidden in a pocket under the base of the windshield.

The Honda Insight's brakes use a single-piston sliding caliper and a one-piece ventilated rotor. The term "regenerative braking" is associated with hybrids, but that's an independent electricfied version of engine braking that has nothing whatsoever to do with the standard brake system, which operates in an utterly normal way.

The unmoving rigid half of a sliding caliper bolts directly to the suspension knuckle (yellow) and holds the pads in place. The single hydraulic piston that does the work is implied by the single cylindrical bulge (green) in the caliper body. The moving half of the caliper follows a pin (green line) as it slides back and forth as the brakes are applied and released.

The Insight's rear suspension is a twist-beam axle, a semi-independent form of suspension that is very space efficient.

This axle pivots around two mounting bushings, represented here by the green circle and one like it on the other side. These are the only two mounting points to the body, in fact. OK, the shock absorbers have internal stops to prevent the wheels from extending down so far that the springs fall out if you jump the thing off a ramp — I'll give you that. But the two forward pivots are the only points at which this type of axle is truly located.

It's basically like a very wide motorcyle swingarm with two wheels on the outside instead of one clamped in the middle.

The single c-shaped channel (white) spans between these arms, and it's designed to be twisty from one side to the other; hence, twist beam. It's categorized as semi-independent, however, because it's all one piece; what happens on one side has a limited effect on what happens on the other side.

Here's another look at the twisty cross beam and the rigid arms. A lot of times you won't see a rear stabilizer bar on one of these. But that's not really true because what you're looking at, in effect, is one giant stabilizer bar with wheels bolted directly on the ends.

The beauty of this suspension type is the packaging potential, because the slender cross beam (yellow) doesn't need much space. This leaves room for a huge well (green) between the tires of sufficient size to house the Insight's hybrid battery pack, spare tire, tools and a bit of storage.

Those arms need to be rigid, and that plays right into the hands of the spring and shock mounts (yellow and green, respectively) which consist of welded-on pieces that act as gussets for extra stiffness.

Did I say this suspension has no rear stabilizer bar? Well, that depends on how you look at it. The flexy c-channel itself amounts to a stabilzer bar, but it also houses a supplemental round torsion bar (yellow) that's there to fine-tune the torsional stiffness of the entire assembly. After all, the design engineers can't predict exactly how much stiffness will ultimately be needed and the suspension tuning engineers need a way to dial-in the appropriate amount of roll stiffness once they get their hands on a running prototype.

The rubber bush shown is slipped over the center of the bar to keep it from rattling around and making noise over bumps.

Here's where this supplemental torsion bar disappears into the side-arm where it is firmly welded in place (I think — can't see in there).

The nub ends of the supplemental torsion bar (green), and the welds that hold it in place, are clearly visible. Honda's continued use of drum brakes in the rear speaks for itself.

Unlike a motorcycle swingarm, the two main pivot bushings are NOT oriented perpendicular to the direction of travel. Cocking them at an angle (looks like 30 degrees here) helps balance the need for high lateral stiffness when cornering against the need for a little fore-aft compliance to mitigate harsh road impacts.

All of this sits on 15" aluminum alloy rims and 175 / 65 R15 low roll-resistance tires that weigh 34 lbs mounted and ready to roll.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 2,235 miles

HVAC Controls

July 23, 2009

For me, it doesn't get much better than the traditional 3-knob HVAC control setup. It's intuitive, easy to use and it works — never could see the point in trying to reinvent the wheel. However, I really like the layout that Honda's used for the Insight. It's well-located (very close to the driver) and the placement of the buttons, knobs and display is pretty user-friendly.

So it's easy to use, but how effective is the HVAC system at banishing the hot-and-stickies from the cabin?

In regular mode, it works quite well. But as Donna mentioned, the owner's manual states that when the Insight is in "Econ" mode, there are "greater temperature fluctuations." Hmm. In practice, this seems to mean that the system takes a longer time to reach full blast.

Today the temperature was in the 80s. In "Econ" mode, the air blowing out of the vents was cool but not cold for a good 10 or so minutes before settling into a comfortable frigidity. For shorter trips on hot days, I'll be skipping the "Econ" mode from now on.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

Textcast — Insight vs. Fit, Prius, and a motorcycle

July 23, 2009

Sadlier: Are you seriously going to tell me that you'd buy an Insight instead of a Fit?
Magrath: I think you'd have to waterboard me in the back of the dealership to consider either, but yes, after I regain control of my breathing, my signature will be on the bottom of the Insight's order sheet.
Sadlier: I'm speechless. I don't know where to start.
Magrath: I think I'm going to start with a fresh coffee.
Magrath: We'll fix this in post.
Sadlier: No, I like the coffee line. Let's keep it.
Sadlier: And let's start here. People say the Insight's sportier than a Prius. That's like saying that a Gallardo gets better fuel economy than an M5 — true, but irrelevant, because anyone who cares about fuel economy would find either car offensive.
Magrath: I'm not sure that "sporty" is the word people are looking for when they say that.
Magrath: And I'm pretty sure I'm guilty of using it.
Magrath: But here's the thing. The Insight is more of a real car than the Prius is in the same way that any Honda is more of a real car than any Toyota. Toyota just came out a few days ago and said something similar, that they build boring, bland cars. The Insight's not sporty, but it's less horrible and numb than a Prius.
Sadlier: Yes, but is that a significant-enough difference to be interesting?
Sadlier: Put it this way: if you care about sportiness, then will you like the Insight? Will you like it enough to buy one instead of the genuinely entertaining Fit? I say no way.
Sadlier: I say anyone who understands and appreciates what's meant by "sporty" will run away screaming after an Insight test drive.

Magrath : Then stop saying sporty. It's just a more reasonable and conventional feeling car than the Toyota.
Magrath : There's steering weight, there's feel through the pedals, you can hear the's a real car.
Sadlier : Don't give me the old "Hondas are drivers' cars because you can hear the road!" argument.
Sadlier : Honda just does a bad job with noise insulation, period. And the Insight is screwed here because weight is at such a premium in that car.
Sadlier : "50 lbs of Dynamat? Hell no. We'd lose 0.9 mpg!"
Magrath : Here's what I said in my second opinion . "The 2010 Prius," I concluded, "is the closest we're going to get to private, driverless capsules that transport us anywhere we want. There's no driving involved. It's the ultimate commuter car for people who would take public transportation if it was convenient and efficient and didn't smell."
Magrath : I guess I did conclude that second opinion by saying the Prius was the better car, so I'm not sure I've done myself any favors here.
Sadlier : Yeah, I mean we're not talking Insight vs. Prius here, but I completely agree.
Sadlier : Prius has a real backseat and a nifty center stack and better fuel economy and an engine that at least doesn't sound like a bagful of nails in a dryer. And it's not that much more expensive.
Sadlier : But let's talk Insight vs. Fit. You're saying you'd rather have an Insight. I'm saying..."What?!"
Magrath : Timeout. Are we both in agreement we'd rather have a base Mini Cooper than either of these?
Sadlier : Totally. It's got a fraction of the Fit's interior volume and I'd still take it without a second thought.
Magrath : Okay. Game on. Here's why I want the Insight: 1) The Fit is uncomfortable. The Insight has height-adjustable seating, better seats in general and a less "omg I'm sitting on a stack of phonebooks" feel than the Fit.
Sadlier : The Fit doesn't have a height-adjustable seat? I haven't driven it in a while; can't remember.
Magrath : Does not.
Sadlier : The Insight does have nice front seats, I'll give you that. Better than Prius, easily.
Sadlier : However, it has no backseat to speak of. It might as well have a big mound of batteries back there instead, a la our Mini E .
Magrath : I've said it before and I'll say it again: in my existence, rear seat passengers DO NOT MATTER.
Sadlier : So you don't care that the Fit's got an amazing backseat given its tiny footprint?
Sadlier : And you don't care about all that neat stuff the backseat does? I don't remember it right now, but I'm pretty sure it's neat.
Magrath : It's super-neat. It's also less good than if they simply folded flat.
Magrath : I'll carry a snowboard, a bike and that's it. I will never pair either of those duties with more than one other person, so both cars will be fine for that.
Sadlier : What about cargo capacity? Don't care about that either?

Sadlier : Why don't you just get a motorcycle with a little pull-cart hooked to the back? A motorcycle could probably match the Insight's fuel economy. And it would sound good and wouldn't be phenomenally slow.
Magrath : Right, the Insight's 10.9 second run to sixty is much worse than the 9.8 second blast the Fit's capable of.
Sadlier : The new Fit with the manual is quicker than that.
Magrath : No it isn't.
Sadlier : Yeah, that's with traction control on. Turn it off, it's 8.9 seconds .
Sadlier : So, 2 seconds slower than the Insight.
Sadlier : And the Fit's engine doesn't sound great — certainly a far cry from the four-cylinder DOHC VTECs of yore — but it also doesn't sound like a bag of nails in a dryer.
Magrath : Why are you turning traction control off in your Fit? What's wrong with you?
Sadlier : Why wouldn't you? It's not like it's possible to do anything disastrous in that thing. So the more tire squeal the better.
Magrath : Right, but it's also a Fit. Trying to nail that 8.9 second run to sixty is pointless.
Magrath : Have you ever strapped our testing gear to your car in normal daily driving? How frequently do you hit sixty in less than 10 second when getting to work? Can you even get to sixty on your commute? I can't.
Sadlier : I don't hit 60 on my commute, no, but I do know that the Fit feels a whole lot friskier than the Insight.
Magrath : The Fit hit 60 in 10.7 seconds with the auto .
Sadlier : Well, don't get the auto. Though I'd note that the auto is still 0.2 seconds quicker.
Sadlier : Look, at the end of the day, I really think the only reason to buy an Insight over a Fit is fuel economy. The only reason. If you're hell-bent on getting hella MPG, sure. Buy your Insight. Everything else about it is worse.

Magrath : I think we're arguing different lifestyles.
Sadlier : You mean the MPG lifestyle versus the Everything Else lifestyle?
Magrath : You're arguing for some reality that exists only in BMW ads where people need something playful and frisky. I'm arguing my real life where I have a 7 mile commute through Los Angeles traffic.
Sadlier : And other than fuel economy, an Insight is better for this because...?
Magrath : You live closer, but deal with the same traffic. Why do I want frisky? If either of us wants frisky we can take something from the fleet. This is why I own a non-Mazdaspeed Mazda3 with the automatic — if I want real fun, something's always available.
Sadlier : Well, but it's not just the friskiness, which is there when you want it. It's everything. Backseat. Cargo capacity. Handling (relevant in emergency maneuvers even if you don't care about cornering).
Sadlier : And if you get the base Fit instead of the Insight, you'll have $4,000 left over for that extra gas you'll use.
Magrath : I don't even care about the fuel economy. Skip that argument all together. I feel better in the Insight. I like the cool little window at the bottom of the hatch. I like the seating position and the steering wheel and I dig the split gauges. I like that it doesn't feel all tall and light. It's planted with a low center of gravity.
Sadlier : You just like the bush, don't you.
Sadlier : I think when you say "planted" you must be referring to the bush.
Magrath : It's more of a hedge than a bush, and actually that's one thing I don't like. I much prefer the Fusion's leaves , which accumulate for each trip as opposed to the Insight's lifetime meter.
Sadlier : I prefer "bush." And no one should buy the Insight who doesn't like it. Because it'll always be there to console you when you're wondering why you didn't buy a Fit.
Magrath : The Insight's not a great car for everyone. The Prius is the better choice for Hybrid buyers if they can tolerate the blandness, the Fusion is a better hybrid if you don't want to flaunt your hybridness (the Fusion's also an all-around better car), and the Fit is cheaper.

Magrath : But if you like hatchbacks, don't like the Fit (like me) and don't mind near uselessness in terms of rear passenger space, it's a good pick.
Magrath : And you don't always have to stare at the bush. It's just a button click away from that screen telling you the MPG or your trip meter.
Sadlier : I would stare at the bush constantly and mutter to myself, "I may not have a Fit, but at least I have you."
Magrath : Just repeat that over and over again until I go crazy, drive to Mount Horeb and set it on fire.

What's That Smell?

July 23, 2009

No, I'm not obsessed with all things olfactory.

But while trying to make peace with the Honda Insight, I drove it home with the Econ Button on. You earn more leaves that way, although as the manual states "Engine performance will be different."and "The climate control system will have greater temperature fluctuations."

I noticed the cabin took on a different fragrance. What could it be, I wondered. Then I realized it was ... fresh air. The A/C system took a break and let the outside world in.

Of course, if we all drove Insights, the air might be even fresher.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Pace Note Adjustment

July 24, 2009

This is a feature found on all Honda and Acura navigation systems, but when I stumbled upon it again in our 2010 Honda Insight EX last night, I knew I had to say something here.

Honda allows you to adjust the frequency of the audio prompts that the navigation system gives you when you're in guidance mode. "Normal" usually works fine, but I have used "Max" before when I was driving in a very unfamiliar area and didn't want to miss turns.

I haven't seen this "quantity of guidance" feature on any other navigation system, and for me, it makes the otherwise low-buck navigation unit in our 2010 Insight quite desirable.

Video after the jump for a "demo" of pace notes at the "Max" setting. (Note: It's going to autoplay on you, so don't say I didn't warn you.)

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 2,276 miles

How's the Stereo?

July 24, 2009

Granted, the Insight EX is built primarily for getting great fuel economy and not as a rolling sound studio. Still, Honda's latest hybrid will likely see plenty of commuting miles and nothing helps blunt the tedium of a long trip home every night like a good sound system. Here's what you get and how it stacks up.

Opting for the EX version of the Insight means a single CD player with MP3 capability. Sound runs through six-speakers and the system is good for 160 watts. An aux input and iPod specific connection are part of the package and you can even play music from a PC card if you still have any of those. Since our long termer has the optional navigation system, that means audio functions such as tone and balance adjustment move to the nav's touch screen. Gettting the nav means Bluetooth as well.

