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2010 Honda Insight Overview

The Insight returns to Honda's lineup for 2010 as the automaker's entry-level hybrid, priced less than the larger and better-equipped Civic Hybrid, and less than the Toyota Prius, making the Insight the most affordable hybrid car currently available in the U.S. The Insight first appeared in 1999 as a two-seat, three-door hatchback with a 70-hp gasoline engine and a 13-hp electric motor. Although it was the most fuel-efficient car available in the U.S. at the time and won the International Engine of the Year award in 2000, the original Insight was never popular, selling only around 18,000 units worldwide in its eight years of production, so the automaker dropped it from the lineup. But sensing an opportunity, Honda gave the Insight a facelift and a less-expensive hybrid engine (thanks to updates in hybrid technology) and reintroduces the vehicle for 2010.

The five-door, five-passenger 2010 Insight sedan bears some resemblance to its competitor, the Toyota Prius, but it also carries forth styling cues that appeared on the original Insight, such as its "teardrop" profile. The Insight also strongly resembles the FCX Clarity, Honda's zero-emission, hydrogen-powered fuel cell sedan. In particular, the rear ends of both cars share the same basic design, with their aerodynamic shapes and high rear decks. In addition, the Insight borrows some design and structural components from the popular Honda Fit, although the Insight stretches 3 inches longer and 1 inch wider than the Fit.

For its powerplant, the 2010 Insight comes equipped with a 1.3-liter, single-overhead-cam aluminum-alloy i-VTEC gas engine and Honda's next-generation Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system, which the automaker borrowed from the Civic Hybrid. The IMA system consists of a 10-kilowatt electric motor, which sits between the engine and transmission, and assists the gas engine when it requires additional power for acceleration and climbing hills. The electric motor generates 13 hp and 58 lb-ft of torque, while the gas engine generates 123 lb-ft of torque. Working together, the gas engine and electric motor produce 98 hp.

Like in other hybrids, the Insight's gas engine deactivates during deceleration or when the vehicle stops. As a result, the Insight posts fuel economy numbers of 40/43 mpg and has a maximum driving range of more than 400 miles on a single tank of gas.

The Insight's IMA hybrid system also includes a compact Intelligent Power Unit, which captures and stores kinetic energy from the brakes when they're applied, and supplies additional power for acceleration. Honda located the Intelligent Power Unit and ultra-compact battery beneath the Insight's rear cargo floor, which allows the automaker to equip the sedan with a versatile 60/40-split and fold-down rear seat back, so drivers can maximize cargo space.

An automatic CVT (continuously variable transmission) completes the Insight's powerplant. The CVT behaves much like a traditional automatic transmission, although it uses a metal push-belt rather than gears to find the most efficient drive ratio. However, the CVT has received mixed reviews at best, with some noting a lack of precise feel and confident engagement from the transmission. In addition, many reviewers note a clunky feel when the powerplant switches from gas-powered mode to electric-motor-assist mode. Many reviewers also find the Insight's powerplant excessively noisy when revving.

Honda equipped the Insight with an interactive system called the Ecological Drive Assist System, or Eco Assist, which provides feedback (via changing background colors on the speedometer display) on braking and acceleration. The system was designed to aid drivers in maximizing fuel economy.

Some owners and reviewers find the Insight's handling taut and precise, while others consider it too stiff. In addition, many find the Insight's ride harsh and bumpy, and its construction materials thin and flimsy.

The Insight comes in LX and EX trims. Both sport an all-new, futuristic interior design, with such standard features as automatic climate control, power windows and door locks, a tilt and telescoping steering column, and a 160-watt audio system with MP3 connectivity and speed-sensitive volume controls. The EX adds steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, vanity mirrors, cruise control, and an optional navigation system with Bluetooth wireless connectivity, among other features. Safety equipment includes antilock brakes, traction control, and a full range of airbags.


Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in California.

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