- Great real-world fuel economy
- Responsive powertrain
- Decent handling and maneuverability
- Design details of a more expensive vehicle
- Rear headroom is tight
- Shallow cargo space
- Stability control (VSA) not offered on base LX model
For those who want to be seen in a smart, high-mileage hybrid but prefer to pinch pennies at the dealership, the 2010 Honda Insight is the way to go.
The Insight is an entirely new vehicle for 2010 and bears no relation to the two-door coupe of the same name, which was discontinued after 2006. Like the Toyota Prius, the 2010 Honda Insight is a dedicated hybrid vehicle, meaning it has a unique look and is only offered with a hybrid powertrain, with space for five. While Toyota attracts affluent, environmentally conscious families with its Prius, which has become more luxurious and feature-laden in recent years, Honda aims the Insight primarily at younger, budget-conscious customers who want to make an environmental statement and cut their fuel consumption.
It's immediately apparent that the 2010 Honda Insight worships wind tunnels, with a shape that looks carved to cut through the air with the least resistance. Yet the silhouette allows a hatchback practicality, and Honda manages to incorporate an impressive degree of design detail for such a low-priced vehicle. The thin projector-beam headlamps are a distinctive break from the large, overwrought designs of recent years, and the front grille is complex but simpler than what we've seen in Honda's larger vehicles like the Pilot SUV. Also, distinctive LED taillamps adorn the rear, and at the back is a tinted window that plays a styling role and allows improved visibility for the driver. Smooth lift-up door handles are a nice alternative to the chunky, trucky versions expected even on small cars.
Inside, the 2010 Honda Insight also shifts from the small-car mold, with a two-tiered, two-tone instrument panel situated quite far forward to permit a spacious feel for those in front. Center-stack controls—except for the sound system and nav display—are angled toward the driver, and climate controls are similar to those in the Fit, centered in their own round area just to the right of the steering wheel. And the seats have a nice, meshy fabric that's grippy and comfortable. Unfortunately, behind the front seats, it's not quite as perfect; the backseat can fit three kids across, or two adults, but headroom is tight. Cargo space is a generous 15.9 cubic feet, but it's quite shallow, and the 60/40-split backseats don't quite fold forward flat.
Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system works with a 1.3-liter VTEC four-cylinder engine, helping it out during acceleration and recharging the battery system during coasting and braking. Altogether, the system produces 123 pound-feet of torque and 98 horsepower. A start/stop system turns off the gasoline engine to save fuel at stoplights. Unlike the system in the Toyota Prius or Ford vehicles, the hybrid powertrain in the 2010 Honda Insight can't start up from a standstill on electric power alone, but it can maintain a 30-mph cruise with solely electric power.
The 2010 Honda Insight is rated at 40 mpg city, 43 mpg highway, although based on TheCarConnection.com's driving experience, owners should have no problem surpassing the ratings in everyday driving. TheCarConnection.com editors returned about 44 mpg just keeping with the flow of traffic in a variety of roads.
The front-wheel-drive Insight is, relative to other hybrids, a joy to pilot. 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 and doesn't hunt around at higher speeds as the Prius's transmission will sometimes do. For those who want to drive the Insight in more spirited fashion, there's a manual mode and steering wheel paddles on the uplevel 2010 Honda Insight EX, simulating seven speeds.
Most will be pleased with the way the 2010 Honda 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. Ride quality is good despite the short 100-inch wheelbase, and the interior is quiet and civilized except when mashing the throttle to the floor, which causes the engine to become quite raucous.
If optimal fuel economy is important—and it probably is if you're considering the 2010 Honda Insight—you should be interested in the fancy display interfaces that come standard on the Insight. Eco Assist helps you reach the best mileage by changing the background color of the speedometer from blue to green as efficiency increases, while a bar indicator displays a thinner bar when you're conserving fuel. Meanwhile, Eco Guide keeps tabs on your daily driving, adding flower petals when you're doing well and accumulating a "lifetime score," if you care to play the game. Just to the left of the steering wheel is an Econ button, which engages fuel-conserving modes for a range of vehicle systems, including how the air conditioning and cruise control operate and how often the gasoline engine is shut off.