How it Sounds -

Sound quality is good but not great. When the bass and treble adjustments are flat (right in the middle) the sound is rather thin and even a little tinny. You have to bump both up quite a bit for the sound to even approach well-rounded. After that bass is audible but not nearly deep or sharp enough for an audiophile. Highs are clear but that's were a little distortion starts to creep in even at moderate volume. There's a definite bias toward highs and in some cases downloaded songs were accompanied by hiss. Sadly, there's no midrange adjustment. Overall sound quality earns a B-

How it Works -

Most controls are easy to use and figure out even without cracking the manual. The graphic display that comes up when adjusting bass, treble, tone and balance communicates basic information in a simple format but you do have to pay for the navigation system to get this and the touchscreen feature. While it's nice to an iPod specific connection, the inter face is a little clunky. Unless you have that certain song you're just dying to hear in a playlist, good luck finding it. You'll have to arrow down five tracks (or albums or artists) at a time - this is incredibly frustrating. It may be easier to just switch to the aux jack and use the iPod's interface (provided the car's not moving). Redundant steering wheel controls mean you never have to take your eyes off the road to adjust volume or advance tracks. In terms of the interface, this system gets a C-

Brian Moody, Automotive Editor

Charged Up

July 27, 2009

While en route to Temescal Gateway Park for a hike in the mountains this weekend, I noticed that my iPod was almost dead. Kind of a bummer, since I was hoping to use the alone time spent in the hills to immerse myself in a new Miike Snow MP3 (no, it's not a misspelling) that I'd recently downloaded.

What to do? Charge it in the Insight using the car's USB adapter cable, of course.The iPod fit unobtrusively in the car's center storage bin; with the top of the bin flipped down, you wouldn't even know it was in there. Thirty minutes later, my iPod had enough juice to entertain me for the duration of my hike.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 2,335 miles


July 29, 2009

After getting comfy in our 2010 Honda Prius Insight, I noticed that I didn't notice the speedometer. That's because my chosen driving position (as is deftly illustrated above) put the top of the steering wheel right in front of the speedometer. And since I didn't want to accidentally cruise at 162 miles an hour, I figured I should move the steering wheel down and out of the way. That solved the problem, but it made the driving position way less than ideal.

I should note that I did not have this problem when I last drove a 2009 Civic Si, which also utilizes a stacked dash.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 2,431 miles

Driver's Information Panel, Low Tech Meets High Tech

August 03, 2009

I just spent a weekend in our long-term Honda Insight, but it was the first time I really took a look at the driver's infomation panel. This is the little window between the two primary gauges on the dashboard, a screen you can scroll through by hitting the "i" button on the steering wheel to see various vehicle statistics like distance-to-empty, running time, average speed and average MPG numbers.

I've typically left this window in the "Eco Guide" mode to see how many "leaves" I can establish through my frugal use of non-renewable resources. I also find it interesting to ponder exactly what driving statistics the Insight considers "leaf worthy." I know you're supposed to keep that center bar as small as possible through light throttle and brake application to earn leaves, but I'm betting (hoping?) some honest-to-goodness mathematical equations are happeing somewhere behind that display panel.

For what it's worth, I seem to be a "two-leaf" kind of driver, meaning I can get a line of two leaves on every plant in the display without trying too hard (as pictured above on the left), but I've never gotten a third leaf on any of the plants. I would describe my driving style as roughly 80/20 (in the Honda Insight as well as just about any other car). This means 80 percent of the time I'm driving pretty casually with minimal throttle input and a stable rate of speed. However, when I see a hole in traffic I want, or a car I need to beat off the line to get into a specific lane, I don't hesitate to use all of the throttle spring's travel. Driving this way earns me the above level of leafage, and that's fine with me.

The other display I took a specific look at was the energy management display (on the right above). This one tells you where the energy is flowing in the powertrain, whether from the engine to the wheels, the battery to the wheels, the wheels to the battery, or any other combination possible.

I found this information in this small driver's information panel after searching for it on the LCD display in the center stack. But I quickly realized there is no energy management display on the LCD screen, which makes sense because you only get that display if you order the navigation system. The upside is that it makes the Insight's starting price cheaper than the Prius (because every version of the Prius has the LCD screen), but the downside is this somewhat rudimentary form of graphical energy management information.

Sure, it gets the job done. However, if you're used to the pretty Prius display that shows animated wheels turning and multi-color energy flows, this screen looks a little 1998 (think early navigation systems on German luxury cars).

Still, I'll take the Insight's superior driving dynamics, superior seating position and ergonmics, and lower price tag over the Prius, even if it means a "Pong" version of energy management information.

Karl Brauer, Editor in Chief @ 2745 miles

Fuel Sipper Smackdown 2

August 06, 2009

Last month we hit the highway for the second-annual Fuel Sipper Smackdown. Last year's selection of cars was a little sad sack, not providing many appealing choices for those in search of a fuel-sipping car. This year was a lot different.

We plucked the Honda Insight and VW Jetta TDI from our long-term fleet and pitted them against a Ford Fusion Hybrid, Mini Cooper and 2010 Toyota Prius. Since each was very different, the goal wasn't necessarily to declare a winner. Instead, we would find how each did in different driving environments and compare our real-world results to the EPA estimates and on-board fuel economy meters.

Check out the Fuel Sipper Smackdown 2 article and video for the full results

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

Aren't You A Little Small For A Hybrid?

August 10, 2009

It's hard to gauge the new Insight's size in photos, so I'll go ahead and tell you that if you've never seen one in person, it's not as big as you might think it is. The automotive media (us included) has billed the new Insight as Honda's Toyota Prius fighter. But whereas the EPA classifies the Prius as a midsize car, the 2010 Insight is still a compact.

Being small isn't necessarily a bad thing — just compare the Insight's fuel economy (or price) to that of a Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid. But I suspect that some car shoppers intrigued by all the Prius-versus-Insight comparisons as well as Honda's "Hybrid for everyone" advertising message might be surprised when they see an Insight parked next to a Civic on a Honda dealer lot and realize that the Insight is smaller. A lot of Americans just aren't very keen on small, something that I was reminded of yesterday when I drove our Insight into a grocery parking lot full of trucks, SUVs and crossovers.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 3,229 miles

Zen Master Driving Style

August 12, 2009

As Donna experienced earlier, our 2010 Honda Insight is not a car that suits you when you're in a hurry. Nor is this a great surprise — a 2,700-pound car with 98 hp just isn't going to get out of its own way very quickly.

The lack of power doesn't bother me, though. I actually like driving our Insight a lot. Mostly, this is because it provides the opportunity to drive in a relaxed style that complements the car's enhanced fuel efficiency. Our Fit's kinda like this, too. You already know it's slow, so why drive it aggressively? It's like asking a cat to fetch and then getting angry at it because it's not doing what you want.

For highway driving, my driving style has been pretty moderate. And around town, I've been paying more attention to trying to keep the Insight's momentum going. It's funny watching other drivers blow by me on city streets only to get stuck at the next stop light.

I suppose I could do the same with any car I drive. But with the Insight, adopting a Zen-like attitude just seems right. And the payoff is better fuel economy.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

The Hamster Factor

August 13, 2009

The Honda Insight is a terrific car. Few companies are dedicated to transportation in the way that Honda is. It believes in the liberation of personal mobility, which is a lot more important thing than just snappy styling, lap times at the Nurburgring, or corporate profits. That's why Honda really does cheap cars better than it does expensive ones.

The Honda Insight could easily become one of my favorite cheap cars. It strips the whole hybrid concept down to its bare essentials. It passes by gas stations, it goes down the freeway, it carries a family (whining about headroom for six-footers in the back seat is ridiculous, really), and it looks dramatic. In every way, the Honda Insight seems to represent what Honda does best.

So why doesn't the Insight go down the road better? It's as if hamsters had tuned the ride and handling. Actually that's probably not true, as the Kia Soul goes down the road better than the Insight.

It's not an easy task to tune a car's suspension to cope with a load of batteries and then build in the extra capacity for occasionally dealing with a full load of passengers. But the combination of stiff, low-rolling-resistance tires with a suspension that feels oversprung and underdamped is not a happy one here. Over the overused concrete byways of Los Angeles, the Insight bounds over the bumps and wriggles uncertainly down the straights. Only the latest-generation Toyota Corolla goes down the road so badly.

Somehow Honda has lost the plot when it comes to small-car handling. While large cars like the Acura TL seem nicely developed, little cars like the Insight seem to have been set up with a few fast keystrokes on a pocket calculator and a quick spin around the executive parking lot at the proving ground in Tochigi, Japan. Maybe Honda has got the idea that people who like hybrid cars expect them to go down the road in a distinctive way — that is to say, badly. Maybe Honda isn't doing as much testing in the U.S. with its Japanese-built cars. Maybe the testing protocols have changed.

I think the Honda Insight deserves a little more respect from Honda. This is not a cheap car. It represents Honda at its best, and the science in this car should be expressed in the way the car drives as well as in the way it produces power.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 3,276 miles

Track Tested!

August 13, 2009

Yes, that's oversteer. Yes, it's a 2010 Honda Insight. These are the things that happen during track days.

Honda's newest entry-level hybrid may be made for glorified golf-cart duty shuffling around city streets, but that didn't stop us from rigging it up with, essentially, it's worth in test gear and evaluating what kind of driver's car they managed to build. Oh, and we made it oversteer like that a few times.

Follow the jump for results and a video!

Vehicle: 2010 Honda Insight EX

Odometer: 2,424
Date: 07/28/09
Driver: Josh Jacquot

Price: $23,810

Drive Type: Front-wheel drive
Transmission Type: CVT with sport mode and paddle shifters
Engine Type: Inline-4
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1,339 (82 cu-in)
Redline (rpm): 6,200
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 98 @ 5,800 (includes electric motor assist of 13 hp @ 1,500 rpm)
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 123 @ 1,000 - 1,500 (includes electric motor assist of 58 lb-ft @ 100 rpm)
Brake Type (front): Ventilated disc
Brake Type (rear): Drum
Steering System: Electric speed-proportional power steering
Suspension Type (front): Independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs and stabilizer bar
Suspension Type (rear): Semi-independent, torsion beam, coil springs and integrated stabilizer bar
Tire Size (front): 175/65R15 84S
Tire Size (rear): 175/65R15 84S

Tire Brand: Dunlop
Tire Model: SP37
Tire Type: Summer
Wheel Material (front/rear): Alloy/alloy
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 2,730

Test Results:
0-30 (sec): 4.0
0-45 (sec): 6.9
0-60 (sec): 10.9
0-75 (sec): 16.6
1/4-mile (sec @ mph): 17.9 @ 77.8
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 10.5
30-0 (ft): 31.3
60-0 (ft): 126.07
Braking Rating: Average
Slalom (mph): 62.4
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): .77
Handling Rating: Good
Db @ Idle: 44.6
Db @ Full Throttle: 77.3
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 68.6

Acceleration Comments: Best run is first run probably due to full battery power. "Sport" shift mode does nothing for acceleration. Paddles don't help, either.

Braking Comments: No noticeable pedal fade this test. Relatively consistent distances. Awkward pedal feel matters little in emergency stop like this.

Handling Comments: Slalom: Quite a ride w/stability control off. Will easily swap ends with a quick throttle drop during steering input. Otherwise, with system on, all is well. Skid pad: Smooth skidpad helps Insight's manners quite a bit. Still lots of body roll and not much grip. But, despite hard tires, limits are reasonably easy to perceive.

Listen to that baby moo!

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant

The Fuel Miser

August 18, 2009

I was fueling up our 2010 Honda Insight yesterday and had a brief moment of annoyance when the gas pump seemingly shut off just a few moments after I started it. The auto-stop must have kicked in before the tank was actually full, I thought. Nope. I was just used to heavy drinkers like our long-term M3 and Challenger. After 200 miles of driving in the Insight, the car only needed about five gallons of fuel.

Certainly, it can take years to reap any sort of significant savings via a hybrid's reduced fuel consumption. But only having to spend $15 or so for a half-tank of fuel is a pretty nice feeling nonetheless.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Energy Management

August 20, 2009

As Karl wrote in an earlier post, the 2010 Honda Insight's hybrid energy management display (accessed by scrolling through the various LCD menus) is pretty simple. There are animated dotted lines for gasoline engine power (it's either flowing or inactive) and battery (either charging or discharging). That's it. But what else do you really need? Plus, I like the location of the display as it's easier to check at a glance than if it were on the main navigation screen.

Also, check out what's going on with the display here. As you might know, the Insight's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system doesn't allow for electric-only propulsion like a Toyota Prius does. But I noticed that while descending a long mountain grade with the cruise control set (no throttle input by me or the car), the IMA would kick in just a slight amount of electrical juice to keep the car at the set speed. This is likely the only time you'd get to see this "electric-only" power flow on an Insight.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

The Golden Moment of Silence

August 25, 2009

How much is the Golden Moment of Silence really worth? You know, the moment when you scoot away from a stoplight in your hybrid and the car is running silently on battery power.

Apparently it must be worth quite a lot. Much of the engineering that's gone into new-generation Toyota Prius has been intended to prolong that moment of silent running. Actually, so many Prius enthusiasts were re-wiring their cars to run solely on electric power for longer periods and at higher speeds — no matter the risk of overheated batteries and dramatically shortened battery life — that Toyota felt obligated to improve its car's electric capability.

And it's easy to understand why. Hybrid drivers are enthusiasts (though they resist being portrayed this way), and they love to demonstrate their attitudes about alternate transportation much as do guys who like loud engines and big tires. And we've all gone along with it, since we classify vehicles with the capability of pure electric motivation as real hybrids, while vehicles with simple electric stop/start mechanisms are mild hybrids.

Of course, no one likes to admit that the Golden Moment of Silence costs you big money, because the upgraded batteries and more powerful electric motor represent a big investment compared to a simple stop/start mechanism for an engine.

