An Overview of the 2011 Honda Insight

By dancurranjr On December 1st, 2010

Recently, we found ourselves amazed that despite all the cars we have tested over the years, we have yet to test either the Toyota Prius or the Honda Insight! So, in early September we contacted Honda to check if they could help in easing our curiosity once and for all.

It is difficult to talk about the Insight without comparing it with its direct competitor the Prius from Toyota. As both cars strive to achieve drag-free designs, both Toyota and Honda have taken a similar design direction in order to offer the best aerodynamics possible within the given price point.

While we never were huge fans of the two first generation Prius lines, the design started to get more intriguing with the release of the third generation Prius that finally started to offer something different, with sharper and more aggressive lines.

However, despite Toyota’s effort, we’ve always been more attracted to Honda’s vision of what a Hybrid family oriented five-passenger vehicle should look like. The Insight is just plain better looking, with sharp lines and refined detailing. It offers a more elegant alternative to the Prius. We especially like the Insight front grill which is similar to Honda’s 2nd generation Fuel Cell vehicle the FCX.

One of Honda’s weakest points has always been to offer dull interiors that tend to lack “ambition.” Sure, there have been some interesting attempts to try something different with a kind of mildly futuristic dashboard, but there is nothing too fancy in the Insight. Also, in order to keep our car as light as possible and still competitive, Honda had to cut down as much as possible on higher grade plastics and materials. This said, please rest assured that the Insight interior is not ugly, but it does lack personality or shall we say, presence.

On the Road
The major difference when it comes to comparing an Insight to a Prius comes in the approach that both manufacturers took when it comes to Hybrid technology.
We, at NihonCar, prefer Toyota’s Hybrid technology which offers, as far as we are concerned, an elegant way to introduce EV technology to the masses, which will enable your engine to fully switch to “All Electric” mode for periods of time. After all, who wants to purchase a Hybrid vehicle that will help save the planet, in a very small way over a long period of time, if they cannot feel immediate vindication by being able to drive purely on the power of its electric engine?

Honda, unfortunately for us, took another approach to this situation and does not include any “EV” mode (Eclectic Vehicle) whether your battery is fully charged or not. Like Toyota, Honda comes with the well-known Start-Stop technology, but switches to electric assist technology for the remainder of the time. Basically your engine will never stop running when your car is in motion, but will however be assisted when possible by an electric engine offering you more power at any given time without pumping too much gasoline from the tank.

On a technical stand point, Honda’s approach to the Hybrid world is sound. It is no better or worse than what is on offer from other manufacturers, it is just simply different. This simply means that at any given time when your car is in motion, even a little, your engine will be on, and personally I think it just spoils all the fun of owning a Hybrid.

To improve the Insight’s fuel efficiency by a whopping 10%, Honda has added an “ECO” button that, once pressed, will tweak your car’s driving behavior, performance and gear ratio. The effect of pushing this button is immediate and will turn your Insight into a rather under powered family car with sluggish response and feeling. On the flipside, ECO mode driving results in dramatically improved mileage.

Bottom line is that the integration of the 10-kilwatt electric motor in Honda’s usual 1.3l i-VTEC engine is absolutely seamless and gives you a total of 102Hp ( 14 + 88 ) offering, if you are careful, a 4.4l/100km consumption (City/Highway Mixt mode), a nice mark that can all go wrong if you start to be less gentle on the throttle.

Sure the Insight does not incorporate the nice EV mode that is only available in Japan on the Toyota Prius, but all in all, the Insight delivers what it promises; excellent mileage with an ECO heart that it does not have to be ashamed of when compared to a Prius. So at this point what will matter most is if you prefer the Insight lines compared to the Prius, and this, my friends, may just be the most difficult part when you have to choose between the two.

SOURCE: NihonCar

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