The 2010 Insight hasn't been crash-tested yet as it's a brand-new design, but most of the items that TheCarConnection.com prefers are standard, including front, front side, and side curtain airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes and active front head restraints. However, electronic stability control—a lifesaving feature that TheCarConnection.com strongly recommends—isn't even optional on the base model. The Insight shares some of its structure with the new 2009 Honda Fit, which has done extraordinarily well for a small car in crash-testing.
The Insight comes in two different trims, and there's a seemingly vast chasm between them in terms of equipment. The 2010 Honda Insight LX weighs in at a remarkably low price, but features like cruise control, stability control, and a nav system aren't even optional. The EX model heaps on the extra equipment, including steering-wheel paddle shifters, VSA, cruise control, a 160-watt AM/FM/CD system with MP3 compatibility, a USB interface, aux inputs, and six speakers, plus a center console with armrest, more storage compartments, fog lamps, heated side mirrors, and alloy wheels—albeit at a higher price that's no longer quite a steal. It also adds a center console with an armrest and storage, map pockets, and interior lights. Major options on the EX include a navigation system with a nice, big screen and a Bluetooth hands-free interface.
2010 Honda Insight
The 2010 Honda Insight is defined by its slippery silhouette and efficient interior.
It's easy to write off the 2010 Honda Insight as a Toyota Prius—the two hybrids do, after all, share strikingly similar profiles—but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate there's more to this 2010 Insight than you'll take in at first glance.
The 2010 Honda Insight is "an affordable four-door, five-seat hatchback," according to Cars.com, and it is currently available in both LX and EX trim levels. If the Insight nameplate sounds familiar, it is because Honda originally released a quirky-looking two-door hybrid under the same moniker back in the late 1990s, but this latest 2010 Honda is an all-new model. Comparisons to the Toyota Prius are almost inevitable—Car and Driver observes that the 2010 Honda Insight "fits almost perfectly into the Prius mold," thanks to the fact that the "body has the same high-tail fastback silhouette, surely dictated by aero drag considerations." Aerodynamic considerations definitely play a large part in shaping the 2010 Insight, and Cars.com notes that "this is one of the most efficient shapes" for pushing air aside. While the Prius has a slightly better drag coefficient, Jalopnik says, "if anything, the Honda's the better looking car, benefiting from its five year younger age, sharper lines and more refined detailing." Cars.com agrees, commenting that this 2010 Honda is "more distinctive and much better-looking than the current Prius" with a nose that "looks like Honda's growing fleet of experimental FCX Clarity fuel-cell cars."
The cabin of the 2010 Honda Insight is typical of Honda's other interiors, and indeed Automobile Magazine reports that current "Honda owners who get behind the wheel of the new Insight will feel instantly at home." Like the new Ford Fusion Hybrid, Car and Driver says this 2010 Honda hybrid offers a few visual fuel economy aids, including the "glowing background of the digital speedometer, which varies through a range of peacock hues from electric lime green at the thrifty extreme to double-strength indigo blue at full power." Edmunds reviewers rave about the Honda Insight's "sensible gauges and superior driving position," while Automobile Magazine likewise appreciates the "effective ergonomics" and "intuitive controls" inside the Insight's cabin. The Honda Insight breaks from other hybrid options in several ways, however, with Cars.com pointing out that, "unlike most hybrids, the Insight's navigation system (available on the EX) doesn't have supplemental hybrid graphics, nor does it have a backup system." The 2010 Honda Insight also lacks the increasingly popular push-button start, but rather has a more traditional keyed ignition.
2010 Honda Insight
Though it’s not overtly sporty, the 2010 Honda Insight is far more engaging than anything else with a true two-mode hybrid powerplant.
For a hybrid vehicle, the 2010 Honda Insight doesn't offer exceptional fuel economy, though it's still pretty good. Instead, for 2010 Honda decides to focus on the fun-to-drive factor and the low base price. Based on reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, it appears that Honda is successful on both counts.