And so all this makes me appreciate the Honda Insight a little more. Sure, the Insight delivers a Golden Moment of Silence of its own, but really the Honda way of doing a hybrid is entirely different from the Toyota way. The Toyota way is all about the electric motor, an alternate mode of propulsion that helps keep the engine deactivated as much as possible. The Honda way is all about a small, hyper-efficient gasoline engine, and the electric motor simply supplements the engine when you need more power. At least that's the way I've come to think of it.

I like the Honda way because it seems to be about simple efficiency, and bragging rights about an electric motor doesn't enter into it. It's what you'd expect from a company that entered the transportation business with the two-wheel moped. The philosophical value here is personal mobility, not engines or motors.

Of course, this is not necessarily the sexiest approach to the hybrid. When Honda introduced its Accord Hybrid, it went to great lengths to make the car almost indistinguishable from a conventional Accord, and naturally the car died a miserable death in the marketplace because hybrid owners want people to know that they are hybrid owners.

Yet every time the Insight takes me across an intersection with its little engine thrumming while a Prius does its Golden Moment of Silence next to me, I think about the difference in the price you pay when you buy one of these cars. It makes me think that despite the disdain we've shown for mild hybrids (GM's fleet of them in particular), this vehicle class is growing in Europe in a big way, and soon this technology will be here in the U.S. attached to sexy brands like Audi and Volkswagen.

Then we'll see what people will really pay for that Golden Moment of Silence.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, @ 3,621 miles.

5,000 Miles

August 31, 2009

As if on cue, our 2010 Honda Insight hit the 5,000-mile mark just as I turned onto my street to complete a 1,000-mile weekend trip to Northern California. The Insight has averaged 52 miles a day and 38.05 mpg since entering our long-term fleet in June, and on this trip comprised mostly of long straight lines of asphalt, it averaged 39.44 mpg.

Its 98-horsepower inline-4 engine strained to keep pace with posted speed limits while climbing the southbound I-5 Grapevine grade. The little hybrid made the climb, but its engine was loudly protesting with a continuous whine at 4,800 rpm.

However cute and functional around town, the Insight is clearly a flatlander's car.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 5,034 miles

The surprise music card

September 01, 2009

Our 2010 long-term Honda Insight's radio is all high-tech with WMA and MP3 CD capability, ipod interface, but no Sat radio.

However, I opened the radio door yesterday and got a surprise.

For those of you who have harped on our long-term Nissan R35's compact flash card port, and have expressed incredulity regarding the Lexus ES350's cassette player, I present to you the Insight's PC Card adapter.

Although cassette is archaic, and CF is almost dead, at least most non-nerds have heard of these formats. But PC Card? Ask most non-geeks what that is and you'll probably get a stupid look.

What kind of fossil would own one of these?! Uh, me.

It was around 2000 and my laptop at the time had only one USB port, taken up by the mouse.
Way to go Sony.

I needed a way to read the CF cards for my camera, but didn't want to swap out the mouse.

I was working for an international company at the time, and my colleagues told me I could get a PC card adapter as a workaround.

Do what now? Never heard of it.

Well, I got one, and if the mass were five time the actual it would make a great paperweight or doorstop.

That is, until I met the Insight.

Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 5860 miles

Simple Electricity

September 18, 2009

My friend the Kaiser Permanente doc knows a little bit about cars, enough to have a BMW 3 Series and an Audi Q7 3.2 in his garage. So he was more than a little eager to get an introduction to our long-term Honda Insight hybrid.

The big surprise to me is that every little thing about the Insight seemed to be a big surprise to him, as if the car were an example of industrial magic. Who knew that when the car stopped at a light, the engine did, too? Who knew that the instrument panel gave you a little reward for driving efficiently? Who knew that the batteries last more than 100,000 miles (so far, anyway)? Who knew that the rear seats fold down to provide a flat cargo floor?

It reminded me that much of the enthusiasm for hybrids is simply built on enthusiasm for basic, no-frills transportation. And because electricity seems so simple, plentiful and cheap, everyone assumes an electric car must have the same virtues. That's why guys like my friend the Kaiser doc are always a little bit disappointed when they discover that a Honda Insight is more expensive than a Honda Fit.

For all the Honda insight's little dynamic eccentricities, I think it's a really interesting car, so perfect for Honda's brand image. And my experience with my friend the doc makes me think that the whole thing of electricity in the automobile is better served by a cheap car like the Honda insight than a super-duper sports car like the Audi E-tron.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 6,250 miles

I Want Just One Cool Feature to Rave About

September 28, 2009

Wind generators in the Tehachapi Pass behind the 2010 Honda Insight. Photo by Andrew Reed.

If only I didn't know about the Toyota Prius.

If I had never driven a Prius I would think that the 2010 Honda Insight EX was a cutting edge, ultra high tech wonder. But the fact that Honda is only now introducing the Insight, after the redesigned Prius has been in the market since 2004, seems like a real misstep.

I drove the Insight about 500 miles last week and enjoyed it (please copy in and assume I agree with most of the comments from other posts about low power on mountain passes etc). But I came away thinking, "Give me just one cool, knockout feature to rave about and I'll remain a loyal Honda fan." And on top of this, the styling begs — almost demands — comparisons to the Prius.

I wanted to think that the lower price tag of the Insight was a good reason to buy it. Looking at sticker prices, the LX Insight could goes for $19,800 while the cheapest Prius is $22,000 — a difference of $2,200. But the Prius is more powerful while delivering better fuel efficiency. (This added fuel efficiency actually accomplishes little. Using our True Fuel Consumption Calculator, it shows that over 12,000 miles, at $3.25 a gallon of gas, the savings would only be $171.) However, the Prius seems greener by driving at low speeds in all-electric model.

I'm not saying that the Insight isn't a very capable car. Around town, this gas sipper is quiet and efficient. For a single commuter it would do the job without complaint. But it comes off as an imitation of a break-through car. I guess you could say that Toyota still owns this territory.

Philip Reed, Edmunds Consumer Advice Editor @ 6592 miles

Information Aplenty

October 08, 2009

There's a lot of information that can be gleaned from our Insight's gauges in a quick glance. Of all the screens available in the multi-information display, I tend to use the eco guide (pictured above) the most. I had some questions on the readout, and after consulting the manual, the answers were clarified and I even got an interesting surprise.

The leafy stems show how eco-friendly you're driving (it will further reward drivers with blossoms atop the stems, but I have yet to see one). The moving bar underneath indicates how efficiently you're accelerating or decelerating. The gray boxes on the high and low end are the areas you want to avoid. Stomp the accelerator and the bar shoots to the left, well into the gray box, and you begin losing leafs. No big surprise, but hard braking is also inefficient, since the momentum is scrubbed off by the brake pads rather the regenerative braking. Smooth and steady is the most efficient, but that also sets you up for getting cut-off by other drivers. In L.A. traffic, an open space in front of your car is basically saying, "go ahead, I'm in no rush and don't bother using your signal either."

The manual also shows a feature that I would never have noticed, Lifetime Points. When the key is turned to the "off" position, the screen briefly displays the Insight's cumulative eco score. It takes months to accumulate or change a score, and after charging down to the parking structure to see what we've got, it looks like we've got further to go. No score as of yet.

The manual also shows that there are different stage icons to be attained. Driving inefficiently will show an upside-down leafy icon - as if it's wilting. Sad. The highest stage gets you a trophy icon - Cool! Stay tuned to see if/when our score changes.


October 13, 2009

In the last Insight post, I noted that we did not have a cumulative eco score. Well, we do indeed have a score. The manual did not mention that the car has to be running for a while for the eco score to appear (at least until the eco guide screen can begin scoring, I assume). So there it is, we're getting an average score. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it stays there for the duration of its time with us, since I spent every moment behind the wheel this weekend trying to get a flower atop my five leafy stems. Everywhere I went, I drove as though I had buckets of nitroglycerine in my lap - all for naught. I'm not sure how we'll manage to get one of these elusive flowers outside of cheating with a tow truck and a long downhill highway.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 7,181 miles

Losing the Sales Race

October 19, 2009

It's a little soon to predict what the long-term sales outlook might be for the Honda Insight, although you have to say that there's less of them on the street than there ought to be. For September, just 1,746 Insights hit the street. In the same period, 10,964 examples of the Prius were sold. Amazing, no?

Maybe one reason is the Honda Insight is not so different from every other Honda. It's practical, hyper-efficient and affordable, which is pretty much what you can say about the Honda Fit, the Honda Civic, the Honda Accord and everything else with a Honda badge. In comparison, the Toyota Prius is the only Toyota with a smart, cool persona, so it has less competition on the Toyota showroom floor.

If you want a futuristic Toyota, there's just one car to buy. If you want a futuristic Honda, there's a big selection of them. Maybe it's no wonder that the Toyota Prius leads the Insight so dramatically in the sales race.

And maybe it's no wonder that Carlos Ghosn has set Nissan to the very expensive task of developing technology for the Nissan Leaf plug-in. When you have a range of fine but ordinary cars like Toyota does and the Prius hybrid is the only one with enough car-ness to make people care, then the lesson for every car-maker is clear. You can love the electric car or hate it, but it's the only sort of thing that registers with ordinary consumers. If you want your brand to be cool, then you must have an electric car.

It's a lesson so important than even Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have learned it.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 7,313 miles


October 23, 2009

This car nearly rattled what's left of my brains out coming back from from East Nowhere. What was I doing in East Nowhere, you ask? This.

It took two and a half hours to get back to the office and during that trip I thought the rearview mirror on our (not so) little Insight was going to fall off and wind up in my lap. I couldn't even see anything with the mirror it was vibrating so badly. The freeway ride in this thing is absolutely punishing. Why? What's point, awesome handling? Oh I'm sure around town it's firm and that helps to mask the utter lack of performance from the wheezy engine, but on a freeway, you know, the things you drive on every day in LA, it's terrible.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 7,392 miles

Auto Stop

October 26, 2009

In good hybrid form, when you come to a full and complete stop in the Insight, the gas engine and electric motor shut off. The idea is that a vehicle that's not running doesn't use any fuel or energy. As long as you keep your foot firmly on the brake pedal, the car remains off until you lift your foot. When the car senses that you've lifted your foot, it immediately starts back up again in preparation to moving forward.

I've noticed that the new four-door Insight is very sensitive to a reduction in pressure on the brake pedal while "auto stop" is engaged. Frequently while I'm waiting at a stoplight with auto stop engaged while driving the hybrid hatchback, I'll feel the Insight start itself back up when I don't intend it to. I must have a really light foot, or maybe I ease the pressure off just a tiny bit without realizing it. Nice to know that it's so sensitive. I wouldn't want it to be the other way around. But I'd be interested to hear if this happens a lot to other Insight drivers or if I just need to bulk up my right leg.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, @ 4,352 miles

Out of the Blue and Into the Green

October 28, 2009

When the Honda Insight meter moves from CHRG to ASST and back, the color surrounding the digital speedometer also changes.

What I find surprising is how often it goes green, even at higher speeds.

Here's a video because I love making videos.

In the last bit (the part in the daylight) you'll see an illustration of what Bryn mentioned in her last post when autostop switches off.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Love Me

November 01, 2009

I feel like the 2010 Honda Insight gets a bad rap.

People call it ugly, they call it slow (I've been guilty of that myself), they call it a copycat of the Prius (even though it was first). They call it lots of things.

But the 2010 Honda Insight is a smart car. It's not ugly, it's aerodynamic. It's not slow, it's frugal. It's also efficient, sophisticated, and has a pretty good audio system.

Let's give the Insight a little love and call it car of the week.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

A Wagon by Any Other Name

November 02, 2009

I continue to bemoan the fact station wagons got a bad rap. They clearly represent the most flexible and useful configuration you can get in a sedan-sized footprint, and so I'm sorry automakers have to disguise their designs to deliver that utility without calling their cars wagons.

Consider the Honda Insight. Everybody talks about its hybrid powertrain but look at the cargo area covered by the rear hatch. Especially with the rear seatbacks flipped down flat, the space is cavernous. Though the Insight is a compact car, it can accommodate surprisingly voluminous loads. Which is precisely the genius of the station wagon roofline. And the Insight even presses that boundary. Take out just a couple degrees of down angle in the roofline's profile and you'd have a station wagon shape, pure and simple.

And why not, I say? There's already a vertical glass element in the hatch. Too bad we can't just be honest and have the Insight be a really efficient little wagon.

It IS plenty efficient, too, but you'd expect that. Starting with a fresh fill-up and then easing into the slow-and-go freeway traffic of my morning commute, I worked the "average mpg" readout up to 53-plus, using light throttle when acceleration was necessary and maintaining momentum when possible. With the traffic-imposed limit of about 55 mph, I was using less fuel than I would have on a motorcycle.

And with all that space!

Kevin Smith, Editorial Director, @ 7825 miles

Open Thread

November 03, 2009

What do you want to know about the 2010 Honda Insight?

Have you driven one, sat in one, seen one on the road? Write your reviews in the comments section.

Any details you want us to photograph? Can I make someone a video of something, pretty please? You know how I love my Flip ;)

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

S is for

November 03, 2009

Just below the D on our Honda Insight's shifter is an S.

In any other car, you would expect this to be for Sport Mode.

But Honda calls this Second. From the Honda manual "The S position is similar to D, except the range of ratios are different for better acceleration and increased engine braking."

Isn't that the same thing as Sport?

I guess in a hybrid "Sport" is a dirty word. I'll second that.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Functional Form

November 04, 2009

Along with everyone else, I've had enough of seeing so many examples of the Prius scuttling back and forth on the road. It's a fine car that I admire very much, but it looks like a banana slug, only sadly not as colorful. One of the things worth admiring about the Honda Insight is the way it rescues the futurism in the Prius' basic proportions and makes it a worthwhile visual expression.

So many car designs these days seem to me like little more than rough pencil sketches reluctantly scaled to a few manufacturing hard points by a surly, overworked designer. Automotive design has become all about artistic expression and no one mentions function for fear of being out of fashion. But it's brought us a generation of cars that look like supermarket packaging, not useful implements.

