With four different Prius models and two non-prius hybrids now for sale in the U.S., it’s easy to go straight to a Toyota dealership when you’re looking for a hybrid car. 

As we’ve pointed out before, however, there are plenty of other great hybrid choices on the market worthy of your attention, cars like the 2012 Honda Insight. 

While its 42 mpg combined EPA rating isn’t anywhere near the 50 mpg combined figure of its nearest subcompact hybrid rival, the 2012 Toyota C Prius, we still think you should go and test-drive this mild-hybrid from Honda.  

Here’s why. 


As with any expensive purchase, price always plays a factor when making a decision on which car to buy. 

And with the base-level 2012 Honda Insight starting at $18,500 -- plus a $770 mandatory destination fee -- it is almost $5,000 cheaper than the admittedly larger, base-level 2012 Toyota Prius.

It’s also nearly $700 cheaper than the base-level 2012 Toyota Prius C, which has become a more likely cross-shop with the Honda Insight since it was launched earlier this year. 

For your money however, you’ll only get a very basic Insight, complete with automatic climate control, remote entry, power windows and a two-speaker audio system.

The dash is more conventional

Unlike the high-mounted, eco-driven dashboard of the 2012 Toyota Prius C, the split-level digital dashboard of the 2012 Honda Insight is more conventional. 

Clearly visible in the top portion is a digital speed readout, while beneath it, faux-analogue displays clearly indicate engine speed, eco-driving and fuel level. 

Clear to read, the Honda Insight’s dashboard is less fussy than the Prius dash, and thanks to its simple-to-understand energy coach, quickly teaches you how to get the best gas mileage out of the Insight’s 1.3-liter, Integrated Motor Assist powerplant. 

2012 Honda Insight EX with Navigation

2012 Honda Insight EX with Navigation

There’s a choice of gearbox...sort of

Unlike the 2012 Toyota Prius family of hybrids, whose continuously-variable transmission is computer-controlled for maximum efficiency, the high-end, $21,965 2012 Honda Insight EX comes with steering-wheel mounted paddle-shifters. 

While it still has the same CVT gearbox as all the other Insight models, this allows you to enter into a simulated conventional gearbox, giving you at least some control over engine speed versus car speed.

Try it and see?

Since the launch of the 2012 Toyota Prius C, the 2012 Honda Insight is a much less attractive proposition than it once was, since its mild-hybrid drivetrain lacks the all-electric mode offered by full hybrid systems and it offers a little less space than Toyota's new subcompact Prius. 

2012 Honda Insight - European market version to be shown at Frankfurt Motor Show

2012 Honda Insight - European market version to be shown at Frankfurt Motor Show

But with 2012 model year upgrades including better trim, minor front and rear end restyling, and a 1 mpg gas mileage increase on previous model years to counteract abysmal sales, the 2012 Honda Insight isn't out of the race just yet.

With a distinctly different driving feel to the Prius lineup, we'd advise you add the 2012 Honda Insight hybrid to your test-drive list, but suspect that it you'll have a tough time choosing between it and the 2012 Toyota Prius C.


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