Road Test 2010 Honda Insight Autobytel com

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HONDA Insight 1.3 IMA HE CVT Continuosuly Variable

Road Test: 2010 Honda Insight

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Road Test: 2010 Honda Insight

2010 Honda Insight Overview

Ten years ago, Honda introduced the United States to a cute hybrid coupe called the Insight. As good as that car was in saving the environment, its two-passenger layout and design eerily similar to the ill-fated GM EV1 weren’t very practical for everyday use. Eventually, the Insight, and all succeeding hybrid vehicles, became a second fiddle to the Toyota Prius that launched in 2001.

After ending production of the original Insight in 2006, Honda revived the moniker for the 2010 model year with added practicality, fuel efficiency and price in mind.


Judging by its looks and purpose alone, the Honda Insight is direct competition for the Prius, but taking the car’s fuel-efficiency into account it also goes up against other green vehicles like the Volkswagen Jetta TDI, smart fortwo. Ford Fusion Hybrid and the upcoming 2011 Chevrolet Volt. As far as its hybrid drivetrain is concerned, the 2010 Insight is the least expensive hybrid vehicle on the market with a starting MSRP of just $19,800 for the base LX model. Those looking for a few more goodies may want to opt for the EX, as our Insight EX w/Navigation started at $23,100 handsomely equipped.

With the competition for gas-electric vehicles heating up going into the summer months (aka expensive gas season), we expect the all-new Insight to make its presence felt in North America as it did its home market of Japan by balancing excellent value with great fuel economy.

2010 Honda Insight Exterior

From a design standpoint, the similarities between the Insight and the Prius are obvious, but Honda’s designers didn’t just copy the styling of the Prius. Instead, it was more of a case of form follows function where the optimal aerodynamic shape for maximum fuel economy just happens to be the wedge shape that both cars exhibit. Overall, the 2010 Insight’s drag coefficient value is an impressive 0.28, which is just slightly less slippery than the 2010 Prius’ 0.25 Cd. The Insight also manages to blend the styling of other iconic green cars such as the short, sloped hood and three-bar grille made popular by the hydrogen-powered 2009 FCX Clarity as well as the futuristic, aerodynamic rear end from the original Insight.

Honda also designed a little attitude into its hybrid hatchback from the blue-tinted headlamps to the LED taillights. One odd aspect of the Insight’s design is how small the 15-inch wheels look relative to the rest of the body, giving it a 1980s economy car feeling, but the car recoups a sportier image shared with the Civic thanks to the stylish design of the seven spoke wheels and the A-pillar that seemingly cuts into the front fenders. Those looking for a visual payoff for the extra money spent on the EX trim level will be disappointed as the only difference between the base LX and the upper EX trim level is the heated door mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators.

2010 Honda Insight Interior

Once inside, however, the 2010 Insight EX with Navigation easily shows where the extra $4,000 went. The upgraded EX features the same two-tier instrument gauge setup that was introduced on the Civic. On all models, the lower gauges house information regarding the hybrid powertrain, while the upper digital speedometer gives the driver real time feedback as to how green he or she is driving, but the EX offers the convenience of a large touch-screen navigation system. Other EX exclusive goodies that are standard equipment include a center armrest with a hidden USB cable for iPod connectivity, transmission manual shift paddles mounted to the steering wheel and cruise control.

All 2010 Insights are able to fit just about any size driver thanks to a manually adjustable front seat with height adjustments as well as a manual tilt and telescoping steering column.

As for the color-coded speedometer, the readout helps train the driver to drive as fuel efficient as possible by turning green when the car is operating at its peak efficiency and it turns blue when the driver is operating the car with a little too much enthusiasm. Thankfully, keeping the green background present didn’t require annoying hypermiling procedures such as slow take offs and lengthy stops. The Insight also adds an interactive display that shows five leaves when the driver is most efficient, and leaves start to disappear as the driver operates the car less efficiently.

The charge/assist gauge helps show the driver when the batteries are being charged and when they are being used to assist the engine.

Although the 2010 Insight rides on a chassis derived from the Honda Fit. it is a dedicated hybrid vehicle which means that Honda was able to maximize the interior space for both passengers and the car’s high tech components. With the battery pack mounted in the rear cargo area under the spare tire, the Insight is able to maximize both luggage and passenger space. The design of the hatchback with the bar running through the middle of it can cause a slight impairment for rearward visibility, but the added space allows the Insight to offer more interior volume than the Civic to accommodate five passengers as well as their gear.