No one seems to design small functional cars so well as Honda. Remember the original Honda City? The Honda Fit and the Honda Insight are clearly the design standouts for the brand right now, while the Honda Accord Crosstour is a poster child for a half-hearted idea that's half-heartedly expressed.

As far as I'm concerned, there's no question that the Insight simply copied a shape popularized by the Prius, a aerodynamic raindrop not so different from Paul Jaray's Zeppelin dirigibles of World War I. The Prius has established a design direction that signifies modernism like no other. But I like the way that Honda has applied its own rigorous disdain of the extraneous and superfluous to make the form even more functional, shrinking the frontal area, tightening the fit around the passenger cell and crafting the inclination of the hatchback for less wake turbulence. And the result is beautiful as well as functional in the same way that good tools always have an intrinsic elegance.

I'd rather see a Honda Insight on the road next to me than the latest-generation BMW 7 Series.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 7,925 miles

Video Walkaround

November 04, 2009

People say they think the Honda Insight is ugly until they see it in person. I don't think it's a bad looking car.

Hopefully, this video will help you see it in a better light.

Sorry it's so shaky.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Hey, Shorty

November 05, 2009

Honda cars usually come with pretty spiffy audio features. Our Insight is no different. My only complaint is that the connector in the center storage compartment is awkward to reach. It's not that it's in a bad place. But the cable itself is so short, it makes it difficult to reach when you want to plug in your device.

It's nice that it doesn't take up a lot of space in the smallish storage compartment. And I like that there is a pocket for my iPod. But another six inches of cord would really makes things easier and not be in the way.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Seeing Ghosts

November 05, 2009

Is anybody there? Watch the video.

I'm pretty sure it's that blue piece on the back passenger side.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Hybrid System Walkaround

November 06, 2009

Ever wondered what it takes to build a hybrid? Well, that depends on what sort of hybrid you're talking about.

The hybrids that Toyota and Ford put out are complex (and effective) series-parallel hybrids, meaning they can run on gas, electricity, a direct parallel blending of the two or a series piggyback mode where the gas engine generates electricity for the battery while an electric motor uses that electricity to drive the car. It takes two powerful electric motors that are integrated into a mind-bending (but mechanically quite simple) planetary CVT system to pull this off. Powerful control software continually switches between these modes so you don't have to think about it.

But our 2010 Honda Insight is based on a simpler parallel-only setup, in which the engine and transmission are prised apart so a thin, flywheel-sized electric motor (just over 2-inches thick) can be slipped between them. This electric motor goes by the name of Integrated Motor Assist or IMA, for short.

It's basically laid out like this:
Engine --> IMA --> Transmission

Let's have a look, starting at the back of the car.

The above shot from my suspension walkaround series shows why the simple twist beam suspension configuration was used here: it leaves plenty of room between the wheels for a deep central well that houses the spare tire and battery pack.

There's even room for several storage nooks. The optional spring-loaded roll-up cargo cover can actually fit in the slot at the bottom of the photo.

Now let's pull that styrofoam out of there for a minute.

I see a spare. But there's something else under there.

Eureka! It's the battery pack. But I have to say, it's not a very big one. Especially when you consider that the voltage-conversion and charge-monitoring electronics are housed here, too.

The batteries themselves are made up of Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) cells, the type used in nearly all current production hybrids and electric cars.

Together they consitute a 100.8-volt pack that has a 5.75 amp-hour capacity. That greek to you? Let's multiply volts with amp-hours (and divide by 1,000) to look at this in Kilowatt-hours (kWh), the electrical equivalent to the number of gallons in a gas tank.

The Insight's electrical tank is therefore a scant 0.58 kWh, and that, among other things, makes it a mild hybrid. The Prius, a more hybrid-y "full" hybrid, has a battery capacity of around 1.3 kWh.

Move up to a plug-in hybrid, like the much ballyhooed Chevy Volt, and battery capacities start to range up to 9 kWh to accomodate a bit of extended electric-only range courtesy your wall socket. Continue on to something like our 2009 Mini E, a full electric car that depends on juice for everything it does, and you'll find a battery with a usable capacity of 28 kWh. All-electric battery capacities will doubtless grow upwards from here.

How does the Insight make do with 0.58 kWh? Well, the electric motor-generator (which we shall see in a moment) is not very big, so it neither consumes nor regenerates very much electricity. Standard hybrid batteries get ALL of their juice from regenerative braking, and the amount they can take in is thoroughly dependent on the size of the electric motor-generator.

The Insight's battery essentailly stores enough to recover energy from in-town stops for immediate use when you drive away from a stop and for restarting the engine each time it shuts down while "idling" at traffic lights. There isn't much in the way of all-electric range. We're talking seconds, not minutes at a time in most situations.

Like all hybrid batteries, these are considered to be part of the car's emissions system because if they fail the car will run on gasoline more of the time and emit more pollutants.

An that means you'll probably never have to worry about battery replacement cost or landfill impact of spent hybrid batteries, becuase they must last through California's stringent emissions warranty lifetime of 10 years or 150,000 miles.

How is this possible? By never letting the battery drain to 0% and never charging it to 100%. The key to maintaining long battery life is careful management of its State of Charge or SOC. Hybrids and electric cars take this aspect far more seriously than the charging system of a Makita screw gun or other rechargeable home electronics.

A typical NiMH hybrid battery will, in very rough hypothetical terms, only use the thin slice of SOC from, say, 30% to 70% SOC. People are excited about Lithium batteries because, by comparison, a wider range of SOC can be used, such as from 25% to 75% or from 20% to 80% SOC. And that means more electricity can be stored in a same-sized Lithium-Ion battery.

Power flows between the battery and the motor-generator (in both directions) through this orange cable.

Behold the power that is the 1.3-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 85 horsepower on it's own! The IMA can supply another 13 hp (10kW) when needed, bringing the maximum up to 98 ponies.

Clearly, this is no powerhouse built to light the world on fire, as the Insight achieves its fuel economy through a modern adaptation of an old Honda principle laid down in their past "HF" gasoline-only models: Light weight, a diminutive powertrain, a small vehicle cross-section with good aerodynamics and skinny low-rolling resistance tires.

The formula usually includes a manual transmission, but here an efficient CVT is used. But it's a "normal" CVT instead of the exotic electro-mechanical CVT seen in the Prius. This iteration of Insight could just as easily use a manual transmission, as the first Insight did, because the electric motor-generator is more of a booster than anything else.

Look inside the circle to see the IMA motor-generator where it sits sandwiched between the engine and transmission. How about a closer look?

Green = Engine, Orange = CVT transmission and Yellow = IMA, the meat in the sandwich.

The IMA can add up to 13 hp to whatever the engine is outputting and it also functions as the main starter for the engine.

That engine is never fully disconnected from the IMA, because there is no clutch between the two. The IMA can nevertheless power the car by itself for the first seconds after you roll away from a stop with the engine off, but the crankshaft will still rotate and the pistons will still pump up and down.

Pumping air like this through open valves creates a lot of drag that ruins efficiency, so Honda uses their VTEC cam-switching system to provide relief. One cam has the standard profile that the engine uses whenever it is running, but the second cam profile is completely round so that the intake and exhaust valves never open as the pistons fly about with no fuel being injected.

At first this seems like it would be worse, as it takes power to compress raw air in a cylinder. But you get almost all of that back as the piston is pushed back after it reaches top-dead center due to the air-spring effect. And this motion is smoothed out by the fact that 4 pistons are doing this in different parts of the cycle, so the compression forces in one cylinder are offset by extension forces in another.

NOTE: See why suspension walkarounds are so much easier than powertrain ones???

Perhaps the most important role of the IMA is regenerative braking. When you lift off the throttle, the computer reverses the polarity inside to turn the IMA from a motor to a generator. This generated electricity flows back in the battery, and the action of generating it creates a small decelerative "braking" force as the magnets in the generator do their thing.

The force is small in this case because of the small size of the IMA and the battery: you can only generate and store so much with this mild setup. As a result, the regenerative braking force feels no more significant than plain old engine braking in top gear in your gasoline car. You still need to use the brake pedal and the conventional disc/drum brake system for most of your slowing and stopping needs. That said, gentle use of the pedal and gradual slowing over a long distance allows the regen system to take in as much as possible.

That's not the case in our all-electric Mini E, where a huge battery (50 times bigger) and a large motor-generator (the only prime mover in the car) can (and need to) swallow as much juice as they can. Electric cars have to recapture every scrap to achieve their advertised range.

And so the Mini E drives like a slot car, with substantial regenerative braking forces that occur merely by lifting your foot off the "gas" pedal. They're so strong that you can get by without using the regular brake pedal 70% of the time; so strong that the brake lights are programmed to come on via computer so the car behind doesn't rear-end you.

Skinny 175/65R15 tires reduce rolling resistance in the Civic and CRX "HF" tradition. The final EPA fuel economy tally is 40 city/43 highway/41 combined.

The Honda Insight impressed and excited us when we first saw and drove it at the press launch, but that was when the rumor mill had the price in the $17,000 to $18,000 range and gas was over $4 per gallon.

But the Insight ended up starting at over $20k (with destination). For that you get a low-powered Honda in the traditional frugal Honda "HF" sense that gets a little performance and economy boost from a simplified mild hybrid system. With moderate fuel prices, that price seems a bit steep.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

NorCal Road Trip

November 06, 2009

Monday is Veterans Day, so I'm packing the family (two adults and one 3-year-old) into the Insight for a long holiday weekend up California's coast. Staying one night in Morro Bay and the rest in Berkeley, with at least one day trip into San Francisco planned. That means I've got approximately 800 miles to see how the little hybrid handles elevation gains, lots of kid-related luggage and bony rears. I'll give you the whole story when I get back next week.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor,

Packing Up and Packing In

November 13, 2009

OK, I'm back from my six-day trip to Morro Bay and Berkeley and ready to talk. First thing: No one should buy the Insight as a road trip car.

But if you're considering the Insight as a commuter car, and it will be the only vehicle at your disposal for an occasional road trip, you will survive, even if you have a kid under 4. Probably.

Packing It Up
We packed light, because 1) we underestimated what the Insight could handle and 2) my husband tends to freak out if the luggage we take on a trip exceeds a set point on his internal luggage tolerance meter. So we left the stroller and the aerobed at home. (NB: We could have fit both, if necessary. We ended up regretting not having the stroller for our day trips into San Francisco.)

Here's what we packed into the 15.9-cubic-foot trunk space: two carry-on size suitcases, one extra large diaper bag doubling as a suitcase for the 3-year-old, one canvas grocery bag with dry groceries, one medium sized soft-sided cooler, one extra-large tote bag, one small camera bag, one gallon-sized water bottle, one heart-shaped backpack filled with fluffy pink animals and blankies and fairy dolls, and one toddler-sized comforter and pillow combination. There was vertical room to spare, but piling anything else on there would have definitely eaten into rear visibility. And at pitstops and lunch breaks, we wished we had a cargo cover.

Packing Us In

Since we had only one rear passenger (strapped into her child seat in the passenger-side outboard seat), there was plenty of room in the back seat for all the kid's toys and road trip distraction devices. With two kids back there, it would have been a LOT tighter. Hubby and I took turns sitting in back with her and observed that we would have liked a center armrest.

We were staying with family in Berkeley, and decided to drive to dinner one night, but didn't want to take two cars. So all four adults piled into the Insight without moving the child seat from its outboard location (with kid in her seat. she's gotta eat, too). As I am narrow-of-frame, I was the one squished into the rear middle seat. It was tolerable for a short drive to the restaurant and back, but I wouldn't have wanted to go much farther. For the rest of the in-town driving, we moved the Recaro car seat into the rear center position of our relatives' new Honda Fit and everyone was happier.

Stay tuned for fuel economy, road noise and performance on inclines in my next post.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor,

Hold On

November 16, 2009

When coming to a stop on an upgrade, the Insight will start to roll backwards a little until you get your foot all the way down on the brake.

Once you're stopped, though, and then switch your foot to the gas pedal to go, it will hold for a few seconds. It has some sort of hill-hold feature.

My question is: Why can't/won't Honda do that in the Fit? Whenever I drive the Fit, it rolls backwards very easily. It doen't care how slight the hill.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 8,910 miles

Easy Cargo

November 16, 2009

We all know the 2010 Honda Insight has fold-down seats and can carry loads of cargo.

This weekend I went to the supermarket and piled my bags into the back. Even though this car does not have a power-operated rear hatch, it is easy to close.

I'm not very tall but I have no problem reaching the top of the open door to pull it shut. I also appreciate that the door is light and I don't have to struggle to swoop it down.

I'm starting to like this car more and more.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Noise, Hills and MPGs

November 17, 2009

It just ain't a road trip on the 5 unless you stop at Anderson's Pea Soup.

Here's the rest of the story of my 800-mile trek with our 2,700-pound hybrid.

Road Noise
I'm sure it's no surprise to hear that there was a good deal of road noise in the Insight, given Honda's reputation for road noise. And it's not just the noise. I think it's the frequency of the sound that makes it really noticeable. At highway speeds for long stretches, that kind of noise can be quite fatiguing. And it was annoying having to turn the volume up on the audio system in order to combat the road noise. Audiobooks were particularly difficult to hear. I'd say the road noise was my biggest complaint on the trip.

Fuel Economy
For the first tank (L.A. to Morro Bay to Berkeley on the 101 freeway with moderate-heavy traffic in the big city areas) we got 41.52 mpg. For this leg, we didn't drive any differently than we normally would have, except that we kept our speed under 75 miles per hour because, to us, the Insight just started feeling jittery above that. We also had ECON mode engaged.

The second tank was from Berkeley to L.A. on the 5 freeway with lots of traffic leaving Berkeley. We used cruise control (usually set between 72 and 76 mph) a lot more on this leg than on the south to north leg and had ECON mode turned off. We averaged 41.13 mpg on that leg.

