2012 Honda Insight

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Key Specs
Our Take
Road Test
Photos
Reviews
Safety & Recalls
Warranty & CPO
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Key Specs

of the 2012 Honda Insight. Base trim shown.

  • Body Type:
  • Combined MPG:
    42 Combined MPG
  • Engine:
    88-hp, 1.3-liter I-4 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain:
    Front-wheel Drive
  • Transmission:
    2-speed CVT w/OD
  • View more specs

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Quieter interior
  • Interior space
  • Visibility
  • Observed mileage

The Bad

  • Ride quality
  • Bluetooth and satellite radio available only on expensive EX
  • Backseat comfort
  • Engine's idle stop/start

Notable Features of the 2012 Honda Insight

  • Updated for 2012
  • Dedicated hybrid model
  • Seats five
  • Hatchback body style
  • EPA-estimated 41/44 mpg

2012 Honda Insight Road Test

Joe Bruzek

The Honda Insight has made its mark as the least-expensive hybrid on the market for some time now. While inexpensive, the Insight has never been an easy car to recommend. For 2012, a minor redesign with enhancements to areas where the car previously faltered attempts to spark some life in the Insight. See a comparison of the 2011 and 2012 here.

While the 2012 Honda Insight takes a step forward in refined driving and improved gas mileage, it needed to take five or six more steps to remain competitive.

The Insight's closest competitor, and the first to challenge its price, is the 2012 Toyota Prius c, a new member of the Prius family that's smaller than the regular Prius. With similar base pricing and passenger room but better gas mileage ratings, the Prius c is a big threat for the Insight.

Hybrid Performance
Under the Insight's hood is a modest 98 horsepower from the combined efforts of a 1.3-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a 13-hp electric motor. With some new noise insulation, the engine is now less of a noise nuisance than previous versions — to an extent. The engine is still buzzy when you have to wind out the little guy to pass or merge.

For 2012, Honda squeezes an additional 1 mpg from the Insight across the board — in city, highway and combined mileage ratings — to reach an EPA-estimated 41/44 mpg city/highway (42 mpg combined). The minor bump isn't enough to match the Prius c's estimated 53/46 mpg (50 mpg combined).

Rat...

The Honda Insight has made its mark as the least-expensive hybrid on the market for some time now. While inexpensive, the Insight has never been an easy car to recommend. For 2012, a minor redesign with enhancements to areas where the car previously faltered attempts to spark some life in the Insight. See a comparison of the 2011 and 2012 here.

While the 2012 Honda Insight takes a step forward in refined driving and improved gas mileage, it needed to take five or six more steps to remain competitive.

The Insight's closest competitor, and the first to challenge its price, is the 2012 Toyota Prius c, a new member of the Prius family that's smaller than the regular Prius. With similar base pricing and passenger room but better gas mileage ratings, the Prius c is a big threat for the Insight.

Hybrid Performance
Under the Insight's hood is a modest 98 horsepower from the combined efforts of a 1.3-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a 13-hp electric motor. With some new noise insulation, the engine is now less of a noise nuisance than previous versions — to an extent. The engine is still buzzy when you have to wind out the little guy to pass or merge.

For 2012, Honda squeezes an additional 1 mpg from the Insight across the board — in city, highway and combined mileage ratings — to reach an EPA-estimated 41/44 mpg city/highway (42 mpg combined). The minor bump isn't enough to match the Prius c's estimated 53/46 mpg (50 mpg combined).

Ratings don't tell the whole story, though, because it's easy to match or beat the Insight's EPA estimates. Using the Insight's in-car mileage display and other economy assistance readings, I observed mileage into the 50s after a 30-plus-mile commute at highway speeds. However, exceeding the Prius c's ratings is also easy, and it has an 8 mpg combined head start on the Insight. Note that the weather during all these drives was favorable, with lows in the 60s and highs in the 70s. In our experience in Chicago, cold weather reduces hybrid mileage dramatically.

More intrusive than engine noise is the idle stop/start feature that shuts off the engine at complete stops to save gas. It's a characteristic of the Insight we've complained about since day one, and it's a major disruption in an otherwise smooth experience. There's a noticeable vibration through the steering wheel and floor when the engine shuts off and fires back up that's far from the refined experience found in other hybrids. The sensation mirrors a non-hybrid car when you turn the engine off and on — and it shouldn't.

The Insight's ride quality also has room for improvement. Take the insight over rough roads, and the suspension sounds like it's flopping around under the car. Other editors noted chassis flexing and shuttering on imperfect roads. Cars.com Managing Editor David Thomas notes in his review of the Prius c, "The Prius c rides and feels worlds apart from the rough-riding Honda Insight."

