With the lowest price of any hybrid in America, the Honda Insight brings eco-motoring to the masses. Drivers will pay for it, however. In the past, the Insight has been criticized for its low-rent interior, and mediocre (for a hybrid) fuel economy of 41 mpg city/44 mpg highway.
For 2012, Honda is seeking to fix that. Changes to the powertrain eke out more fuel economy, and a revised gasoline engine, more efficient air conditioning unit, and smoother CVT automatic transmission. Power remains the same, and Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system pairs a 1.3-liter 4-cylinder VTEC engine with a 10-kilowatt electric motor, for a total output of 98 horsepower.
The Insight competes primarily against its crosstown rival, the Toyota Prius, and both vehicles cut a similar silhouette and purpose. But given the Insight's rougher ride and lower fuel economy, sales of the Insight have lagged far behind the popular Prius. The changes for 2012 should return the Insight into the competition, as a practical five-door hybrid that's somewhat affordable.
Engine: 1.3-liter inline-4 and electric motor
Models: LX, EX
For 2012 the Insight gets a powertrain update and a minor facelift that don't just look new: a revised tail and larger glass help improve fuel economy and rear visibility. Up front, a chrome bar outlines the grille, and blue-tinted covers over the headlights give it a cooler effect. Inside, Honda targets one of the Insight's biggest complaints: its interior gets nicer materials and cushier seat fabric.
If the Insight resembles the Prius a little too much, rest assured that this was intentional. The sloped, Kamm-back profile that both vehicles share cuts the most aerodynamic shape possible. Otherwise, the Insight gets a relocated spoiler that increases visibility, though its side window pillars are still unnecessarily large. Blue-tinted headlight covers, a chrome one-bar grille, and revised fog lights give the front end more style than the outgoing model.
The Insight's cheap, plastic interior gets a much-needed upgrade. The seats get far nicer and more durable fabrics, and a bit of black wood-look paneling livens up the dull, plasticky interior. Rear-seat passengers now get slightly more headroom. EX models get paddle shifters, cruise control, and Bluetooth with a navigation system.
Performance & Handling
The Insight feels light on the road, but it suffers from a rough ride. A paddle-shift enabled CVT does offer the pretense of sportiness, but the Insight is slow--particularly in ECO mode--and fun to drive only for those with good imaginations. EPA fuel economy numbers can be achieved with diligence and compromises to driving enjoyment, which Honda's Eco tools can also coach the driver into following.
Driver and passenger have dual stage, multi threshold front and front side airbags, while rear-seat passengers have side curtain airbags. ABS and EBD come standard; stability control is available only on EX.
EPA Fuel Economy
41 mpg city/44 mpg highway
- Low cost
- Futuristic gauge cluster
You Won't Like
- Rear visibility still poor
- Ride harshnesss
- Average fuel economy compared to the priciers
Time will tell if 2012's upgrades are enough to spur sales of this little hybrid.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Chevrolet Volt
- Nissan Leaf
- Toyota Prius
- VW Golf TDI