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2010 Honda Insight Review

The original 2000 Honda Insight was a two-seater that looked superficially like a CRX. A few months after it's debut came the original Toyota Prius sedan, and Honda's reign as king of the hybrids was over. The practicality of four doors trumped the Insight's superior fuel economy, and the little coupe faded from the public's mind. It even faded from Honda's mind as the company concentrated on hybrid versions of the Civic and, for a while, the Accord. Yet neither of those cars ever gained the traction that Toyota did with the Prius.

On Earth Day, the 2010 Honda Insight will give the Toyota Prius something it has never really had: A direct competitor. Similar in size, shape and mission, the 2010 Insight offers two primary advantages over the Toyota Prius. First, it's considerably cheaper, costing a few thousand dollars less than the Prius. Second - and to my mind, this is more important - it's actually fun to drive.

Engine & Drivetrain

Like any hybrid, a good chunk of the 2010 Honda Insight's story is under the hood. The 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine connects to an electric motor sandwiched between the engine and the transmission. The layout's name is self descriptive - Integrated Motor Assist - since the integrated electric motor assists the gasoline engine. Combined, they motivate the Insight's 2,700 lbs with 98 hp and 123 lb.-ft. of torque, allowing me to use a rarely uttered word to describe it's acceleration: quick. The engine/motor combo is connected to a belt-type continuously-variable transmission that can be ordered with paddle-type shifters mounted on the steering wheel in EX models.

Honda programmed the Insight's electronic throttle to provide some snap, a characteristic that you can't really use to describe the current Toyota Prius. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not like you'll be laying rubber at every stoplight, but the Insight benefits from Honda's philosophy of generally making it's cars entertaining to drive. It also benefits from being a darn good hybrid; during the regular drive loop, it easily stayed in the high 30s, and that was with quite a bit of throttle-romping. I also managed an average well into the 40s on a mileage loop that Honda set up for us, and that was without even tryingit got more than 65 mpg when I tried a few hypermiling tricks.

Ride & Handling

The Toyota Prius taught the world that saving fuel with a gadget-laden car is possible, but not much fun. The 2010 Honda Insight's mission, it seems, is to erase that impression. Again, the Insight is no Civic Si, but in the world of hybrids - and especially compared to the dull-as-dishwater Prius - the Insight is a relative sport sedan. The suspension is taut, providing a firm and controlled ride. I can actually see it turning off some buyers, as the Insight isn't as adept at squashing bumps as the Prius.

But the payoff is in handling. The 2010 Insight actually feels comfortable taking a corner quickly, kind of like a Honda Fit with a fat guy in the rear seat. That's because, mechanically, that's true: The Insight is built off the same basic platform as Honda's subcompact, and the battery pack and electronic control module is tucked under the rear seats. So it shares the independent front and beam-axle rear suspension, and the little Fit's willingness to be pushed harder than you expect.

The ride is taut, and the steering is nicely weighted and firm. While not particularly communicative, it doesn't have any of the weird boost effect that afflict many other electric steering systems. Same with the brakes, in which the clumsy non-linear feel of other hybrid regenerative braking systems is absent. If the Insight does one thing well, it's to erase the impression that hybrids have to feel weird from behind the wheel.

Interior & Exterior

Part of the fun in the Insight comes from the way the car interacts with it's driver. The dash lighting changes from blue for when you're hammering the throttle to green for when you're driving in a more eco-friendly manner. There's also a mode on the electronic display that (seriously, now) grows electronic flowers the "greener" you drive. OK, it all sounds silly when it's explained, but it's nearly impossible to not play the game of grow-the-flowers or stay-in-the-green when you're driving.

That's the point. By staying in the green zone and trying to grow leaves on your flowers, you're staying in the most efficient part of the Insight's ability. It's easier to do if you stay in the "Econ" mode, activated by a green button the dash. This modulates the throttle to be less sensitive, and pulls a few other tricks to maximize fuel economy.

Best thing is if you take away all the greenie tech, the Insight is still a pretty nice place to spend time. It's narrow and a little noisy under wide-open throttle, but there's plenty of head room, and even rear seat passengers will be comfortable, at least for a while. With nearly 16 cu.-ft. of cargo space behind the rear seats, there's plenty of room for all your junk, and plenty of storage for small items.

It doesn't lack for equipment, either. The Insight LX comes with power windows, door locks, automatic climate control and a host of other goodies. Step up to the EX and you get a better audio system with a USB input, paddle shifters for the automatic, a center console storage bin/armrest and stability control. The EX Navi adds a navigation system.

The exterior styling is superficially similar to the Prius, but according to Honda that shape is dictated more by aerodynamics than a desire to crib off the bestseller. It does have a distinctively Honda face, looking a lot like the FCX Clarity, and the rear even echoes the original Insight.

Posted in Home Post Date 08/29/2018


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