Interior
The Insight's interior is one of its strongest assets, with good quality and roominess as well as great visibility. In previous model years, Insights suffered from wind and road noise at highway speeds that piped unpleasant whooshing, rustling and tire noise into the cabin. For 2012, thicker sound insulation and additional noise suppression in the hatchback area reduce wind and road noise to unobtrusive levels. The quieter interior is a welcome improvement on long drives, where the Insight is decidedly more refined.

Over-the-shoulder visibility through the pillar-less rear quarter windows and tall glass is excellent. The split rear window isn't too obstructive to look through, but it's a bit distracting that the bottom glass is tinted and the main liftgate window isn't.

Despite additional headroom for 2012 and a good fit for me, the rear seats simply weren't comfortable for my slender 6-foot frame. Honda modified the rear ceiling and sculpted the rear cushions to provide an additional half-inch of headroom, which isn't an insignificant amount when you're talking about headroom. My head was clear from any interference with the ceiling, and legroom was also suitable. My comfort problem came from the seating position, which lacks thigh support and left my knees uncomfortably raised.

Features
Base Insights are well-equipped with power windows, keyless entry, power locks, automatic climate control, an array of hybrid-specific gauges and more. A few missing standard features we'd like to see include Bluetooth and a USB input for music players. The Prius c includes USB and Bluetooth, as well as everything mentioned above, in its base price, as do many non-hybrid cars in the sub-$20,000 range.

Upgrading from the base model to the $21,065 LX (all prices cited include destination charges) adds cruise control, a four-speaker stereo with USB in place of the standard two-speaker unit, and a center console with an armrest. Bluetooth and satellite radio unfortunately come only on the most expensive EX trim level ($22,755), where they're standard. They aren't optional on less-expensive models.

I could do without the paddle shifters included on the Insight EX's steering wheel. Even though the Insight uses a continuously variable automatic transmission, the computer can select fixed gear ratios when using the paddle shifters. Those paddles, however, result in shifts that are as crisp as an uncooked piece of bacon, and just as satisfying.

One appreciated feature was something that should be done well on a hybrid — hybrid-specific efficiency displays. The Insight uses easy-to-see background lighting around the speedometer that turns green during efficient driving and blue when your right foot gets heavy. The feature is one of the ways I coaxed excellent gas mileage from the Insight; it's also used on other Hondas and likewise works well in those applications.

Safety
The 2012 Honda Insight is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick, meaning it scored the agency's best rating, Good, in four tests: front, side, rear and roof strength, a measure of rollover protection. The Insight has not been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Standard safety features include front airbags, front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtains for the front and rear seats. The federally mandated antilock brakes, electronic stability system and tire pressure monitoring system are also included. You can see a full list of standard safety features here.

2012 Honda Insight in the Market
The 2012 Insight is an improved version of the hybrid, but it takes merely a step forward instead of the leaps and bounds that were needed. The Insight's mileage, price and feature content aren't good enough now that the pesky Prius c exists. And despite the Insight's declining sales through the year, as of this writing we don't see any cash-back rebates or financing offers from Honda to sweeten the deal.

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Latest 2012 Insight Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.5)
Performance
(4.0)
Interior Design
(4.2)
Comfort
(4.1)
Reliability
(4.6)
Value For The Money
(4.4)

What Drivers Are Saying

(4.0)

Awesome Gas Mileage

by charles21 on June 19, 2018

Great car for travel or for work. I wouldn't recommend it for a large family cause its like a Prius in size. But it great for gas and the hatchback option lets it store more then you would think Read full review

(1.0)

lemon

by scotty2hoty from Malvern,AR on April 9, 2017

This car was a mistake. Piece of junk. Will never buy Honda again. Do not even think of this model -to buy or lease. Lemon. 102000 miles and the motor blew up. AND I WAS STUCK WITH THE BILL. I am very ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2012 Honda Insight currently has 5 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2012 Honda Insight Base

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
acceptable
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
acceptable
Structure/safety cage
acceptable
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranties

Backed by Honda
New Car Program Benefits
  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

Certified Pre-Owned Program Benefits
  • Maximum Age/Mileage

    Less than 6 years old/less than 80,000 miles

  • Basic Warranty Terms

    12 months/12,000 miles

  • Powertrain warranty

    7 years/100,000 miles

  • Dealer Certification Required

    182-point inspection

  • Roadside Assistance

    Yes

  • View All Program Details

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Insight received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker