Sharing an instrument layout similar to the Civic, but much better looking and with lots of fun things to entertain your eyes while on the road, the Insight’s dashboard consists of a tasteful combination of analog and digital gauges. The background color of the speedometer provides real-time feedback on driving efficiency, with color changing from blue to green as fuel efficiency improves. The Multi-Information Display, located in the tachometer gauge pod, is packed with information to help you optimize your driving style to achieve higher MPG. You can “earn” green leaves by minimizing aggressive acceleration and deceleration, and an Eco score, in number of trees earned, is shown upon arriving at a destination. Pressing the “info” button on the steering wheel brings up several different screens, each presenting useful driving statistics. My personal favorite? The screen that tells you the driving range remaining on the current tank of gas.
Another personal favorite feature offered by the Insight, not available on the Prius, is the extra large side mirrors, which allows you to see the wheels and the curb for parallel parking without having to adjust its angel. Inside the car, the driver seat height adjustment control is very much appreciated by height-challenged drivers like me.
2010 Prius comes in four different packages, from II to V. The base model Prius II comes with a price tag of $22,000, and the highest model V at $27,270. Add all the bells and whistles including the Advanced Technology Package to model V, and you end up with a whopping $33,079. Even though I can never see myself paying for them, the Intelligent Parking Assist that parallel parks the car for you and the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control that automatically adjust your speed to keep a safe distance from the car in front are definitely very cool features to have.
Looking for more creature comfort than a base-model car? The EX package at $21,300 comes with Vehicle Stability Assist, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and a six speaker audio systems. The audio system delivered high quality, clear sounds, even with the windows rolled down. Need more modern technology? The EX navi model comes with navigation system and Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink for your mobile phone at a reasonable price of $23,100. Overall, the Insight feels like a fun little car to drive with an affordable price tag.
The Prius has always seemed like a car for practical minded grown ups who wish to make a statement about being green. The first generation Prius had no bells and whistles, just a bare-bones car with good fuel economy that sadly drove like a “hybrid”. It was a delight to many when the second generation Prius came equipped with more ergonomic features such as the keyless Smart Key entry system, lots of convenient storage including a double-glove compartment, handy sunglasses holder in the car roof, well placed cup holders at elbow height, and on the pricier models, navigation system, Bluetooth®, auto-dimming rear view mirror, a port for your iPod, etc., and not to mention that it actually drove more or less like a normal car. The new 2010 Prius not only stays true to its root of being a practical car, it is now outfitted with many more “high-tech” features. The in-dash display has a neat 3D effect and offers a dizzying array of useful information for you to evaluate your driving style and efficiency. The information is presented as statistical facts rather than the Insight’s Economy score.
The materials used in the Prius cabin, the plastic on the dashboard and the fabric on the seats, are of higher quality than those used in the Insight, giving the car a more luxurious feel. The driver seat height is now adjustable, an improvement from the previous generation of Prius. More ergonomic details are added to the new Prius, such as the slightly canted door lock and window control panels on the door, and the better located navigational LCD touch screen close to the center console rather than on the dash as in the previous generation of Prius and the current generation of Insight, allowing for easier access and readability. The Bluetooth® system is easy to program with a much friendlier user interface than the previous versions, a huge improvement. (I was never able to download my address book from my phone to either the 2005 or the 2007 Prius, even the dealership could not figure it out). The Smart Key entry system is addictive once you get use to it. Not having to take out your key to open your trunk door whole holding a handful grocery bags is a convenience that’s easy to get use to.
The room inside the Prius is slightly larger in some dimensions, a hair smaller in a few. The interior is more sophisticated and uses nicer materials. The car offers a much wider array of electronic options, from laser adaptive cruise control to a solar moonroof that powers an interior cooling fan using solar power from roof-mounted photovoltaic cells.
In comparison, with the Insight being 2.5 inches shorter in height than the Prius, non-height challenged passengers may not be so enamored with the lack of headroom, and this is especially a problem in the rear passenger seats with its low ceiling. The Insight is also two inches narrower and 2.7″ shorter in length than the Prius. Although that doesn’t sound like a lot, the interior space of the Insight is definitely noticeably smaller. Back seat passengers taller than 5′ 10″ won’t be too comfortable and may end up like the Christmas tree chosen for the apartment living room. A little bent at the top under that low ceiling.
The Insight only has 15.9 cubic feet of luggage space behind its rear seats, versus 21.6 cubic feet for the new Prius. With the rear seats folded down, the Insight has 32 cubic feet of cargo space, eight cubic feet less than the Priu.
Interior plastic and door panels aren’t quite up to the feel and quality of the Prius. And cupholders are just a little beyond arm’s length. The location of the cup holders is close to the floor in the center of the car below the dashboard for the front seats; something I seriously don’t appreciate. Having to bend down to reach your cup of extra hot, tall Expresso Macchiato, when driving to work in the morning, seems like a driving hazard.
For the first time in the US, the 2010 Prius lets the driver select among three optional driving modes that differ from the standard tuning.
The first is Eco(nomy) mode, which cuts down the acceleration a bit and boosts mileage a lot. Then there’s Power mode, which does just the opposite–cutting your time to accelerate from 30 to 50 mph from 5.8 seconds down to 4.1 seconds. Finally, there’s EV Mode, which makes the car run electric-only (under 26 mph) for as long as the battery holds out. Aggressive use of the “go faster, dammit!” pedal automatically kicks the car out of EV mode and back to hybrid mode. Very useful when more speed is needed and you forget to switch EV mode off.
And just how big of a price difference is there between the Insight and the Prius? This was not an easy question to answer, since to me, comparing these two cars was a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Despite the nearly identical exterior appearance, the two cars are different in many important ways. For example, although the base model Insight is priced $2,200 dollars less than the Prius, it also lacks a whole bunch of standard features including cruise control, disc instead of drum breaks, electronic traction and stability control, the Smart Key system, and not to mention the overall higher quality cabin materials. Looking at dimensions, the Insight is considered a compact car while the Prius is a mid-size car. Fuel efficiency for the Prius is about 20% better than the Insight, the bigger gas tank and longer range allow you to fill up less frequently. Overall, I thought the Prius gives you a bigger bang for the buck even if the cost of entry is higher.
And the Winner Is?
So, should you buy the Insight or the Prius? That depends on what you are looking for in a car. The Prius offers a much quieter and smoother ride than the louder, stiffer, and sportier feel of the Insight. Interior noise, vibration, and harshness is reduced in the 2010 Prius and it has a smoother engine restart. The Insight’s auto stop/start of the engine is about as subtle as freight train passing through a sleepy Alabama town at 2 AM.
The new Prius is a higher quality car, is great for commuting, and has a much roomier cabin for those with family. Its larger engine makes merging at speed safer and freeway cruising more relaxed. And, of course, the combined gas mileage rises to 50 miles per gallon from the previous 46 mpg. If you just can’t spend more than $22K for a car and really want to buy a hybrid, or if you want a fun car to drive and want to feel the road, the Insight is definitely a fine car to purchase.
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