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2011 Honda Insight Performance

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Performance
The underpinnings of the 2011 Honda Insight are all familiar: It essentially takes the front end of the Honda Fit hatchback and mates it with the Honda Civic Hybrid's version of Integrated Motor Assist (IMA), a mild-hybrid system that features a 1.3-liter VTEC four-cylinder engine, supplemented with an electric motor system and together making 98 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. The hybrid system captures energy during deceleration and braking and helps it out when accelerating.

A start/stop system turns off the gasoline engine to save fuel at stoplights, but unlike full hybrids like the Toyota Prius or Ford Escape Hybrid the Insight can't start from a stop (or accelerate, for that matter) on electric power alone. It can however maintain a 30-mph cruise with solely electric power, and turn off the gasoline engine at even higher speeds in some situations.

Altogether, the powertrain feels more eager than that of the Prius, but not quite on the level of the 'normal' powertrain in the Honda Civic. Thanks to the IMA system, there's plenty of torque to take off quickly from stoplights, along with good power for passing. The CVT automatic operates unobtrusively, but there's just a bit of the rubber-band-like lag in response that's typical with the setup. For those who want to drive the Insight in more spirited fashion, there's a manual mode and steering wheel paddles on the sporty Honda Insight EX, simulating seven speeds.

The 2011 isn't overtly sporty, but it's more engaging to drive than most other fuel-efficient hybrids.

The Insight isn't a truly sporty car, but eco-minded drivers encountering a curvy road will be pleased with the way the Insight handles. The Insight doesn't change directions as crisply as the Honda Fit, but it feels confident in all but the tightest corners, with unexpected poise in high-speed cruising. Brakes are front disc, rear drum but feel up to the task.

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