The Insight is Honda’s two-seat hybrid vehicle and has been the leader in gas mileage since it was first introduced in 2000. From the moment one first sees the car, until long after it is driven, it’s clear that the Insight is unlike anything else on the road today.
The aerodynamic shape, the ample use of aluminum construction, and the compact design, all contribute to its fuel efficiency. With the average US vehicle having an EPA mileage estimate of only 20.9 miles per gallon, the Insight’s estimates of 57 city/56 highway for the automatic transmission and 60/65 for the manual are impressive. And as amazing as those numbers are, real life data shows that it is possible to beat the EPA estimates . Forget about getting only 300 miles on a tank of gas.
Depending on the type of commute and driving habits, 500, 600, 700 miles or more can be obtained.
The Honda Insight is powered by a 1.0 liter, 3 cylinder aluminum engine with an electric motor mated to it for additional assist when needed. Together the two produce just over 70 horsepower, but this is certainly peppy enough, given the low curb weight of just under 2000 lbs. Two transmission choices are available: Honda’s Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), or the 5 speed manual transmission.
Contrary to popular perception, the electric motor never needs to be plugged in. Most charging occurs while braking or coasting, although it can also occur while driving if the car senses the battery charge is too low. The car’s computer chooses between providing electric assist and charging as needed. The transition between the two is seamless and would go unnoticed except for the set of digital meters in the dash display.
Auto stop is just one component of the emissions system to make the Insight better for the air we breathe. The special catalytic converters and placement of emission controls are integral to this goal as well. Combined together, the technologies make the overall tailpipe emissions of manual transmission Insight 50% cleaner than the average new car and the CVT’s 90% cleaner.
When driving, the digital dash display has plenty of information available. All the usual gauges are there in electronic form: speedometer, tachometer, and odometer. But there are other items as well. A set of gauges displays whether the electric motor is providing assist or charging the battery and there is a gauge that displays the battery’s current charge level. Pushing a few buttons cycles through several trip meters; three meters are used to track trip segments, and one tracks the lifetime miles per gallon (lmpg) of the vehicle.
But one of the best features of the display is the instantaneous gas mileage readout. This is where the driver can see, in real time, how driving habits affect gas mileage. By using this visual feedback the driver can easily adjust driving habits to get the best fuel economy.
Standard amenities in the Insight include power steering, power locks, power windows, AM/FM/CD player and a theft deterrent system. Automatic climate control comes standard with the CVT, but is optional with manual transmission. Safety features include ABS and front airbags.
The last thing to point out is that the purchase of a Honda Insight may make you eligible to receive a one-time clean-fuel vehicle federal tax deduction of up to $1,500. Some states allow additional incentives as well. See your tax advisor or the IRS for details.
Overall, the Insight’s excellent gas mileage, low emissions, and nimble ride make it a great choice if a two-seater car fits into your lifestyle. The possibility of a deduction from the government is nice, too. Although there have been unsubstantiated rumors that Insight production is ending soon, the Insight will continue to remain a lasting example of what is possible in vehicle design.