Because the two legs of the trip were completely different route-wise, I can't really make any judgments on ECON mode, but it is interesting that both legs were over 41 mpg (which is the EPA's combined estimate for the Insight's fuel economy).

Average fuel economy for the whole trip was 41.35 mpg.

Seat Comfort
Both my husband and I found the front seats to be quite comfortable for the long legs of the trip. My husband wished for a little more adjustability, particularly so he could dial in a little less lumbar support, but we both felt well supported overall. No dead butt like last year.

Elevation Gains
Contrary to everyone's anticipation, the Insight's performance on inclines wasn't horrible. We didn't push it hard, just kind of let it do its thing and crossed our fingers. And not once did we accumulate a long line of angry travelers behind us. I'm not saying it tore up the hills, but it wasn't a nailbiter either.

Overall, I think a lot has to do with your expectations. If you drive a strong highway cruiser/climber already, you're not going to be happy with the Insight on a road trip. But my husband's daily driver is a 2003 Honda Civic GX (with the CVT), and while he wasn't thrilled by the Insight, he wasn't thoroughly disappointed with its performance either. We weren't wishing the Insight was anything other than what it is: a fuel economy-focused, four-door hatchback with a nav system from Honda.

I wouldn't volunteer for another road trip in the Insight right away, but if it were my daily driver and I wanted to take the family on a little jaunt up the coast, I'd be fine with it.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor,

More Appealing than Challenger?

November 19, 2009

I haven't driven the Insight much since the Fuel Sipper Smackdown and it's not because I didn't want to. Well, I didn't, but that wasn't the reason. No, the thing is never available to me. Somehow the Insight gets routinely picked in lieu of the Challenger, the Camaro, the 370Z, the G8, the FX50 and the Flex — just to name a few that have ended up on my plate the last few months.

I just don't get it. Maybe it's the automatic transmission in traffic, maybe it's that people have grown tired of the others, maybe it's because they haven't driven the Insight in a while, maybe it's that my colleagues want to save fuel. Yeah, OK, the last one is hooey. Driving the Insight home last night I couldn't help but be irritated by its rough ride, the incredible amount of road noise, the loud droning engine, the uncomfortable (for me) seating position, the too-low steering wheel, the long-reach audio controls and the steering that's far too eager to zip back to center.

Then there's everything constantly shutting off and on, off and on — not just the engine, but the automatic climate control too. There are abrupt shudders and fans coming on willy nilly.

Is the Insight more fun than a Prius? Yes, but that's like asking "Is she hotter than Annie Lennox?" or "Is that tastier than Natty Ice?" Who really cares?

Now, I must say that I picked the Insight last night over the Challenger and 370Z, but only to experience the Insight for the first time in a while. Now that I've done that, I'll be happy when the Insight disappears before I can choose it.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 9,023 miles

The Deliverator

November 20, 2009

High-speed pizza delivery? Not quite. But with its flat load floor and wide hatch, the 2010 Honda Insight was the perfect pick for delivering 37 pizzas to a local shelter for homeless and at-risk teens.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant

Better on Surface Streets

November 23, 2009

If the Insight were a wild animal, surface streets would be its natural habitat. This weekend, I logged zero freeway miles, and the things that have bothered me most about the Insight in the past — its stiff ride, its tepid acceleration — were a lot less noticeable.

And of course, the car's also right at home at the pump. With half a tank left and nearly 200 miles logged, the Insight was due for a refill. The cost? Just 15 bucks.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 9,100 miles

Goofy Steering

November 30, 2009

I can accept our long-term 2010 Honda Insight's busy ride and thin sound insulation and weaksauce acceleration as natural consequences of its fuel-sipping, low-costing, battery-hefting mission.

What I can't stand, though, is its crummy on-center steering behavior. For this there is simply no excuse.

The steering response as you cross juuust over center seems to go dead, like there's inertia or stiction or hysteresis. As a result, driving it in a straight line at freeway speeds involves constant, minute corrections around center.

It's not tramlining or crosswinds, it's the electric steering. And it's irritating. Behaves just like the Fit's steering, in fact, which isn't that surprising since the two cars share a lot of DNA from the firewall forward.

I'll say this, though — I flung the Insight onto a freeway on-ramp yesterday and the thing didn't understeer like a bad bus. On the contrary, it was completely neutral, even requiring a bit of countersteering. I was floored. Oversteer in an economy car, yee-haa!

I think this last bit will be lost on Insight buyers.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 9,521 miles.

Doesn't Love LA

December 02, 2009

This is where the long-term 2010 Honda Insight will live today while we're all at the convention center covering the 2009 LA Auto Show. I've been driving our hybrid hatchback around the city for the last 24 hours, and like virtually every other editor on staff, the ride quality is beginning to wear on me a bit.

Earlier this year, I drove another 2010 Insight from Napa to Los Angeles, and I didn't really mind the firmness of the ride. That's not to say I thought the car had a great ride. But considering the car's economy roots (Fit platform architecture) and dynamic challenges (heavy batteries on-board), I was prepared to accept it.

But it's clear Honda didn't tune the suspension to cope with LA freeways, which is rather odd, given that greater LA will end up with one the highest percentages of 2nd-gen Insights per capita.

Nevertheless, I still kind of enjoy using it as a commuter car, because the seating position suits me perfectly, all the controls are easy to use, and the basic-grade Honda navigation system works well.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 9,545 miles

Service Complete

December 04, 2009

Our 2010 Honda Insight is back from Honda of Santa Monica, and my credit card now shows a $73.44 charge. (Too rich for your blood? Yeah, welcome to life on LA's West Side — if you want convenience, you're going to pay for it.) The final bill was right in line with the estimate the service advisor gave me.

Though this dealership has a web coupon for a $29.88 oil/filter change, the advisor informed me that 0W20 oil specified for the Insight and Civic Hybrid costs extra. Quite a bit extra. Total charges for the oil change was $45.56, and $29.64 of that went to 4 quarts of oil. Although, the Insight only uses 3.4 quarts. So if it was my car, I might bring my own and then sweet-talk the service advisor into giving that extra half-quart back.

The tire rotation cost $24.95, and I paid $2.93 in tax. The advisor, cashier and porters were all polite and responsive, which made for a pleasant experience.

Below is the page in the owner's manual that shows the service required for each code. As as you'll note, no oil filter change for the "A" service. And that saved us six whole bucks!

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 9,642 miles

Time for an Oil Change

December 04, 2009

A service light has been coming on at startup in our 2010 Honda Insight EX since Tuesday night. Checking the owner's manual, I learned that the "Service Due Now" message indicates that estimated oil life is somewhere between 1 and 5 percent (and come to think of it, I've been seeing a "5% oil life" message flash before the above alert comes on steady). If the car perceives that its oil quality has dropped to 0 percent, you'd see a "Service Past Due" message.

Honda uses letter and number codes in the Insight to indicate what type of service the car requires. "A" indicates a basic oil change with no oil filter change. "1" indicates a tire rotation.

When I dropped our Insight off for service this morning, the service advisor was slightly dismayed that we were seeing "A" rather than "B." The latter indicates a more major service (with an oil filter change among other things), and he thought the car should be asking for "B" given that it's nearing the 10,000-mile mark. But it's not, so we're doing the cheaper "A1" service.

I'll give you a rundown of the final costs after we pick the car up later today.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 9,641 miles

Realistic Expectations

December 07, 2009

I had the Insight over the weekend and was a bit suprised: it's competent. The electric power steering lacks feel, but it's okay. And yeah, it's not a Mini, but the handling isn't that bad. I took a couple of freeway on ramps at a quick pace and the car held its line without any low-rolling resistance tire howl.

The Insight may be the best economy car under $20K out there. The interior has good space (except for the rear headroom) and it gets around 39 mpg real-world. Most other cars that achieve that figure are smaller, or are Priuses. I like the Insight a lot more than any of the other dink cars in our fleet: Fit, SX4, and Mini-E.

However, compare it straight up to the Prius and it will lose in the log book of everyone except the most diehard Honda fanboi.

Compare the Insight to other economy cars under $20K and it's on top of the pile.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 9750 miles

10,000 Miles

December 11, 2009

The 2010 Honda Insight rolled silently past the 10,000-mile mark yesterday, so this morning I offer you a 10,070-mile pic instead.

Love it, hate it, our staff is pretty divided on the Insight. Maybe the next 10,000 miles will help clear things up.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 10,070 miles

Humpy Rear Seat

December 15, 2009

Over the weekend we took our Girl Scout troop to the local police station for a scared-straight tour. Not that these good girls really need it, but it's best to get out in front of these things, I think.

Three nine-year-olds hopped in the back seat of our 2010 Honda Insight, and immediately began to squabble over who got to sit on the "high hump" in the middle.

"You can see everything from up here!," one girl bragged to the other two.

Until then, I didn't realize the Insight had such sporty rear seats. Good for keeping two rear passengers from sliding around, but hard on a third person over four feet tall.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 20,231 miles

Conflict of Interest Climate Control

December 17, 2009

For some strange reason (and no, I did not have the windshield defroster on) the Insight's climate control has the A/C default to "On" when you switch on the climate control. I always shut off the radio and the climate control when I park a car. (Take note of this, staffers who leave the radio and/or the climate control blasting when you park the car).

Anyway, I noticed that every time I started the car up and switched on the climate control (either by pressing the fan or mode button), I'd hear the a/c compressor kick on and would then have to press the "A/C" button to shut off the a/c. Yes, this even happened in "Eco" mode.

Rather ironic that a car designed for max fuel efficiency would have its air conditioning system default to on.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 10, 400 miles

Cabin Noise

December 21, 2009

The electric engine isn't the only thing that's quiet on the Prius — the cabin is also pretty tranquil. Can't say the same for the Insight. Excessive cabin noise is a problem with most Hondas, and the Insight isn't an exception.

Is cabin noise a factor that you consider when shopping for a vehicle?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 10,490 miles

The Sound of Silence

December 28, 2009

So I'm driving a Toyota Corolla rental car over the holiday and when it comes to a stop at a light, it's so quiet that I think the engine has stopped. But because I've been driving the Honda Insight lately, I think this is normal.

And then I realize that it will indeed soon be normal, as simple stop/start mechanisms are already starting to appear on all manner of European and Japanese cars. They represent the most cost-effective strategy to get a big jump in air emissions reduction and fuel efficiency improvement. Americans have always disdained these so-called mild hybrids, but there's no doubt that they're on the way here.

Soon even a Chevy Camaro SS will be silent at stoplights.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 10,804 miles

The Hybrid Look

January 05, 2010

Apparently there are some guys out there who are not comfortable with the way a hybrid vehicle looks. Apparently these are the guys for whom the Ford Fusion Hybrid has been designed, at least if the television ads that keep breaking into football games are any guide.

Of course, we're all made pretty uneasy by some big truck with a leafy green decals, even when we do the math for the percentage of improvement in carbon emissions and all that. But even so I like it when a hybrid looks different. I want it to express a different sensibility.

Really I want it to look clever, which is pretty much the only thing a hybrid as going for it. So a hybrid should make what it can out of a wind-cheating shape, flush wheel covers and sliver-size airfoils. Such things are appropriate for a hybrid as they are for cars at the Indy 500, so I want to see the visual expression of performance, even if it's drag coefficient rather than horsepower.

Maybe this is why I like the way the Honda insight looks. And when I see a 2010 Toyota Prius with zippy cast-aluminum wheels, clear-lens taillights and a shiny Scion-style paint scheme, I'm a little confused. And when I see a Ford Fusion Hybrid that looks like any other Ford Fusion sedan, I can't help thinking that the money spent on putting a marketing band-aid over the car's appearance might have been better spent in the wind tunnel or the dyno.

I know that a hybrid is a real car these days, but I guess I still want it to be special. Probably I'm one of those hybrid troglodytes who should still be driving a 2000 Honda Insight.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 10,885 miles.

No Laughing Allowed

January 22, 2010

"A blue hybrid, eh? So, does your wife laugh at you?"

This was the query of a friend of mine when I pulled up in the Inside Line long-term 2010 Honda Insight to take him out to lunch.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"You ever heard Jeff Dunham's comedy bit about driving his wife's blue Prius?"

I hadn't. Didn't even know who Jeff Dunham was.

"Well, he does this skit talking about going from driving his Hummer H1 to his wife's Toyota Prius."

After lunch, I went home and looked it up. The clip has some amusing bits, but it's also kind of offensive, so I'll leave you to your own devices if you want to track it down. But suffice it to say, I think our Honda Insight is sufficiently macho, even if it is blue. And, no, my wife doesn't laugh at me when I'm driving it. If anything, she's probably more amused when I'm in the Corvette.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

The Road Ahead For Honda

January 25, 2010

Alright. So you're Honda. You've introduced the 2010 Insight, and so far it hasn't lived up to your expectations. Sales are below projections, and Consumer Reports gave it poor marks. D'oh! What's the big H to do? Here are three ideas on what Honda could cheaply and realistically do to improve its Insight fortunes.

1) Make sure the word is getting out. It's hard to say how many hybrid shoppers even know about the Insight, especially those who are keen on promoting their hybrid-ness. For many, the Toyota Prius is probably the only car they think of because it's been out so long. According to Automotive News, Honda is going to change the Insight's marketing from the previous lifestyle slant to one that focuses more on the car's features and benefits. That seems fine, but I'd also emphasize the car's ability to be a great commuter car (assuming points two and three get addressed).

2) Figure out a way to improve the drive. By this, I mean improve the ride quality, reduce road noise and retune the steering. The first two are especially important since it's what a lot of people complain about. They should be curable with some suspension tuning/tire changes and some extra sound-deadening. Hopefully fuel economy doesn't suffer, though, and hopefully the car doesn't become a mush-bowl to drive as a result.

