2010 Honda Insight Hybrid

Looking Good, Feeling Good

2010 Honda Insight

by Jay Brecker Honda’s new Insight borrows from many points, parts and places in the company’s past in the search for the highest possible real-world fuel economy. You won’t be saving the world for multiple generations of gorgeous creatures such as yourself, but you’ll feel good about trying. And since you already look good, feeling good becomes the #1 issue. Well, maybe doing good is up there, too.

2010 Honda Insight

Honda has one of the longest histories in Automobiledom of making conscious big product decisions in favor of better efficiency. Having started on two wheels, company founder Soichiro Honda pushed his engineers to perfect four-stroke bike engines when the world was mostly wedded to gas- and oil- consuming two-strokers. This set the tone for years. In late 1999, Honda issued its first Insight. It was the first gas-electric hybrid actually sold in the U.S. market and the most fuel efficient car sold in the U.S. at the time. It only sat two people and looked akin to an elongated egg; both factors limited its appeal. After a brief hiatus, Honda has resurrected the Insight as a larger vehicle with styling that is more inline with its primary competitor, the Toyota Prius. Honda are now beginning to bring out new hybrid models and if you want to learn more about these, you can get more info on the Honda freed hybrid here. We spent some time with the 2010 Honda Insight recently.

2010 Honda Insight

Despite the mileage hullabaloo about hybrids and all the intricate engineering details to make as light a car as possible, everything is moot if the car doesn’t perform as it should. If the singer can’t cut the track, but looks pretty good, even the most narcissist fan would boo the hag offstage. In this regard, the 2010 Insight plays the part well. In careful city-only driving, it returned 42.1 mpg. Dedicated highway driving saw 47.8 mpg and the overall combined during the whole test period netted 43.4. On official ratings of 40/43, that’s exceptional. Brush up on your speechifying, too. As you acclimate to hypermiling in the Insight and learn to drive most efficiently, the center instrument display doles out awards based on your ability to extract the best mileage from the Insight. Leaves and wreaths denote your level of Efficiency Royalty. Maybe Honda’s next generation system will use Oscar statues. If you’ve driven a Prius or other Toyota hybrid, the Honda’s operation feels a bit different. While we never witnessed it doing so, the system can propel the car on electricity alone. We did witness the engine stopping under braking once below a certain speed (roughly 5 mph) and when stationary. So, put simply, where the Toyota’s system can propel the car using electric power alone, the Insight’s 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine seems to always propel the car, though assisted by the electric motor when additional power is called for. You can opt for a high(er)-efficiency mode by pushing the ECON button on the dash, which dials back the response rate of the throttle, lowers the rev range in which the CVT operates, adjusts air conditioning and cruise control parameters and lengthens engine-stop duration at traffic lights during idle time.

2010 Honda Insight

Under most circumstances, the Insight’s engine and transmission are perfectly peachy. However, the Insight’s 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine and CVT (continuously-variable transmission) make for a slightly un-Honda-like powertrain when venturing into the middle reaches of the rev range. Noise and vibration are more prevalent than one would expect from a company built – at least partially – on a legacy of smooth, jewel-like engines (and we’ve owned many). Perhaps if the rest of the car’s acoustic footprint weren’t so whisper-like (wind isolation, chassis stiffness and quietness), the engine’s drone wouldn’t be so noticeable. Granted, in a car of this ilk, you will not be spending much time above 3,000 rpm at all, but when you do, tick the volume up a notch on your Cake or Pet Shop Boys. Dynamically, no one’s going to carve up a race course with the little darling, so handling, braking, steering feel are all just fine given the car’s mission. Quite good, in fact. Indeed, the only other complaint one could level at the Insight – and it’s relevant only to those with long lower limbs – is that the front seat bottoms are short on… well… length. Extended drives result in slight fatigue of the leg, but headroom, shoulder room and room for every other body part is quite ample. Starting at a base price of $20,510 including destination, the Insight undercuts the newly-redesigned 2010 Prius by $2,240, the latter’s base price being $22,750, including destination, so get yourself down to your local Honda Dealers near Wichita. That’s a significant 10% in a sector that’s getting more competitive. Toyota’s 2010 Prius line-up was introduced with lower pricing than the predecessor model, which means one big thing. The hybrid/hyper-economy car segment has been heating up for some time and appears only to get hotter as we head through the summer and fall.

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