2010 Honda Insight EXPosted on May 1st, 2009
Affordable hybrid averages over 40 mpg
By Nina Russin
The original Honda Insight was an uber-cool hatchback with a small, but loyal cult following. It was cool because it had incredible fuel economy (70 mpg) and went like spit. The problem was that it only held two passengers, and had very limited cargo space.
The all-new Insight promises to have wider appeal. It’s bigger, holding up to five passengers, and has enough room behind the rear seats to store luggage or groceries. Best of all, the Insight is priced within reach of the average buyer: the base LX model starts at $19,800.
Having been a huge fan of the original Insight, I was excited about getting behind the wheel of the 2010 model. The test car is the EX grade that starts at $21,300. Unlike the base model, the EX includes Eco Assist: the speedometer background changes color to reflect driving efficiency. The background is green when the driver is maximizing fuel economy; blue when he’s not. I must admit, I was most often in the blue.
Despite that, I averaged 42 miles-per-gallon: a slight improvement over the EPA estimate. While the continuously variable transmission doesn’t produce the spitball performance of the original Insight, the new model is still a fun car to drive.
The Eco Assist feature is fun to play with: perhaps too much fun because I found myself focusing on that rather than the road. Honda has done a great job on interior ergonomics, from the Insight’s right-size steering wheel to its intuitive center stack.
I tested the Insight in hot weather. Daytime highs in the nineties made it necessary to use the air conditioner. Unlike the Toyota Prius, the Insight has a mechanical air conditioning compressor that runs off the engine.
I was concerned about the temperature inside the car rising when the engine cut out at traffic lights. But engineers have compensated for the situation effectively, by cutting the engine off for shorter periods, and then turning it on to maintain an even interior temperature.
Standard i-VTEC engine with electric motor assist
All models come with a 1.3-liter, four-cylinder engine and electric motor that produce 98 horsepower: not a lot of power to move 2700 pounds of sheet metal off the line. Honda’s ace in the hole is the low-end torque produced by a ten- kilowatt electric motor. Electric motors reach full torque at extremely low speeds, giving the Insight adequate, though not exceptional, acceleration in the 20-50 mph range.
High-end power is less of a problem. The inline four-cylinder engine has plenty of power to maintain highway speeds of 80- 85 miles-per-hour, and pass slower vehicles when necessary. Though the Insight is a relatively light car, its low center of gravity and aerodynamic profile keep it quite stable in a crosswind.
Designers located the car’s nickel-metal hydride battery pack under the cargo bay, where it doesn’t interfere with passenger space. The only downside compared to conventional cars with similar layouts is lack of concealed storage. There are a couple of small cubbies next to the spare tire and jack that stow above the battery. The bins are big enough for a wallet, small electronic devices or a small purse.
Visibility all the way around the car is pretty good: the funky rear window design creates some blind spots in the rear corners. A standard rear wiper keeps the large glass area clean in rain and snow. Electric power assist steering provides excellent feedback at all speeds.
A MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension are compliant enough for city driving. A standard front stabilizer bar keeps the chassis flat in the corners. I had some concerns about the Insight’s small wheels. Though I didn’t get to test the car in wet weather, the tires maintained their footprint taking a decreasing radius turn at speed.
The compact Insight is incredibly versatile for a car of its size. The manually adjustable seats provide plenty of lower back support for road trips of several hours. A standard dead pedal reduces leg fatigue.
Temperature and audio controls are easy to reach from either front position. Designers located the temperature controls in a separate pod that’s closer to the driver, eliminating center stack clutter.
There is a 12-volt power point on the center stack for recharging electronic devices. A small center console bin holds small items and includes a change holder. Standard overhead reading lamps up front and a dome light in back illuminate the interior at night. A cargo area light makes it easy to load items in back after dark.
Although three can fit in the back seats, two passengers will be more comfortable. The center seating position is slightly higher than the outboard seats, and the center console cuts into the middle passenger’s legroom.
A lever on the outboard seatbacks folds the rear seats flat in a 60/40 pattern, creating a long enough cargo floor for a road bike with the front wheel removed. Designers made the operation as simple as possible: there’s no need to flip the seat bottoms forward or to remove the headrests. The Insight meets our bicycle friendly standards.
All models come with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, driver and front passenger active head restraints, and a front body designed to mitigate pedestrian injuries. The Insight meets California’s Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles standards, and is currently on display at Honda dealerships nationwide.
Likes: An affordable, fuel-efficient hybrid car with a versatile interior that can function for active lifestyles.
Dislike: Lack of concealed storage space.
Model: Insight 5 Dr. EX
Base price: $21,300
As tested: $21,970
Horsepower: 98 Hp @ 5800 rpm
Torque: 123 lbs.-ft. @ 1000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 40/43 mpg city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include a $670 destination charge.
One response to “2010 Honda Insight EX”
Just drove up to fayetteville Arkansas from Dallas Texas to pick up an insight. I bought the standard model with no frills. Just drove the five hours home and this car is really something special. It is a hybrid that is roomy and priced for people like me. Practical and concerned with over cost of operation. I recommend it.
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