Up to 15.9 cubic feet of cargo can fit under the hatch with the back seats in place, but for added room the 60/40 split rear bench seat folds almost flat to increase cargo volume to 31.5 cubic feet.

2010 Honda Insight Performance Handling

To provide maximum fuel economy without sacrificing normal driving dynamics of a small Honda vehicle, the Insight uses 98-horsepower 1.3-liter inline-4 paired up with a 10kW motor powered by a nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack. All gear changes are performed through a continuously variable transmission (CVT), but the EX model we tested also allows for virtual manual gear changes courtesy of shift paddles mounted to the back of the steering wheel. For those misplaced souls looking for a bit more ‘oomph’ when accelerating, Honda also includes a sport mode with this transmission that holds each gear a little bit longer in the revs.

HONDA Insight 1.3 IMA HE CVT Continuosuly Variable

The question begging to be asked though is why anybody looking for a car like the Insight would want to drive will want to drive in such a manner, but it’s there.

As far as the Insight’s road manners are concerned, the battery assist really gives the Insight’s low-horsepower engine the ability to merge and pass just like any other compact economy car. Systems such as the regenerative braking and auto stop are much more noticeable than in other vehicles using these fuel-saving technologies, but one of the Honda’s brighter points is how it shows its driver just how green it’s driving. In addition to the color-changing speedometer and the charge/assist gauge, the Insight also adds an interactive display that shows five leaves when the driver is most efficient, and leaves start to disappear as the driver operates the car less efficiently.

Another system used to help maximize the Insight’s fuel efficiency comes via a large green ‘Econ’ button just to the right of the steering wheel. When in econ mode, the Insight does including automatically shutting off the engine at stops, and unfortunately the air conditioning as well, which makes driving green a trade off between conserving fuel and comfort — especially in the July Florida heat. With a slightly lighter foot that anyone buying a hybrid vehicle might exhibit, we saw fuel economy number slightly above the EPA estimates of 40 miles per gallon in the city and 43 mpg on the highway in normal mode.

We actually saw the best fuel economy in the city with Econ mode engaged that netted us 49 mpg on the central readout — still under the Prius’ 51 city mpg but the price difference then becomes a factor.

One of the things that allowed Honda to build the Insight at such a low price was the relative simplicity of the gas-electric drivetrain components. Compared to other hybrid systems used by Toyota Motor Corporation, General Motors and Ford Motor Company, Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system does not allow for propulsion using 100 percent electric power. The IMA features the 13-horsepower DC brushless electric motor mounted between the engine and transmission that helps improve fuel economy by assisting the engine during acceleration and by allowing start/stop mode when the car comes to a complete stop — both reduce the strain on the engine therefore lowering the car’s overall fuel consumption.

2010 Honda Insight Safety

Although the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has yet to test 2010 Insight for its crash worthiness, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) did get its hands on Honda’s hybrid hatchback resulting in rather mixed scores. For the driver, the NHTSA gave the Insight a five-star rating in frontal- and side-impact protection, but the remaining occupants only received four stars for both tests. Likewise, the Insight scored four stars for rollover avoidance.

Honda also equipped its new Insight with standard safety features such as six airbags, active head rests for both front seats, vehicle stability control, traction control and four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake distribution (EBD).

Summary

Since the whole point of a hybrid vehicle is to save money, the 2010 Honda Insight does just that by becoming the least expensive hybrid vehicle on the market. The fuel economy number of the 2010 Insight may be slightly lower than its main rival, the Prius, but with a starting price that is $2,200 lower than Toyota’s hybrid, the Honda is designed to save money up front as opposed to over the long run. With the addition of the Insight joining the Fit and the Civic in its vehicle lineup, Honda now offers a trio of small, practical and fuel-efficient vehicles from which to choose.

As only the second automaker to offer a dedicated hybrid model, Honda and its 2010 Insight looks to gobble up some of the market share for small economic vehicles including the class-leading Prius that sold just under 160,000 units last year alone.

HONDA Insight 1.3 IMA HE CVT Continuosuly Variable
HONDA Insight 1.3 IMA HE CVT Continuosuly Variable
HONDA Insight 1.3 IMA HE CVT Continuosuly Variable
HONDA Insight 1.3 IMA HE CVT Continuosuly Variable
HONDA Insight 1.3 IMA HE CVT Continuosuly Variable
HONDA Insight 1.3 IMA HE CVT Continuosuly Variable
HONDA Insight 1.3 IMA HE CVT Continuosuly Variable

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