Sunday, September 18, 2011

Honda Insight review: why does it get such a bad rap?

The car I was driving in my previous post on the Ferrari 458 was the Honda Insight, one of my favorite Zipcars because of its lower hourly cost compared to gas-powered cars. While the Prius is overall a better car than the Insight, there are many things I actually like about the Insight. Contrary to just about every review out there, I actually don't mind driving the Insight. Click through to see my impressions:

In a number of ways, the Honda Insight is very similar to the Toyota Prius, especially from the side profile. The original Insight from the late-'90s was the first mainstream hybrid to hit US dealerships, even before the Prius. It was a weird-looking 3-door hatchback that looked like it needed training wheels. Honda attempted to make the car as aerodynamic as possible, and in the process, probably alienated certain prospective buyers. However, in the latest iteration, the Insight looks mainstream, yet refreshingly futuristic.

The front end looks great - more so than the more bland-looking Prius. The traditional 3-bar Honda grille, which looks ghastly on the Crosstour, looks much better on the Insight. The plastic around the headlights has an interesting blue tint that adds to the car's mystique.

Compared to the Prius, the Insight accelerates slower, but neither car is fast by any means. The Insight's engine sounds like a lawn-mower and accelerates at only one speed - slow. However, you're not buying a 5-door hybrid for performance; you're buying it for gas mileage, status, and for the environment (all worthy causes in my book). The Insight's regenerative braking is an awesome idea that all cars (including gas-powered ones) should have, and it makes for fairly responsive braking.

I was disappointed by the crummy plastic hubcaps, which can't be very aerodynamic. The original Insight had distinct flat alloy wheels that appeared to easily cut through the wind.

The Insight's interior does not have the fit and finish of the Prius, but it is also priced lower than Prius. The layout is much simpler and filled with hard plastics, but the dashboard is pleasantly contoured, similar to the Honda Fit and now-defunct Acura RSX. If you keep in mind that the Insight targets economy hybrid buyers, it isn't so bad.

Simple yet trendy, the Insight's radio and A/C controls are easy to figure out and look appealing. This base model does not have the trademark computer screen the Prius has, but who needs that anyway? It only adds to the sticker price.

One thing I love about the Insight (and Civic Hybrid) dashboard is the little blue light surrounding the speedometer, which turns green when you are using the electric motor (i.e., when you lift off the gas or hit the brakes). For me, driving the Insight becomes somewhat of a videogame to keep the light green as long as possible, especially given the inherent lack of power in the engine.

The final comment I would make is how practical the Insight is. I had to buy some large pillows and bedding and the Insight easily fit the large packages in the spacious trunk. The only problem with the design of the Insight (and the Prius) is that the spoiler cuts right into my rearview visibility. Otherwise, I think this 5-door hatchback is a great design concept. Overall, I would definitely consider buying the Insight if I was looking for a hybrid given its lower price point, intelligent color-coded dashboard, spacious trunk, and scarcity value - you don't see as many on the road as the relatively ubiquitous Prius, so the Insight is much more of a head-turner.


  1. I like the design better than the Prius. The back end is much more appealing. I don't think I have ever seen one on the road though. I would like to text drive one to see what the power is like .... will I miss acceleration?

  2. @ Warren: Definitely not a fast car, but pleasant to drive. Despite being cheaper than a Prius, it is still relatively expensive. Agree that the car's scarcity value is quite intriguing - everyone has a Prius, but you can really differentiate yourself with the Insight.

  3. The Honda Accord is an easy drive with good manners regardless of model, engine or transmission. More Info .