3) Keep the pressure on price-wise. Right now the Insight LX has a $3,000 price advantage on the Prius II ($19,800 to $22,800). Toyota has said that it's going to come out with a cheaper (lower-content) Prius I, but so far there's been no official price announcement. Honda needs to make sure it maintains a strong price advantage to negate the Prius' superiority (perceived or otherwise).

Would these help? Certainly. Will they help enough to keep the Insight from getting clobbered every month in the sales race? Who knows? But it's a start.

You got any other ideas? If these fail, remember that Oprah is still on the air for one more year; maybe Honda can organize a car giveaway ala the Pontiac G6. Surefire winner, that one.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 11,579 miles

The Rear Seat Dilemma

January 28, 2010

Anytime I'm retrieving something from the Honda Insight's back seat I'm reminded about its lack of headroom. We're written about this before, with one notable entry being Mike Magrath's post back in July of last year. My initial reaction to the lack of headroom is: "Jeez, this is pretty bad." I'm 5-foot 10-inches and even my head rubs up against the headliner. Plus, the sloping outer curve to the roof makes it easy to bump your head when getting in and out.

But I've also thought about how I've had our long-term Insight in my possession for a total of about three weeks now, and the number of times I've had an adult riding in the back is zero. The only person to ever ride in the back is my two-year-old daughter. That sloping roof does make it harder to get her in and out of her car seat without bopping her head. But once she's in, she's fine.

So the question is: Does it really matter that the Insight's rear seat is small? I suppose in the absolute it does. If everything's equal, who wouldn't want more rear headroom in their sedan/hatchback? But given that most people aren't using cars like this to frequently carry adult rear passengers, maybe it's not that big of an issue after all. In the end, I think it mostly just reinforces my opinion that the Insight is a capable commuter car. But asking much more out of it than that gets you into trouble.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Top Five Attributes

February 01, 2010

Donna occasionally does her "Ten Things I Like About You" posts for various cars. I've got five for the Insight. I thought about doing ten, but that seemed like a bit of a stretch. Still, these are pretty good ones.

1. Best fuel economy in the long term fleet — It's averaging 38.7 mpg, better than anything else currently active.
2. Easy to drive — The Insight's light steering, unobtrusive CVT (with shift paddles) and small footprint make it well suited for urban driving.
3. Futuristic instrument panel design — The rest of the interior might be underwhelming, but the IP is just plain cool.
4. Useful drive aids — The colored band behind the speedometer, along other aids, helps uninitiated drivers understand how to drive for better fuel economy.
5. It's not a Prius — For those suffering from Toyota Prius burnout, it's likely the best alternative.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 11,625 miles

Best Fuel Economy So Far

February 05, 2010

The EPA's estimates for a 2010 Honda Insight are 40 mpg city, 43 mpg highway and 41 mpg combined. After about 12,000 miles with our long-termer, we're averaging 38.7 mpg. Knowing that driving style has a huge impact on fuel economy, I decided to see how good of fuel economy I could get this week.

My goal was to improve on the best tank so far, which was 43.9 mpg from last July. I wasn't planning on doing any extreme hyper-miling techniques or anything, but I was going to drive conservatively and take advantage of the regenerative brakes as much as possible. For the latter, I've noticed by watching the charge/assist gauge for the Insight's electric motor that just slightly applying pressure to the Insight's brake pedal brings up full electric charging for the hybrid battery pack without getting into the actual brakes. It's like our Mini E's regenerative braking, just not as strong.

So for about 100 miles of city driving, I tried to be as gentle as possible on the brake pedal to maximize recharging and minimize the use of the brakes. This also meant I was paying more attention to traffic lights ahead; if one was definitely going to be red, there was no point on rushing up to it and then subsequently have to jam on the brakes (which is what most other motorists do, I noticed.)

On top of the city driving, I did about 150 miles of highway driving. This was on a mostly flat and straight section of highway that had a 70 mph speed limit. I kept to the 70 mph speed limit and used cruise control as much as possible.

The final result for the 252 miles of driving was the best logged economy so far: 45.8 mpg. I used our standard fuel pump recording procedure to determine this, but I also watched the Insight's in-car fuel economy gauge to see how the Insight responded to city and highway driving. For the city driving, my average was about 42 mpg. The highway driving had about a 49 mpg average.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Insight Over Recalled Prius?

February 08, 2010

Three different times over the weekend people stopped to ask me if I was pleased I chose the 2010 Honda Insight over the soon-to-be-officially-recalled 2010 Toyota Prius.

"Aren't you glad you went Honda instead of Toyota?" asked a 50-something-year-old guy in the Von's grocery store parking lot.

"Yeah," I muttered as I quickly slid into the Insight's driver's seat.

It was late, I was alone, and I didn't have the heart to tell him that recalled or not, I still prefer the Prius to the Insight.

Will Toyota's latest troubles push you into an Insight over a Prius?

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 12,233 miles

A Hatchback Before a Hybrid

February 12, 2010

I fit the basic profile of a hybrid car owner. I live in Santa Monica. I shop at Trader Joe's, the farmers market and occasionally Whole Foods. I bring my own cloth grocery bags. I buy organic milk. I voted for... well, you get the idea.

I have in the past recommended to friends and family members that they might be happy with a Prius. But not for the obvious reasons. For the hatchback thing.

The main reason I like our 2010 Honda Insight, for example, is that it's a hatchback. No, there's not enough space back here for a large dog and luggage for a family of four. But groceries for four? No problem, and the lightweight liftgate, low liftover and wide opening make them very easy to load.

Here's a thought: Ninety percent of the minute-to-minute satisfaction Insight and Prius owners get from their cars is related to their hatchback body style and its inherent practicality. Once we get past the initial thrill of EPA ratings, American acceptance of hybrids has little to do with fuel economy and plenty to do with a pent-up desire for hatchbacks.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

A Roadtrip From Three POVs

February 15, 2010

I had our 2010 Honda Insight for an 800-mile roundtrip roadtrip I was taking up north this holiday weekend with my brother and editor Jay. Jay was the driver, I was the front-seat passenger and my bro was in the backseat by himself. I present our thoughts about the Insight as a road trip car.

Jay: "The road noise didn't get out of control at freeway speeds as expected, not as big of an issue as I thought but there was wind noise at the A-pillars at freeway speeds. The Insight has a sports car ride but not sports car handling, choppy ride, with short travel. Most prominent thing on a long freeway trip is its directional stability, steering response around center. It's a subtle thing, a lot of drivers probably wouldn't notice that they're making constant corrections but I did. It's a mental drain on a long trip, requiring more concentration than otherwise. We had some crosswinds on the way up and that wasn't helping."

My brother (who's 5'9"): "I didn't mind the legroom when sitting behind Caroline [5'5"]. And the road noise didn't bother me. It was decently comfortable back there and I liked resting my head in that space between the headrests."

As for myself, I was so uncomfortable! The front-passenger seat was shaped in such a way that it felt like it was pushing into the center of my back while the headrest was angled pushing my head forward. I didn't want to tilt my seat too far back since I wanted my brother, who was sitting behind me, to have enough room. I took the couple times we stopped for food, gas, bathroom break as an opportunity to stretch my legs and my back. Even though the car required only one fuel-up each way, the extra stops were mandatory. As for the wind noise initially it was pretty irritating but over the long road trip I was able to block it out.

I did appreciate the extra storage space on the side door for holding my snacks, extra water bottle and my iPhone. And I liked being able to easily scroll through the playlists and songs on my iPod from the car's audio/nav screen. Interestingly enough, the recirc button was effective during drivebys of most of the cattle farms along I-5; all except the huge one near Coalinga. Blech.

Fuel economy for our trip (mostly highway miles) was 36.2 mpg; EPA estimate for highway mpg is 41.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 12,943 miles

Not So Bad

February 24, 2010

I'm talking about the instrument panel. I know a number of you have written about how silly you think it looks. But I like it and here is why.

It puts the info I want right in front of my face in colors that are cool and soothing. I particularly like this design when driving at night. My eyes don't tire of the blue and green glow. I find cars that have red or orange can bother my eyes on long trips.

I like that my traveling speed is positioned higher than the steering wheel so I don't have to look down. I like that the background color changes from blue to green depending on how economically I am driving. I don't have to take my eyes off the road at all. My peripheral vision picks up on the color change.

All of these things may seem odd at first. But it doesn't make the instrument panel bad, just different.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Whaaaat? Shift Paddles?!

February 25, 2010

I drove our long-term 2010 Honda Insight last night, maybe for the second or third time.
But it was my first time to notice the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.

Odd, I thought, because this thing has a CVT. So of course, there's little shift shock when you use them.

The display above the odo (not lit in the pic) indicates the ";gear,"; which goes up to 7.
Just like an F1 car!

So perhaps Honda included the paddles to remind you that this is the Sporty Hybrid, not that boring thing from the Nagoya-based company.

You know, the company with a news update every 15 seconds.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 13,810 miles

Freeway Flyer

March 04, 2010

Probably you remember all those early road tests of hybrid cars in which some bright spark would test one by driving it across the country, hoping to make a point about its indifferent fuel economy. And of course the stories were stupid, really, since all but the congenitally witless knew that the stop-start mechanism of a hybrid is its primary asset in the fuel economy sweepstakes.

So unless you're crawling though awful urban traffic, you're not really making the best use of the Honda Insight. That moment of golden silence at a stoplight when the engine is resting (dead parrot-like) is your reward for being a hybrid owner. Driving the Insight on the freeway is simply a sign of dumbness, neither good for the machine nor good for you.

At least that's what I thought before I drove our Honda Insight to San Diego and back. Left on a Sunday afternoon, came back on a Monday during the evening commute, traveling 75 — 80 mph with traffic. A total of 273.7 miles there and back. Then filled it up with 6.161 gallons of regular. If you're keeping score at home, this is 44.4 mpg.

This seems pretty good to me. Of course, the rap on the Insight is its Honda-style hybrid technology, which really is little more than an extra small displacement engine that shuts down at stoplights to give you the golden moment of silence thing (though the moment doesn't last as long as that in a Prius, which is a big deal for some people), and then gives you a little electric boost at speed as a kind of band-aid for the engine's limp power output.

But still, 44.4 mpg. Maybe the Honda guys are right, and what you want is a car that makes it okay to have a small engine on the freeway where Americans do most of their driving, rather than give you a large engine on city streets so you can keep up with the Ford F-150s.

You know, 44.4 mpg adds up to a cruising range of 471 miles in the Honda Insight. That's enough miles to get a lot of places — and back. Then again, you can get a lot of places much faster in cars other than the Honda Insight. A friend of mine recently drove the 330 miles from Los Angeles to Laguna Seca on an early Sunday morning in a Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and made it in three and a half hours.

Of course, he had to stop for gas — twice.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 13,650 miles

Give Me Some Feedback

March 09, 2010

Maybe's Executive Editor Michael Jordan was right about the 2010 Honda Insight being a worthwhile long-haul car because of its fuel economy. High mpg and infrequent fuel stops are a bonus, to be sure.

But over 70 mph, it feels like the Insight loses contact with the road. Everything feels too light. And I hate that.

I'll take more feedback and an additional gas stop, please.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 14,141 miles

Beyond Sky Blue

March 10, 2010

Honda calls this color Clear Sky Blue Metallic.

I call it Too Blue.

I prefer it to some of the current orange paints, but I wouldn't want to own a car this color. I prefer a nice, bright silver.

How about you?

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 14,217 miles

Eco Score Update

March 12, 2010

Back in October I noted that our eco score - the cumulative measure of how economical our driving habits are - was merely average. Last night, as I pulled into my driveway, I was pleased to see that we've improved to almost a perfect score. We're now at four-and-a-half flowers out of five. Sure, I know, not terribly exciting, but in a eco-car, you gotta make the most out of anything even remotely interesting.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 14,235 miles

Nav/Audio Interface

March 15, 2010

In my weekend with the Insight, I was reminded of how badly Honda's nav/audio interface needs an upgrade. Honda's interface isn't that bad — to its credit, it's got an intuitive layout and is easy to use.

But when compared to the interfaces offered by other manufacturers competing in this price range, it comes off as being a bit behind the curve. I'm not a fan of all those smallish buttons, and the interface doesn't look properly integrated into the center stack. What do you think?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @14,286 miles

Just Like the Mini

March 19, 2010

When you first put on the A/C in the Insight you get that same moldy stench as in the Mini. It clears up after a few minutes but what's up with that? Pew.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

A Few Thoughts from the Garage

March 24, 2010

The more I drive our long-term 2010 Honda Insight, the more I think that Honda really didn't anticipate how vastly improved the 2010 Toyota Prius would be.

For sure, Honda's take two on the Insight is a better-driving car than the second-generation 2004-2009 Priuses that lurk in every Southern California subdivision. But alongside the third-gen Prius, the case for the Insight is much tougher to make. It has a harsher, noisier ride and a smaller, lower-buck cabin. And I don't think the Insight's slightly sportier steering and crisper turn-in are enough to offset this stuff — to say nothing of its lower EPA mpg ratings.

Ultimately, the Insight only works for me if I think of it as a Civic alternative. It's a five-door hatchback and I sure can't get this functionality in a current-gen Civic. And I love its JDM face. You see a bunch of Hondas with this face (mostly Japanese-market Odysseys) if you walk around in Japan, but it's still unusual and fresh looking in the U.S.

So my appreciation for the 2010 Insight is a little shallow, but you might be a little shallow, too, if you parked in this company.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 14,519 miles

Stop Jerking Me Around

March 25, 2010

I don't mind the way the Honda Insight looks. I like its interior features, mostly (not crazy about the seats).

But I don't like its choppy ride. I can't get a smooth start. Honda hybrids have the most awkward transition from electric motor to gasoline engine. Our Honda Accord Hybrid was choppy, the Civic Hybrid was choppy, and the Insight is the choppiest of all. It's especially annoying when caught in stop-and-go traffic. Trying to inch forward from a standing stop is quite comical.

