The 2011 Honda Insight is the least expensive hybrid car on sale in the U.S. this year, at a base price of just $18,970 with delivery. But despite this distinction, the subcompact hatchback hasn’t been a success for Honda, selling just a fraction of early projections.
In part, that’s because it sits on showroom floors right next to the superb Honda Fit, one of the better subcompacts on the market. The 2011 Insight is rated by the EPA at 40 mpg city, 43 mpg highway, for a combined 41-mpg rating. But the 2011 Fit with automatic transmission comes in at 28 city, 35 highway, and 31 combined—with far more interior room—for $3,100 less. That’s a lot of money to save 79 gallons of gasoline a year (over 10,000 miles).
Like the iconic Toyota Prius, the 2011 Honda Insight is a “dedicated” hybrid design, a car offered only as a hybrid, not an adaptation of a gasoline-only model. Its high-tail styling resembles the Prius, using the same aerodynamic lessons to cut through the air using the least fuel. It’s a practical design, though it doesn’t offer the astoundingly flexible interior of the Fit.
The handling of the Insight is good, as it is on virtually every Honda, making the little hybrid more fun to drive than the larger Prius. But its mild-hybrid powertrain doesn’t offer the ability to move away from rest solely on electric power. Instead, the newest generation of the Honda IMS system uses a 13-kilowatt (17.5-horsepower) electric motor to add extra torque along with the 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine.
The motor also restarts the engine after the car has come to a stop, and acts as a generator to recapture braking energy that is used to recharge the car’s small nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. Under rare circumstances, the system can cruise at around 30 mph only on electric power, shutting off the gasoline supply to the engine when doing so. Together, the engine and electric motor produce 98 horsepower.
Driving the 2011 Insight isn’t particularly speedy, but it’s nimble and easy to place. Noise suppression is only average, however, and the engine will howl and whine under heavy loads. The Insight also feels insubstantial in places, with tinny-sounding doors and thin plastics—evidence of aggressive weight reduction to offset the additional burden of the battery pack and electric hardware.
Inside, the two-tier instrument panel is fairly far away from the driver, increasing the sense of interior space. The cloth front seats are comfortable and offer plenty of headroom, though the back seats are tight, and ride quality is good.
The 2011 Honda Insight offers three trim levels: base, LX, and EX. Even the base car offers power windows and locks, remote entry, a tilting and telescoping steering wheel, automatic climate control, and a CD sound system. You can add options from there, and the EX model offers a navigation system with 6.5-inch screen and voice recognition, plus Bluetooth for hands-free mobile phone use.
For more details, see the full review of the 2011 Honda Insight on our sister site, TheCarConnection.
|5-Door CVT (3)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|5-Door CVT Specs||$18,200||$17,183||40||43|
|5-Door CVT PZEV (3)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|5-Door CVT PZEV Specs||$18,200||$17,183||40||43|
|5-Door CVT w/Navi (2)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|PZEV EX Specs||$23,265||$21,945||40||43|