2010 Toyota Prius vs. 2010 Honda Insight: The Commute


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  • 23.2 miles in a little over an hour
  • Average speed: 20 mph
  • Average mileage: 60.6 mpg

Before you shake your head in disbelief at the mileage figure, it was a nice 60-degree day so I didn’t use air conditioning — just vents (both cars went through the same treatment in this regard). I also used the electric-only EV mode for approximately 2.4 miles during the bumper-to-bumper portion of the drive, which was well under 20 mph. That really ratcheted up the mileage, but I think any Prius owner would use the EV mode in such a way since it is just a simple button push. It also gives you something to do while you’re sitting in traffic listening to traffic reports.

The Prius was a pleasant commute car with a nice sounding stereo that lacked an USB iPod interface, relatively comfortable seats and a sedate ride. Besides hitting that EV button, driving the Prius seemed like piloting any other car. At least in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The afternoon commute went like this:

  • 23.9 miles in about 45 minutes
  • Average speed: 19 mph
  • Average mileage: 55.0 mpg
  • 23.6 miles in about 70 minutes
  • No average speed display
  • Average mileage: 43.1 mpg

I hauled a two-drawer legal-sized filing cabinet in the Insight’s cargo area with the rear seats down, which weighed things down quite a bit. While a lot of my colleagues think the Insight has a rough ride, I found that in bumper-to-bumper traffic there’s nothing really detracting from the ride, which is much like my experience in the Prius. What bugged me most in the Insight was how far you had to reach to fiddle with the stereo system. I liked that the model we tested had an USB iPod port, though.

However, the seats were nowhere near as comfortable as the Prius’ were. Our Insight was an EX model with a few minor upgrades that raised its price close to the Prius’ starting price, $21,300 and $22,000 respectively.

The ride home again was more wide open:

  • 23.5 miles in about 40 minutes
  • Average mileage: 45.3 mpg

This is where you can see the difference between the two cars’ hybrid systems. The Prius does better in slower bumper-to-bumper traffic, and the Insight’s mileage improves in higher-speed settings. Like the Prius, wind noise was really bad in the Insight at high speeds. Winds were also whipping something fierce — about 30 mph — during this afternoon commute, but the thin glass on both cars was a real detriment.

What does this exercise mean to you, the potential hybrid buyer? If you have a commute with light traffic, the Insight will return better mileage than its EPA ratings of 40/43 mpg city/highway. Whether you deal with heavy or light traffic in your commute, the Prius has good mileage while providing a better atmosphere for the driver. 

Photo of David Thomas
Former managing editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David Thomas

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