The 2010 Honda Insight brings back the name borne by Honda's first hybrid car, which was also North America's first hybrid, sold from 2000 to 2006. Now, rather than a two-seat runabout, it's a five-seat hatchback that's intended to beat the Toyota Prius in terms of price and just about every non-hybrid in terms of mileage. Pricing will be released closer to the April 2009 on-sale date. There are two trim levels, LX and EX, differentiated more by features than by appearance.
Though it shares some of its underlying structure with the Fit, Honda's smallest car, the Insight is a dedicated, hybrid-only model. Its nose looks more like Honda's FCX Clarity experimental fuel-cell car than the cutesy Fit. It recalls the Prius' aerodynamic profile and wedge-shaped tail. The LX and EX are practically the same on the outside; the EX has alloy rather than steel wheels and it adds turn-signal lights to the side mirrors.
The Insight's interior volume qualifies it as a compact, though it's slightly less accommodating than the Fit. The interior quality is good, but expect no difference in upholstery or finish between the LX and EX. They share the same cloth seats; leather isn't offered. The EX adds features like a center console/armrest, cruise control, and shift paddles and audio buttons on the steering wheel. A navigation system is optional.
The backseat accommodates two quite well and three in a pinch. The Insight is only the second hybrid car, along with the Prius, to include a full-folding backseat that extends the cargo area.
Under the Hood
Like other Honda hybrids, the Insight uses an electric motor to assist in acceleration and to recharge the battery pack when braking or coasting. It drives like any car. Though it technically can accelerate a little bit on electric power without burning fuel, the gas engine continues turning, so the experience isn't as silent and alien as it is in many hybrids.
The EPA-estimated gas mileage is 40/43 mpg city/highway, though drivers have achieved significantly better results in some conditions.
Safety features include side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags for both rows of seats and antilock disc/drum brakes. An electronic stability system with traction control is available on the EX trim level.