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2001 Honda Insight

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starting MSRP

Key specs

Base trim shown


Body style


Seating capacity

155.1” x 53.3”


Front-wheel drive



1 trim

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2001 Honda Insight trim comparison will help you decide.

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2001 Honda Insight review: Our expert's take

By Editors

Honda Insight now comes with automatic, a continuously variable transmission that not only frees the driver from the terrible hassle of having to shift gears but that actually doesn’t need to shift at all.

But first, let’s get one thing straight. Even though Insight has an electric motor and a bunch of batteries, it never has to be plugged in. Never ever. There is no plug. But you do have to fill it with gasoline. Got that?

Although Insight has been out for a couple of years, many people labor under the misconception that this gasoline-electric hybrid, and the similarly powered Toyota Prius, need to be recharged by plugging them into a recharging unit of some kind.

But that’s not how it works. In both Insight and Prius, a small gasoline engine is supplemented by an electric motor that boosts the power under acceleration or hill climbing. In turn, the gas engine provides the power to recharge the batteries.

In the case of the Insight, the slim electric motor slipped in between the engine and transmission runs as a generator when the gas engine is working alone, and especially under deceleration. Regenerative braking also helps with the recharging.

The gasoline motor is a tiny 1-liter, three-cylinder mill that couldn’t get out of its own way if not for the electric-motor boost. The overall effect is a little car that runs pretty much as well as a regular gasoline car, only with mileage that is much improved. Insight has the best gas mileage of any vehicle sold in the United States.

The horsepower and torque ratings may not sound impressive until you consider that the aluminum-bodied Insight weighs less than 1,900 pounds.

Although the Insight is very economical and fun to drive, Honda has had problems with marketing. Besides being just a two-seater, Insight has been offered only with stick shift. Since most drivers can’t deal with stick shift (mainly because they haven’t tried), Honda now offers Insight with the CVT transmission.

CVT is not original to Honda. It’s been used in other tiny runabouts, such as the Subaru Justy. There are no gears that shift. Instead, there is a belt-drive system that runs on a cone-shaped pulley that infinitely varies the drive ratios depending on power need and driver input. CVT is less complex than a traditional automatic and it provides greater efficiency and fuel mileage.

So far, engineers have not devised a way to use CVT on larger engines, although Ford is reportedly working on such a transmission.

Although the CVT works well and helps expose this environmental car to a greater audience, the automatic also blunts the otherwise enjoyable driving characteristics of the Insight. Instead of feeling quick and sporty as it does with the five-speed, Insight with CVT is sluggish and droning.

Under hard acceleration, such as freeway merging, the engine roars in a constant pitch, the system feeli ng as if it’s slipping as the transmission keeps the engine RPMs fairly even. Insight cruises easily at freeway speeds, although significant road noise is transmitted to the cabin.

The CVT compromises the MPGs significantly, lowering the five-speed EPA fuel-economy estimate from 61 city and 68 highway to 57 and 56. According to the dashboard computer, my fuel mileage wasn’t nearly what the EPA said it should be, hovering in the 40-mpg range.

Insight owners say that part of the challenge is seeing how high you can get the fuel mileage through judicious driving. The computer is a fun way for the driver to monitor gas mileage and recharging.

The spartan cabin is roomy enough for two, but there is scant space for little else. Luggage would have to go under the small glass hatchback.

The standard stereo is annoyingly tinny.

Honda plans to introduce a four-seater Civic hybrid car, with a system similar to Impact’s, in spring 2003. Als Ford is getting together a hybrid Escape SUV based on Toyota technology.

For now, Insight offers a sporty, fun excuse for saving gas and lowering air pollution.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.3
  • Interior 4.6
  • Performance 4.6
  • Value 4.9
  • Exterior 4.6
  • Reliability 4.9
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Most recent consumer reviews


Underpowered but extremely fun to drive

Very efficient coupe for the money. Other than the hybrid battery going out every 60-80k, this car is extremely reliable. Best part about this vehicle is you dont necessarily need the hybrid battery to run it. I once drove 400miles on half a tank on high 99 in California. Love the fact that it comes with a manual gearbox. Doesnt rust in Minnesota because of the aluminum body but it is pretty hard to find parts for it because of its rarity.


Love my new commuter!

Just bought a used Honda Insight. Plenty of room for a tall girl like myself, feels like a sports car when driving, and gets over 50mpg! Took it to Honda for a diagnostic and look over, and at 211,000 it is in great shape. I am looking forward to putting another 200,000 miles in this car! Save my SUV for when I really need it. Very happy with my "new" car!!


A hidden gem among sub-compacts

My 2001 Honda Insight currently has 178,000 miles and a battery that was replaced under warranty all the way back in 2007. I'm the umpteenth owner of this little Insight that has been handed off multiple times for multiple reasons, but I am here to say that not only is this one of the most reliable vehicles, one of the more comfortable sub-compacts, and one of the most unique looking cars on the road, but it is also what it is: the world's most fuel-efficient gasoline-electric hybrid to date -- I average right between 58mpg and 65mpg between city and highway travel. And with a 120-mile round-trip work commute, I honestly need it. It's never once let me down, and what failures that I have encountered (such as a bad idler wheel) have given me warning before completely failing (e.g. a very loud and distinct roar when the idler wheel was going out). This is the ultimate work commute vehicle and long-distance traveler, and even after being swapped around so much with no previously known service records (save one well-kept receipt for the battery replacement), it's still running like a champ. Suffice it to say that I've been caring for it as much as possible since I purchased it.

See all 8 consumer reviews


Based on the 2001 Honda Insight base trim.
Frontal driver
Frontal passenger
Side driver


New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Honda True Certified+
New car program benefits
36 months/36,000 miles
60 months/unlimited distance
36 months/36,000 miles
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
Less than 12 months or 12,000 miles from their original in-service date.
Basic warranty terms
4 years/48,000 if vehicle purchased within warranty period 1 year 12,000 miles if vehicle purchased after warranty period expired
7 years/100,000 miles
Dealer certification required
182-point inspection
Roadside assistance
View all cpo program details

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