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2012 Honda Insight Overview
The Honda Insight, the first mass-produced hybrid in North America, finally gets a badly needed refresh for 2012. Although first out of the gate, its innovations have been overtaken by the Toyota Prius and even other Hondas. This year, Honda sets out to do the Insight right.
The Insight comes in 3 basic trims: the Base, which includes a 160-watt AM/FM/CD 2-speaker audio system and auxiliary input, automatic climate control and power locks and windows; the LX, which gussies things up a bit with 2 more speakers, floor mats, cruise control and a USB audio interface; and the EX, which is the sportiest of the bunch with a total of 6 speakers, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth and halogen headlamps. The EX w/ Nav has a Navigation system that includes a rear-view camera. Standard wheels are steel 15-inchers, with alloys available for the EX.
All trims come with the same 1.3-liter engine with 88 hp, front-wheel drive, 123 lb-ft of torque and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters come standard in the EX. Adjustments to aerodynamics along with reduced engine friction have added 1 mpg this year, bringing the Insight to 41 mpg city/44 highway. This is better, of course, than past versions but still can’t match the Prius's ratings.
The mild refresh also offers changes in the Insight's design: A sporty new grille and bumpers and blue-tinted headlight covers add some high-tech luster, but it still does look a heck of a lot like the Prius. But looking at it another way, you could say you are getting many of the features of the Prius at a lower sticker price.
Inside, Honda has addressed concerns over headroom and visibility by adding 0.6 inches in the back seat and a smaller rear wiper motor; the Insight offers room for 2 adults and up to 3 kids. The front seats are comfortable, and the dashboard is big and bright. To help save gas and the planet, when you drive in Econ mode, you are “rewarded” with images of healthy trees on the car’s touchscreen when practicing good driving habits.
On the road, the car has enough pep to get around town, but up hills, not so much. Unlike the Prius, the Insight’s gas motor runs in tandem with the electric, so it doesn’t have that silent glide at low speeds. The car’s slow pickup is still very much like a hybrid's. Although the noise problems have been dampened in this latest model, it still can be loud when being pushed for speed.
Safety issues have also been addressed with this year’s version. The tires have been widened to185 mm from 175, which could help its poor showing in braking and handling. Six airbags come standard with every trim.
All in all, the consensus is that Honda has succeeded with this refresh. People regularly report getting better gas mileage than the estimates, and they love the car’s roomier hatchback. If you want a Prius but can’t afford one, the Insight may be your next best option.
by Stephen Moramarco
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