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#18

in 2010 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $9,971 - $11,526
Original MSRP: $19,800 - $23,100
MPG: 40 City / 43 Hwy
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2010 Honda Insight Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Auto writers had fun driving the Honda Insight, which is something not always said about hybrid cars. Although its little engine and electric motor limit its power compared to others in both the small car and hybrid classes, the Insight's ride quality is polished. Acceleration is smooth, and a bit quicker than on the rival Prius. Steering is tight and well-calibrated. 

  • "The driving, for the most part, does feel natural, with little of the surging and hiccupping that sometimes afflict hybrids. Driving the Insight basically feels a lot like driving any other small Honda." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The words 'hybrid' and 'sporty' remain mutually exclusive at this modest price point, but the 2010 Honda Insight is by far the most enjoyable hybrid hatchback to drive." -- Edmunds
  • "The test drive showed the Insight is comfortable, quiet (except for irritating tire noise on rough secondary roads) and behaves virtually like a standard economy car." -- Chicago Sun-Times
  • "The Insight has one thing over the current Prius: The Insight is actually pretty fun to drive." -- Los Angeles Times

Acceleration and Power

The Insight is less powerful than other small cars, but doesn't feel underpowered on the road. Its continuously variable transmission does an outstanding job getting the most out of the power it does have, making acceleration feel strong enough for most situations. The Insight is powered by a 1.3-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine and electric motor that nets 98 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque.

  • "Acceleration is spirited, even during 65-75 mph passing maneuvers, although the Insight is no fireball." -- Chicago Sun-Times
  • "For sure, the Insight is slow compared to many other cars, but it goes about its business with the sort of eagerness that we've come to appreciate in the enthusiastic Honda Fit." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "If you give up any pretenses of driving for efficiency, the tiny four-banger quickly becomes taxed. Accelerate hard from 65 to 75 mph, and a cacophony of underhood protests, road noise, and tire thrum serves to remind you that this is a car that has been engineered to reward deliberate, considered inputs." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "A nickel-metal hydride battery pack keeps the electric motor whirring, and the electric motor returns the favor via regenerative braking, becoming a battery-charging generator when the brakes are activated. Notably, the gas engine's crankshaft never stops spinning, even when the Insight is operating solely on electric power, so there's no unseemly coughing or rumbling as the gas engine comes online." -- Edmunds
  • "The continuously variable automatic transmission has the unpleasant slipping-clutch sound and feel found in most hybrids. Hit the throttle, and the CVT lets the engine rev fast and stay there while the car accelerates at a pace out of sync with the roaring engine. Eventually, the car's going fast enough that the engine slows and everything's peaceful. Until you need immediate power again." -- USA Today

Fuel Economy

The Honda Insight's expected 40 mpg in combined city and highway driving is better than many small cars, but compares negatively to the mpg rating of other hybrids.

The Insight offers two driving modes. An "Econ" mode is the most fuel-efficient, but can feel a bit sluggish. Out of "Econ" mode, the Insight feels quicker.

  • "It's hard to call 40 mpg disappointing, but in this case it is. The smaller, lighter Insight, using a smaller displacement gasoline engine, seems to be an underachiever. Honda says that's partly because Insight's tuned for a little more punch, to make driving more fun, at the expense of fuel economy." -- USA Today

Handling and Braking

Test drivers consider the Honda Insight's road demeanor one of its strongest assets. The majority of reviewers describe the ride as typical Honda -- composed and precise -- and especially praise the seamless braking.

  • "For the record, the Insight drives like a Honda, with tight suspension motions, a firm ride, well-connected steering, and a no-fat musculature." -- Car and Driver
  • "Honda has worked hard to make the Insight the drivers' choice. There's a hollow stiffness to the chassis, but the overall sensation is road feel, not harshness. Steering is light and precise, and the Insight changes direction happily, without keeling over as the Prius is wont to do." -- Motor Trend
  • "The electrically assisted steering has decent feel, with a small dead spot on-center that seems to improve the harder you drive the car." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The Insight is certainly no sports car, but the major controls like the steering and the brakes have a progressive, natural feel." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "The brake pedal has a linear action that helps assure smooth stops. And the anti-lock brakes have an electronic brake distribution system to enhance stopping performance." -- Chicago Sun-Times

Eco Assist

According to reviewers, one of the Honda Insight's coolest tricks is its Eco Assist technology. By pressing the "Econ" button on the dashboard, drivers can modify the car's throttle response to further enhance the Insight's fuel efficiency.

  • "Even the cruise control gets in on the act; it relaxes a little when Econ mode is engaged, allowing the car's speed to vary a bit on inclines. Aside from the cruise control behavior, Econ mode doesn't make a huge difference in the way the Insight drives, but it does help pick up an extra MPG or two." -- About.com

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