Now in its fourth year on the market, the 2013 Honda Insight has never quite lived up to the legacy left by its ground-breaking 1999 predecessor--even if it's now a much more usable vehicle. Sales have been much lower than Honda expected, and the Insight remains a niche player in the market.
The 2013 Insight is still the least expensive hybrid sold in the U.S., but it now faces new competition from the Toyota Prius C, not to mention the Honda Fit subcompact it sits next to on showroom floors. Both Hondas are five-door hatchback subcompacts, but the Insight is less flexible, has less room inside, and is priced more than $3,000 higher than the Fit.
In fact, the Insight faces even more competition from its Honda siblings. While much pricier, the Honda Civic Hybrid offers more luxury and better economy than the 42 mpg Insight can muster, despite the Insight's more distinctively Prius-like profile. That profile does help on the highway, where the Insight's 44 mpg matches the Civic. In city driving, economy drops to 41 mpg.
Those Prius-like looks are no coincidence, but not a direct copy of Toyota's iconic hybrid either. The shape is dictated by aerodynamics, with a steeply raked windshield and a smooth, high-tail design to reduce the wind resistance that gulps fuel.
Inside, a Civic-like digital display above the main gauge cluster includes a digital speedometer and various status indicators. The controls in the center stack angle toward the driver, with a separate area at right for the climate controls--which makes them awkward for the front-seat passenger to operate.
Visually, the 2013 model is identical to the revamped 2012 car. That year, it gained a new grille and redesigned front and rear bumpers to smooth airflow. The 2012 update included revisions to the instrument displays, interior materials, and a handful of new features. To keep the Insight firmly anchored as the least expensive hybrid on the market, Honda added a base model in 2011, which continues for 2013.
Inside, driver and front seat passenger have plenty of room, though the sloping roofline reduces headroom for taller rear passengers. We found the front seats a little flat, with short bottom cushions. The rear bench will take two adults, or--at a pinch--three kids.
Based on the nimble Honda Fit, and sharing its platform with the sporty CR-Z, the Insight is actually a nimble handler. With increased length and more weight than its smaller compatriots it isn't quite as fun, but you'd choose it over the Toyota Prius if you wanted a little fun mixed in with your day-to-day gas sipping.
The ride quality is good under most circumstances, despite a short wheelbase, and it's mostly quiet inside. The exception is when the driver accelerates hard, producing a prodigious amount of engine howl. The 2012 update also included more insulation and thicker noise-suppressing materials to cut the clamor, but if you drive the Insight aggressively, you'll be well aware of how hard the engine has to work.
The 1.3-liter engine and 10-kilowatt (14-hp) motor together put out 98 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque. Being a mild hybrid, the electric motor can't move the car away from a stop by itself; instead, it contributes torque to assist the gas engine and also recharges the battery on engine overrun and during regenerative braking. Power is transmitted to the wheels through the only transmission option,continuously variable transmission (CVT). Thanks to assistance from the electric motor you get decent low-speed acceleration, but passing at highway speeds needs a little extra planning...
The 2013 Honda Insight base model is priced at $18,600 before delivery, and includes automatic climate control, remote entry, power windows, and an audio system with two speakers. The mid-level Insight LX, starting at $20,375, adds steering-wheel controls for the four-speaker audio system with USB interface, an armrest console, map lights, a security system, and floor mats.
The top-of-the-line Insight EX, at $22,065 includes heated side mirrors, automatic headlights, a six-speaker stereo system with Bluetooth audio linking, and alloy wheels. It also adds steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, simulating "gears" in the CVT for extra response. Adding a navigation system (on the EX only) costs an additional $1,725.
All Insight prices also have a mandatory destination fee of $790 added to them.
For more details, see the full review of the 2013 Honda Insight on our sister site, TheCarConnection.
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