The hybrid powertrain that propels the 2010 Honda Insight is the same on both trim levels. Car and Driver reports that "all  Insights have the same 88-hp, 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine supplemented by a 13-hp electric motor that is sandwiched between the engine and the transmission." In this instance, the combination works quite well, and Automobile Magazine notices "little of the surging and hiccupping that sometimes afflict hybrids." One unique aspect of the Honda Insight's hybrid setup is that "the crankshaft and pistons are always moving, even if the fuel injectors aren't squirting gas," which Cars.com says "means [that] the Insight doesn't give the silent electric-only experience that most hybrids do." In terms of driving response, Car and Driver claims that the 2010 Honda Insight is "reasonably energetic around town if you keep in mind the fuel-saving goal," with a 0-60 mph time of "10.6 seconds, a bit behind the 10.1-second mark of the...Prius."
Like most hybrids, the 2010 Insight offers "a CVT [as] the only available transmission," according to Car and Driver. For those who dislike the operation of standard CVTs, Automobile Magazine says this 2010 Honda in EX trim "at least has a sport setting and available paddle shifting." The usual downsides remain, however, as USA Today reviewers report the transmission "has the unpleasant slipping-clutch sound and feel found in most hybrids."
Anyone expecting the 2010 Honda Insight to live up to the previous Insight's stellar fuel economy will be disappointed; unlike the first-generation Insight's 60-mpg-plus ratings, this 2010 Honda gets an EPA-estimated 40 mpg city and 43 mpg on the highway. Cars.com points out the rating "isn't particularly impressive" for a hybrid vehicle, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that real-world fuel economy will likely be higher than the estimates. Automobile Magazine reviewers "achieved an indicated average of 57 mpg with the Econ mode engaged and while making a mild effort to keep the digital speedometer's background lighting green." Speaking of Econ mode, Jalopnik says the new Honda Insight features an "Econ button [that] is capable of making the Insight about 10 percent more efficient on its own" by smoothing out the throttle inputs.
Hybrid vehicles like the Honda Insight have long enjoyed a green reputation, but they've also been known as rather boring to drive. Honda is hoping to change that with the 2010 Honda Insight, which TheCarConnection.com finds to be a rather entertaining four-door. Reviewers tend to agree, with Car and Driver reporting that the Honda Insight features "tight suspension motions, a firm ride, well-connected steering, and a no-fat musculature." Automobile Magazine adds that "the brake and accelerator pedals have been tuned for conventional-feeling responses, with none of the mushiness that mars the Prius," while Jalopnik calls the new Honda Insight "actually somewhat fun to drive." In terms of the engine transition, Cars.com remarks that it is "pretty seamless as far as hybrids go," while also noting that the 2010 Honda Insight has "good steering feel and the handling is crisp." Edmunds effectively summarizes the reviewer sentiment by declaring the 2010 Honda Insight "by far the most enjoyable hybrid hatchback to drive."
2010 Honda Insight
Comfort & Quality
For a $20,000 car, the 2010 Honda Insight delivers what we’d expect, though the backseats are tight.
Unlike previous generations of hybrids, which featured monstrous battery packs that ate into both cargo and passenger space, the high-tech 2010 Insight features a small pack that allows drivers to make the most of the car's interior space.
Inside the cabin of the 2010 Honda Insight you'll find a decent amount of passenger space and seating arrangements for five occupants. However, Cars.com states that the backseat has "three seat belts...but functionally [it's] a two-passenger backseat." Up front, Car and Driver reports that the "cockpit space is generous for two," while Automobile Magazine deems the front seats "simple and comfortable." The back of this 2010 Honda gets cramped in a hurry, though, with Edmunds calling it "considerably tighter than the Toyota's family-sedan-grade rear quarters" and USA Today asserting that "headroom in back is limited." Overall space is "substantially less than in the Prius (85 cubic feet versus 96)," according to reviewers at Car and Driver.
One area where the 2010 Honda Insight clearly outclasses its competitors is in terms of usable cargo space, which is abundant in both trim levels. Cars.com finds that this 2010 Honda "has more cargo space behind its backseat than the Civic Hybrid has in its trunk," while also pointing out that "the rear seats fold...for maximum cargo volume of 31.5 cu. ft." Jalopnik raves that the 2010 Insight is "a remarkably practical vehicle given its overall size and low roofline," while Automobile Magazine reviewers award the Honda Insight a big thumbs-up for its "low and easily accessible" cargo floor.
Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com are somewhat divided when it comes to overall materials quality on this 2010 Honda model. Cars.com feels that "Honda has been ahead of the curve in terms of the quality of its affordable-car interiors" and approves of the "bright gauges and nice, low-gloss surfaces." Taking the other side of the debate are reviewers from Automobile Magazine, who warn that "one of the things you give up at this price point over the Civic Hybrid is the ability to pay extra for leather upholstery," among other things, which they say "you'll be reminded of...every time you run your fingertips over the cheap seat fabric."
Reviewers are also split over the amount of road noise that makes its way into the cabin of the 2010 Honda Insight. While TheCarConnection.com's editors feel that road noise is suitably suppressed, Edmunds says there is "bothersome road noise at highway speeds." However, Cars.com reviewers point out that the Honda Insight's "cabin noise is admirably low considering affordable, efficient cars often shed noise-abatement measures in order to shave weight and improve mileage."
2010 Honda Insight
Crash-test data should only confirm that the 2010 Honda Insight is family-safe.
As of this writing, the 2010 Honda Insight hasn't been crash-tested yet. However, Honda has a long safety pedigree, and editors at TheCarConnection.com expect better-than-average scores for this compact 2010 Honda hybrid. Stay tuned to TheCarConnection.com for the latest updates on the 2010 Insight's crash-test scores.
Aside from the pending crash-test scores, TheCarConnection.com's editors note that the 2010 Honda Insight has most of the requisite safety equipment. Standard safety features on the 2010 Insight include "antilock brakes and side-impact and side curtain airbags," according to Cars.com. Cars.com reviewers also point out that "the front seats also have active head restraints." Unfortunately, Edmunds reports that the base 2010 Honda hybrid "LX lacks stability control and traction control, which come standard on the EX." These lifesaving features alone might make the jump up to the EX trim of the 2010 Honda Insight worth the extra couple thousand dollars that the upgraded model will cost you.
One area where this 2010 Honda excels is, surprisingly, driver visibility. Typically, these teardrop-shaped hatchbacks have poor rearward visibility, but Automobile Magazine reports that "rear visibility isn't bad through the CRX-style split hatch glass" that adorns the tailgate of the 2010 Honda Insight. Cars.com also states that "visibility is very good to the front and sides" from the driver's seat of the Honda Insight.
2010 Honda Insight
The 2010 Honda Insight is the obvious choice for a fun and cheap hybrid, but for cutting-edge technology features, you'll have to look elsewhere.
When you make the decision to purchase a 2010 Honda Insight, you won't have many options to choose from. In fact, the only real question is whether you want the 2010 Insight in EX or LX trim, since TheCarConnection.com's research shows that virtually no options are available on the all-new Honda Insight.
Although both trims of the 2010 Honda Insight are quite cheap, there is a huge disparity between the equipment levels found on each. Cars.com reports that "it's mainly functional features that distinguish the [2010 Insight] EX, including cruise control, a USB audio interface, seatback pockets, visor vanity mirrors, [and] a center armrest storage console between the front seats." Car and Driver remarks that "the emphasis here is on bringing down the price of hybrid benefits more than pushing out the technical frontier," which explains why the base 2010 Honda LX is so lightly equipped. According to Edmunds, the 2010 Honda Insight LX "comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, automatic climate control...and a four-speaker CD audio system with an auxiliary jack," and not much else after that. USA Today properly describes the 2010 Honda Insight LX as "surprisingly deficient," with "no stability control, center storage or map lights," and thus, "Honda expects 65% of buyers to take the fancier EX."
You might expect that, with such a limited standard features list, options would play a large role in outfitting and personalizing this 2010 Honda. In reality, however, absolutely no options are available for the Honda Insight LX. With the 2010 Honda Insight EX, Edmunds reports "the lone option is a navigation system...that includes voice-activated controls and Bluetooth connectivity."