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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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, Edmunds.com
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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 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
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
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?
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, Inside Line @ 3,621 miles.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
July 14, 2009
You tell me. What's missing in this picture?
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 957 miles