August 12, 2010
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.
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
November 16, 2009
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 iPodinterface. 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
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?
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
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 Edmunds.com'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
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
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
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
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.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor on the DL @ 18,294 miles
P.S. Someone did correctly guess my injury and the circumstances on Wednesday