Toyota's Prius and Camry Hybrids are smoother as is the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

What's up, Honda? Is it designed that way to keep me awake?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Elbow Rest

March 29, 2010

Technically, I guess the elbow rest on the Insight's door is a soft-touch surface. It's marginally softer than than the hard plastic found elsewhere on the door, so relative to other surfaces found in the car, yeah — it makes the cut.

But my elbow didn't see it in quite those terms when I banged it on the elbow rest over the weekend. More padding, please! The "padding" feels like little more than some velvety fabric thrown over brutally unyielding plastic. Ouch.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 14,634 miles

Cruise Control and Paddle Shifters

April 12, 2010

This weekend I had our 2010 Honda Insight for a long trek up to Northern California so I had the chance to get acquainted with the cruise control. Turns out, not a huge fan. It's no surprise that it's not responsive when you press the "Accel" button on the steering wheel since this car doesn't have that much power to begin with but when you press "Decel" and have to wait seconds for it to react? Not good. Plus you have to basically hold it down firmly, no quick jabs lasting less than 2 seconds, it seemed. Because of this I found it more effective to downshift with the paddle shifters when I wanted to slow down without pressing the brakes.

Sure, I did appreciate cruise when there weren't any other cars around, but as soon as I saw a car getting on the freeway from the on-ramp, I'd just hit "Cancel" which slows the Insight down faster than if I had just pressed the decelerate button a bunch of times. Eh, maybe it's technique and getting accustomed to the way it works. But just saying, compared to other cruise control systems I've encountered this one isn't all that responsive.

I did like the paddle shifters, though. And I think that "S" on the gearshifter that Donna had mentioned on a previous post is meant for, don't laugh, "sport" mode or manual since it allows for you to solely use the paddle shifters to upshift and downshift. You can still use the paddles for the regular "D" mode, too, but as soon as you press the accelerator or brakes, it clears the gear you initially selected. I do like that.

POST EDIT: Fuel economy for the trip which consisted mostly of highway miles was about 37.6 mpg. Last month the Insight had an average of 38.9 mpg. You caught me; I suffer from lead foot.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 15,808 miles

New Road Game - Punch Prius

April 14, 2010

Driving to and from Sacramento on the I-5 is not my idea of fun, especially in our 2010 Honda Insight. In fact, it's all I can do to stay awake. Fortunately, my ritual of coffee, car karaoke and conversation with my brother helped. But on that last stretch of road before we hit L.A., that last 125 miles or so, boredom was at an all-time high. I just wanted to get home already! Then I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of Priuses on the road — on both the southbound and northbound roads.

"Hey, let's play Punch Bug but with Priuses!" I told my brother. His head bounced up from mid-nodding off. He was down for it...

But after the 10th or so Prius, we both got bored, and terribly bruised. However, out of curiosity, I continued counting till we reached home. It seemed the Toyota hybrid had proliferated like crazy outside the borders of Santa Monica.

Would I be able to spot more Priuses than, say, Insights? The final tally after the jump.

Final Tally of Priuses in 125 miles: 26 (just the 2004-2009 models)
Final Tally of Actual VW Bugs: 5, but 1 if you only count original Beetles

FYI, from Buttonwillow to L.A. I didn't spot any Honda Insights, the old OR new versions.

So I guess the lesson here is only play Punch Prius if you like to punch or get punched a lot. And purchase an Insight over a Prius if you want to differentiate yourself from most hybrid buyers.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

HVAC, Grouped by Function

April 15, 2010

Our long-term 2010 Honda Insight has good HVAC controls, grouped just to the left of the Navi screen. But they're a bit different than other Honda HVAC controls.

There are several HMI (Human Machine Interface) principles on grouping controls:
Group by: 1. Frequency of use, 2. What is standardized convention, 3. Function
(There may be a few others I forgot.)

Our Insight's HVAC controls are grouped function, which is good of course.
But it is also better to have a control in close proximity to the display. That way it's obvious that the control is related to the display, for example, the hard buttons around the radio/Navi display.

But on our Insight, the fan speed is adjacent to the temp display. I kept adjusting the fan speed when I wanted temp adjust. The temp adjust is the rotary knob below, with the small labeling. And this is different than other Honda HVAC setups like our Crosstour shown below with its toggle-type temp switch.

If I was on the Insight Eval team, I would have suggested switching the fan and temp controls.

It's a small point, and I suppose you would get used to it. But you shouldn't have to.

Albert Austria, Senior Vehicle Eval Engineer @ 15,990 miles

Recycling e-Waste

April 26, 2010

Our neighborhood elementary school hosted an e-Waste recycling event on Saturday morning, and I took advantage of the Honda Insight's rear cargo area to haul a bunch of e-Crap over to the school's well-staffed parking lot.

There, a couple of super polite sixth graders happily unloaded a broken laser printer that had been collecting dust in my garage for too many months, plus a fax machine (gasp!), a relic that had never been plugged into a power outlet in my current house, and probably wasn't used in my previous residence either.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 16,419 miles

Telltale Temp Gauge

April 27, 2010

In the meters of our long-term 2010 Honda Insight EX, the space where an engine temperature gauge would normally go is replaced by a hybrid/IMA Assist and Charge meter. This shows you when the IMA is helping or when the hybrid battery is getting juiced up.

So instead of the temp gauge you get this lame blue telltale that is lit when the engine is cold.
I suppose that when it goes out it would then be safe to commence flogging.

But you need not be concerned with that. After all, it is a Hybrid.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 16,435 miles

Paddle Shifters Perfect for Gridlock

May 03, 2010

OK, so our 2010 Honda Insight isn't a fun car to drive but I do love, love, love those paddle shifters for around-town driving, especially in L.A. traffic. Since I had to drive from Santa Monica to Pasadena to Long Beach this weekend, and most of that involved sitting in gridlock, I appreciated being able to slow down without having to press the brakes all the time. I don't put the gearshift in "S" since the paddle shifters still work without my having to do that. Plus it clears the gear automatically as soon as you accelerate or brake. Makes it really easy to just sit back and relax, foot hovering over the brake pedal of course. Might as well since we're not going anywhere any time soon.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 16,922 miles

Almost a Flat Floor

May 05, 2010

I always like the little things Honda does, and there are plenty of well executed details in our 2010 Honda Insight. Take the floor in the backseat. It's not perfectly flat, with the way Honda has packaged the exhaust, but there's still not much of a lump.

As a result, the rear-seat area feels more spacious than it otherwise would and you could easily accommodate three elementary-schoolers. Or, if you just have 2 adults back here, they'll have more space for their feet and likely find the modest 33.5 inches of legroom more bearable.

Of course, Honda managed to execute a perfectly flat floor in the Fit and Civic, so if you want to get picky, maybe Honda's five-door hybrid still doesn't quite measure up.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

Kink in HandsFree Link

May 06, 2010

I jumped into the Honda Insight EX last week for a trip from LA to Palm Spring, thinking I'd have time to catch up on a few phone calls on the two-hour-plus freeway drive. Before taking off I hit the Bluetooth HandsFree Link/Voice Command button on the bottom-left quadrant of the steering wheel, also thinking that pairing my iPhone 3GS would be a snap.

But it wasn't. And I'm familiar with the HFL system and know its quirks since I compared the vehicle's tech against a Prius for an feature story. The system kept looking for a previously paired phone, and I got trapped in a loop until I realized I needed to delete a previously paired phone before I could pair mine.

Before you start bitching that this is a minor car journalist gripe — and you'd be partially correct, since if you drive the car on a daily basis this probably wouldn't happen — I have to point out that one of the pitfalls of the HFL system is that it only allows pairing a phone via the Voice Command system, and not using the touchscreen. If I could have seen that the system's phone capacity was full I could have saved myself a lot of frustration. Otherwise there's no way to know.

So HandsFree Link in the Honda Insight didn't pass my litmus test on how easy it is to pair a phone with a Bluetooth system, which is to ask: Would my mom be able to use this system?

Or your mama.

Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology,

Hey Insight, Can We Talk?

May 10, 2010

I drove our Honda Insight over the weekend and I didn't like it. To borrow the old break up line, my dear Insight, it's not you, it's me.

You're perfectly fine for who you are. We had a great time over the weekend driving up to the Bay Area and taking Mom out for a Dim Sum Mothers Day brunch. Sure you got great mileage driving down the coast (41mpg), a bunch of cargo space for my photo gear and I really appreciated that, but overall I find you annoying.

The reason I think you're annoying wasn't because I found your regenerative brakes grabby and jerky, nor your hybrid system that hesitated a lot when I hit the gas or even the weak gas engine you've got. I didn't like you because you didn't mold to my driving style and I wasn't willing to change. Driving you is killing who I am.

I'm sure there are a lot of fish out there that really get who you are and can really appreciate just how special you are on the inside, but that person isn't me. Maybe other people are willing to change their driving style to get the most out of you, but I like who I am.

Besides, I don't want to be mean but the new Mustang has got over 300 hp and is getting 30 mpg. Take care and have a good life.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

Perfect for L.A. "Freeways"

May 12, 2010

Other than the whole "it takes two to three times longer than it should" aspect of traveling on L.A.'s perpetually clogged "freeways", there is something else that bugs me. I'm talking about the wasteful sight of all those vehicles sitting there with their engines running, usurping a finite resource and polluting the air while they're going zero mph.

It was there, in the urban jungle, that I felt really good about driving the Insight as it efficiently shut off its engine whenever I hit the "stop" portion of my stop-and-go commute. Though all true hybrids do this, it still made my six-mile, 30-minute (that's not too bad — it sometimes stretches to 45 minutes) drive home a little less annoying.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 17,982 miles

Wide Open Spaces

May 17, 2010

I have a new cup. At a stoplight this morning, as I was pulling it out of the cupholder in our long-term Honda Insight to take a swig, the cup's silicone sleeve stuck slightly to the cupholder, and I ended up discovering that the cupholder/middle storage compartment section of the center console is removable. Granted, cupholder and console inserts are often removable to facilitate cleaning, but the proximity of the removable piece to other storage areas in the center console turns this area into a bigger storage spot for those who are anti-in-car-beverage.

That's a credit card-size parking pass, for scale.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, @ 18,234 miles

Day 1 on the Disabled List

May 19, 2010

I injured myself last Thursday, and as such it's left me incapable of driving a manual-equipped car. That means I cannot drive seven of the 15 long-term cars available during the week and I also cannot drive my own car. As such, keeper of the keys Mike Schmidt was kind enough to set me up with an automatic-equipped ride for the next few weeks while I'm on the DL.

I'm certainly lucky to be in the car situation I am, but after one night in the Mini E, I politely asked for something else as the stiff steering made it rather difficult for me to maneuver at low speeds. The big side bolsters were also a detriment. With my head hung low, I had to do what months ago I swore I would never do: I requested to drive the Insight. Its low-effort steering, wide seats and light doors were indeed a big help last night.

So over the next few weeks I'll have the unique opportunity to report about a single car over an extended period of time as well as what it's like to drive with limited physical abilities.

And yes, you'll note I haven't said what I've done to myself. I prefer to let wild rumors run rampant for a while.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor on the DL @ 18,267 miles

The Future Plan

May 20, 2010

While I was at an alternative fuels conference last week, I stopped by the Honda booth to check out their electric vehicle (EV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) offerings. No joy.

You see, according to the handouts at their booth, hybrids are as close as Honda will get to EVs (at least publicly, for now). Honda is banking on natural gas vehicles (NGVs) and hydrogen fuel cells for their future plan.

I like the idea of more natural gas vehicles. The long-term Civic we had drove like a normal underpowered compact, and the fuel is somewhat plentiful and domestically produced (no nation-building required). I also drove the FCX Clarity and was amazed by the fuel cell stack technology and driveability, but using electricity to turn hydrogen into electricity is a bit of circular logic to me.

And I like hybrids a lot: with these you can have a larger vehicle that still gets decent fuel economy, with no disruption to infrastructure. However, a lot of petro fuel comes from countries that hate us. And though evolving, producing a long-life energy-rich battery that is well-adapted to the harsh vehicle environment still challenges.

So I like NGVs the best of the alternative fuel options, but they're dead: most people want hybrids, including plug-ins.

How about you? Any of these technologies appeal to you, or do you prefer good-ol' dino juice?

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ ~18,400 miles

Day 3 on the Disabled List

May 21, 2010

So given my injury, which had nothing to do with dancing or curling (I've only been injured doing one of those in the past), I'm constantly coming up with ways to make my life a little less strenuous. While the Insight's electric power steering makes low-speed maneuvers easier than most cars south of Toyota, there have been times this week when I could've pulled into a parking spot a little smoother and quicker, and with less strain on my wrist.

Then I thought of those knobs you used to see on old timey cars without power steering and on some ride-on lawn mowers. I thought, "hey, why not go down to Pep Boys and pick one up." Well, as Magrath was quick to point out, they're illegal in California and most states because (for one) they live up to their suicide knob label. I guess planting your head on one during a crash is nastier than just ramming your head into an airbagless wheel hub. They're also bound to make people even lazier and prone to wildly excessive steering inputs.

This made me wonder why Magrath was so well versed on the legality of suicide knobs in California, but also had me checking to see if they're permissible for use by people with disabilities. And whataya know, they seem to be. Given the temporary nature of my "disability" and the fact I'm perfectly capable of steering the Insight, I think I'll pass on the suicide/brodie/granny knob. Should things take a turn for the worse and they have to hack off my left arm, though, I think I'll set myself up with one of those wicked cool skull head knobs. It totally goes with the Insight.

P.S. Someone did correctly guess my injury and the circumstances on Wednesday

James Riswick, Automotive Editor on the DL @ 18,294 miles

Why are Keys so Fat?

May 24, 2010

Why is it that the part of a car key that you have to stick into a key ring is so damn fat? With rare exception, modern keys have these chunky plastic ends that make it nearly impossible to fit through that tight little key ring without breaking a nail, forever separating the ring wires or coming up with new usages for words that rhyme with duck. And it's not just the thickness, the plastic (often rounded) doesn't create a sharp enough edge to force open the metal ring.

