|Honda Insight EX
By Gary Chan
- Good gas mileage
- Steering is tight and responsive
- Rear visibility
- Acceleration – slow and steady wins the race
- Noise, Vibration, Harshness (NVH)
Honda has a tough job playing catch-up to Toyota, who already built two-generations of the Prius, in the hybrid market . Sure Honda had the original Insight, but “practicality” was not used to describe the original version and the Civic Hybrid was never really compared to the Prius. How does the new Insight stack up as a direct competitor to the Prius?
Driving the Clear Sky Blue Metallic Insight around town with its 1.3 liter (98-hp/123 lb-ft) engine was a breeze being so small and light. The DC motor added 13-hp and 58 lb-ft which brought the total to 111-hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. Compared to the LX-model, the EX had vehicle stability assist, folding and heated (with integrated turn signal) side mirrors, cruise control, paddle shifters, a center console armrest/storage, 2-extra speakers, a USB audio-interface, plus a few other interior convenience items.
We decided to take a spur-of-the-moment, day-trip to San Luis Obispo, CA where I went to college. Basically, it’s a straight shot down Highway 101 from the San Francisco Bay Area and no real challenges except for climbing Cuesta Grade just before SLO. As Honda’s newest hybrid, the Insight is a demonstration of Honda’s engineering and packaging. Driving is easy whether in town or on the highway and the ride is good (if not firm) with plenty of room for the front passengers. Though not as “toss-able” as my friend’s beloved ’84 CRX, it’s still fun to drive and had no problems taking on curves (but then again you don’t expect much from the 175/65-15 low rolling resistance, all-season tires).
Be aware that the engine is always on except for when you stop completely. In other words, there’s no pure electric mode. I found that occasionally, the transition between stopping and starting was a bit rough (compared to the 2nd-generation Prius – the last version I had driven extensively).
The interior feels a little cheap with the wall of plastic before and around you. Forward and side visibility is excellent due to the expanse of glass.
To cut costs, Honda must have minimized the amount of insulation in the car because there’s a fair amount of road/engine noise that constantly permeates the cabin. Wind noise, however, is minimal.
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