Should Honda Bother With a Manual Gearbox Again? - 2009 Honda Insight Long-Term Road Test

2009 Honda Insight Long Term Road Test

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2009 Honda Insight: Should Honda Bother With a Manual Gearbox Again?

July 22, 2009

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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?


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