With the Insight in my custody for a while, I thought I'd divorce it from its giant leather key tag Honda insists on placing on its press car keys (don't get me started on that) and put the fob/key on my own key ring. Five minutes and a Takahashi later, old one-armed Riswick managed to get the thing on the ring. This is obviously not a Honda or even a recent issue. Check out my ancient BMW key. Same problem. And actually, these aren't the worst — Ford's is enormous and square shaped.

Volkswagen/Audi and GM are the only entities I can think of at the moment that places a thin metal piece at the end of their flip fob. Actually, the regular GM key is also pretty thin as well though not made of metal. It's a simple thing and something you don't have to deal with much, but it's an irritant nevertheless.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor on the DL

Day 8 on the DL

May 25, 2010

It's been a week in the Insight and oddly, I haven't gotten sick of it. That can probably be chalked up to only commuting 18.4 total miles daily through heavy traffic and only briefly getting to "enjoy" the brittle ride coupled to excessive high-speed wind noise. I also haven't been chauffeuring around anyone, so the lack of back seat headroom hasn't been an issue.

As a strictly commuter appliance, then, I've found the Insight to be pleasant. Its stereo has actually been the most surprising element of the car this week, as it exhibits relatively strong bass and crisp sound quality even through the iPod interface. I figure if you're going to be stuck in traffic, that's a pretty good attribute to have.

I'll be turning over the Insight to John DiPietro for a few days so he can put some long-distance miles on it, and in the meantime, I'll be heading into Ye Olde Prius. It'll be interesting to see how commuting life is in Toyota hybrid land. Hopefully I don't career wildly into a tree.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor on the DL @ 18,359 miles

2010 Honda Insight Takes on Highway 198

June 01, 2010

For this holiday weekend I took our 2010 Honda Insight to San Francisco. Since this would be the third time I've had to take our Insight on a long road trip up north, I decided to switch things up and take a fun road: Highway 198 through Coalinga from the 5 to the 101. And true, this hybrid is not a driver's car, so all those cool switchbacks and off-camber corners would be lost on it, but I just wanted to do something different with it and break up the monotony of the 400-mile trip.

Fortunately, even though this was Memorial Day weekend, the 198 was pretty clear. I didn't drive the Insight like I'd drive, say, a Mini S and it was still enjoyable. Maybe it was the curves, the beautiful scenery, the sunny day, regardless, that hybrid technology didn't dampen my drive. And those paddle shifters really came in handy. I was even able to pass several pickup trucks and even a convertible 3 Series.

By the way, I was a little concerned when the "Service Due Soon" warning message came on to signal that oil life is at 15%, but after reading the owner's manual, I was assured that I'd only have to really worry when that message changes to "Service Due Now," which it didn't and still hasn't.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 19,478 miles

Time for Service

June 10, 2010

Just like Erin's post in December, our friendly Honda Insight popped up a little Maintenance Minder message the other day, but this one is B1. And unlike our Prius's cryptic "Maint Reqd" light, it turns out this B1 thing is pretty specific.

Besides a bunch of additional inspection items that the A1 service didn't require, many of you will be happy to notice B1 does call for a new oil filter.

According to the manual, the car is asking for the following:

The "B" part:

Replace engine oil and oil filter, Inspect front and rear brakes, Check parking brake adjustment, Inspect these items: Tie rod ends, steering gear box, and boots, Suspension components, Driveshaft boots, Brake hoses and lines (including ABS/VSA), All fluid levels and condition of fluids, Exhaust system, Fuel lines and connections.

And the "1" part: Rotate tires.

Since A1's simple oil change/tire rotation should have cost us $40, but ended up being $73.44 (oof), we have our doubts that this one is going to less expensive. According to's itemized Maintenance Guide for this car, the total cost should be about $65 bucks. We'll see. Maybe we can convince Dan to do another weekend DIY project.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 14,775 miles

Serviced and Good to Go

June 11, 2010

I didn't have an appointment and there were several vehicles ahead of me, but it took just an hour and 40 minutes today for the service department at a local Honda dealership to change the Insight's oil, rotate its tires and do the familiar no-charge safety inspection (which, blessedly, did not lead to any upselling).

As Chris Walton predicted yesterday in this post, the tab was not the $40.70 estimated by the Edmunds Maintenance Guide. Nor was it less than the $73.44 we paid at the Insight's last service, back in December. I paid $75.38. But that should hold us for awhile.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @ 19,962

Green Meets Greene & Greene

June 14, 2010

On the second Sunday of every month, there's a mammoth swap meet at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Thinking that maybe we'd buy something bigger than a breadbox (and I have bought things like 1950s breadboxes there), my husband and I went there in the Insight. The car's folding rear seats, yielding 31.5 cubic feet of cargo-hauling space, could let us bring home something that wouldn't fit in our other cars, which are short on carrying capacity.

But as luck would have it, there was nothing we wanted to buy — big or small. After shopping, we took the greener-than-green Insight to a nearby Pasadena landmark of the arts and crafts movement: the Gamble House, built in 1908 by architects Greene and Greene. It fits right in, don't you think?

Suspense in the Fast Lane

June 18, 2010

I love my 10-year-old Acura TL, but it's definitely an antique when it comes to its audio system (AM-FM/ CD changer, and — wait for it — cassette player). I'm addicted to recorded books, but my aftermarket solution for in-car listening to the scads of books I have on my iPod is completely inadequate for city driving, relying as it does on finding a clear FM channel on the very crowded L.A. band.

So while there are a lot of things I don't like about driving the Insight, such as its sluggish acceleration and less-than-posh interior, I am enjoying its (relatively) simple-to-use iPod interface. Listening to a mystery by Swedish writer Henning Mankell really makes the miles fly by. Who did kill that Latvian police major, anyway?

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @20,211 miles

I Kind of Want One

June 24, 2010

There seems to be a lot of negativity around these parts towards the 2010 Honda Insight. It's not the most solid riding car and it's slow — slower than the Traverse — and the fuel economy isn't as good as the Prius.

But you know what? If I were in the market for a new car tomorrow, the Honda Insight would be high on my list. Keep reading for the why....

Let's do this bullet-point style for simplicity on both my end, and when you inevitably disagree with whatever it is I'm saying.

1) Fuel economy. I drove the Insight for 4 days, put some 300 mostly-city miles on the car and averaged about 37 mpg. That's great! When I drive my car — a Mazda 3 — I get about 18.

2) On my way into the office this morning my top speed was 41 mph. If I had a Vbox hooked up, you would have seen that I hit that speed in approximately 6.5-6.7 minutes. I walk to the grocery store, I take surface streets to work. For my life, I could deal with fewer horsepower than the Insight offers.

3) iPod and Nav are easy and let you use them while moving. In this day and age, that's an epic win.

4) It's not a Prius. Nothing against the Prius, except that I can't tolerate the switches/buttons/navigation system. It's a maddengly restrictive system that barely works while moving and is generally designed for people just landing on Earth stepping into a car for the first time. No thanks. Not for me. Plus the steering. And the big flat seats.

5) They don't make a Ford Fusion Hybrid wagon. I won't buy a sedan. Never have, never will. I need the space/flexibility of a hatch/wagon. Plus, hatches look better.

6) The steering wheel in the Insight is inarguably the second best steering wheel in the world. (Current M3, of course, being the best.) And it steers the car well. There is no accounting for being comfortable holding the steering wheel. That can make-or-break a car. If you don't like the one thing you HAVE to touch, what's the point?

7) It looks cool. Shut up. It does.

Now the negatives that I'd have to consider

-1) Air conditioning is WEAK.

-2) No sunroof.

-3) No truly keyless entry/ignition. It's a convenience I really value and will absolutely pay for on my next car.

And while those aren't the things I'd put weight on in a review, when I'm buying a car, those are the things I want. And those, above, are the things I want. And it's why, come December, I'll be trolling Honda lots alongside Ford (Fiesta?!) Mazda (2) and others looking for my next car.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assitant @ 20,400 miles


Fifteen years ago, the hybrid vehicle movement began in earnest. First it was a whisper on the floor of the Tokyo Motor Show. Then it gathered momentum among the masses until, before we knew it, the hybrid party seized control of the automotive world. No longer would we suffer beneath the oppressive thumb of high-displacement engines and partially burned hydrocarbons. We were saved. And at the forefront of this hybrid vehicle movement stood the Toyota Prius.

Just years into the reign of the Prius in Japan came the first Honda Insight. It looked goofy and wasn't as widely accepted as the Toyota, but it showed Honda could play the hybrid game, too, and it was sold in America.

The first Insight came and went as the Prius continued to gain momentum. But for 2010 the Honda Insight returned. Honda built this Insight in the image of its greatest competitor. It now looked just as awkward, just as functional and just as eco-friendly as the Prius. But Honda had a catch. It did all of this for less money.

Why We Got It
This wasn't the first long-term Honda Insight in our garage. We leased a 2000 Honda Insight well before the long-term blog was an itch in The Mechanic's pants. By lease end, we were left with just three words: "quirky, attention magnet." That was 10 years ago. A lot has happened since then. So we were due for an Insight refresher course.

After a decade-long hiatus, the 2010 Honda Insight was also all-new. The Insight took a slightly simpler approach to the hybrid equation than the Prius to which it would always be compared. The Insight wedged a thin, flywheel-size electric motor between the engine and transmission to form its hybrid system. Honda named this mechanism IMA, or Integrated Motor Assist. IMA is a less complicated system than those seen in competitive Toyota and Ford products. The end result is a less expensive hybrid. Did a cheaper hybrid make for a less fuel-efficient hybrid? We were interested to find out. So we joined the Santa Monica chapter of Hell's Hypermilers and cleared our calendars. Gosh, it was going to be an exciting year.

Those of us with primarily street-level commutes accepted the Insight's hybrid persona and unique driving quirks. On the highway, it was less appealing. Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh noted following a long commute up Interstate 5 to Northern California, "The road noise didn't get out of control at freeway speeds as I expected. But there was wind noise at the A-pillars at freeway speeds. This Insight has a sports car ride but not sports car handling; it feels choppy thanks to a lack of wheel travel. Perhaps the most prominent thing on a long freeway trip is its directional stability and steering response around center. It's a subtle thing. Most drivers probably wouldn't notice that they're making constant corrections, but I did. This characteristic of its electric steering is a mental drain on a long trip, requiring more concentration than it should."

In the slalom this car will rotate and oversteer dramatically if provoked.

Deputy Managing Editor Caroline Pardilla found herself as passenger on that same stretch of Interstate 5. "I was uncomfortable! The front passenger seat was shaped in such a way that it felt like it was pushing into the center of my back while the headrest was angled pushing my head forward. I didn't want to tilt my seat too far back since I wanted my brother, who was sitting behind me, to have enough room. I took the chance to stretch my legs and back whenever we stopped for food, gas and bathroom breaks. Even though the car required only one fuel-up each way, the extra stops were mandatory. As for the wind noise, initially it was pretty irritating but over the long road trip I was able to block it out."

We drove the 2010 Honda Insight for more than 20,000 miles. Aside from visits to Honda of Santa Monica for routine maintenance, the Honda was impervious to wear and tear. It only cost us $150 over the 12-month test period. Interior items remained as-new for the duration of the test. There were no warranty items to speak of. And we managed not to crash, or get crashed into, for an entire year, a feat in itself.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 12 months): $148.82
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: None
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: None
Days Out of Service: None
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None

Performance and Fuel Economy
We didn't add a Honda Insight to bask in its handling prowess or white-knuckled acceleration. It was all about fuel economy. But there were some surprises at our test track.

Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton commented, "With ESC off, the limit of grip is easily found at terminal understeer, yet there is a sense of balance here that is unexpected. Steering is slightly springy but precise. In the slalom this car will rotate and oversteer dramatically if provoked. It's lively in a good way but likely due in part to hard Dunlop SP tires." Dynamic tests remained relatively consistent between tests. The Insight completed the slalom at 62.4 mph and generated 0.77g of lateral grip on the skid pad. Acceleration from a stop to 60 mph arrived in 10.9 seconds (10.5 with 1 foot of rollout) en route to an expectedly leisurely quarter-mile time of 17.9 seconds @ 77.8 mph.

People get an Insight for the fuel economy benefits, and so did we. Our average over 20,000 miles of mixed driving was almost 39 mpg. On one particular stretch during our Fuel Sipper Smackdown we maxed out just shy of 46 mpg. We spent a day flogging the helpless Insight at our test track in order to achieve its worst, 24 mpg, showing.

Best Fuel Economy: 45.8 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 24.0 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 38.7 mpg

Retained Value
At the time of this story, Edmunds' TMV® Calculator could not accurately calculate the used value of our 2010 Honda Insight. Not enough sales transactions have occurred thus far to satisfy our internal statistical standards. In short, people aren't selling their Insights. If we had to derive an estimated private-party sale value based on these limited sales figures it is $19,248. This figure equates to 19 percent depreciation from its original MSRP of $23,810.

True Market Value at service end: Not available
Depreciation: Not available
Final Odometer Reading: 20,409

Summing Up
The 2010 Honda Insight marks the first time we've seen the Toyota Prius flinch during its long reign over the hybrid world. When it comes to affordable hybrid technology, the Honda Insight is a worthy adversary. But not many know it. Prius remains synonymous with the word "hybrid." It's the new Kleenex. And for that reason, it maintains a dominant position in the segment.

Honda tried a unique approach with the Insight. It delivered a less expensive Prius. But the nature of its affordability also made it less fuel-efficient. Hybrid shoppers are finicky. Sales figures support that they would rather gain 3-4 mpg buying a Prius than gain a couple thousand dollars in their pocket buying an Insight. Honda still has some ground to make up here.

Early residual value calculations for the Insight are promising, and build quality is top-notch. If a year with the 2010 Honda Insight taught us anything about the popularity of hybrids within our fleet, it's that being a hatchback is still more important than being a hybrid. If we were in the market for a hybrid, we would certainly consider the Insight.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.