2010 Honda Insight
2010 Honda Insight. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by Haney Louka
Second opinion by Greg Wilson

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2010 Honda Insight

Winnipeg, Manitoba – My first Insight experience was in the autumn of 2000. I had a job interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, and my goal was to become their newest freelance automotive writer. The press car in town (yes, at that time we were lucky to have one press car in our fair city) was a 2001 Honda Insight. Probably not a big deal now, but this was the first hybrid I had ever laid eyes on, and to me, this was an exotic. Sure, it was a quirky-looking two seater with rear fender skirts and a buzzy, underpowered engine. But the engine actually shut off and restarted on its own at red lights! I didn’t get a chance to drive that car, but a shotgun ride was enough of a thrill for me.

Times have certainly changed since then. I now have some 350 test drives under my belt, and hybrids are now as common a sight on suburban streets as blue boxes on garbage day; or should I say, recycling day.

2010 Honda Insight
2010 Honda Insight. Click image to enlarge

The Insight has changed too, after a three-year hiatus from the marketplace. It’s all grown up now with seating for up to five and a full complement of comfort, convenience, and technology features that allow it to compete with mainstream cars for your hard-earned cash. Starting at $23,900 for the base LX and $27,500 for the uplevel EX tested here, the Insight is taking more of a value-oriented approach than its established Toyota competition, the Prius (which starts at $27,500 and goes up to $37,095).

Standard equipment on the LX is a quirky mix of budget econobox fare and high tech treats: 15-inch steel wheels, front disc/rear drum brakes, a torsion beam rear suspension, a full complement of airbags, LED taillights, automatic climate control, trip computer with hybrid specific performance monitors, power windows, and remote entry. Step up to the EX and you’ll find that alloy wheels, stability control, a cargo cover, Bluetooth, navigation, upgraded audio, a USB jack, and other goodies have joined you for the ride.

2010 Honda Insight
2010 Honda Insight. Click image to enlarge

The new Insight’s styling is unavoidably familiar: upsize the original Insight to a five-seater and it just has to look a lot like the rival Prius with some original Honda touches thrown in for good measure. Call it form following function: when aerodynamic efficiencies dictate the design direction, it’s not surprising that the end result looks like a teardrop. The Insight is smaller than the Prius though: at 4,376 mm, it’s nearly 100 mm shorter than the Prius; it’s 50 mm narrower, and its 2,550-mm wheelbase is a full 150 mm shorter than the Prius. All of this, not surprisingly, results in a slight reduction in passenger and cargo volumes. Indeed, the Prius and Insight, while both new for 2010, competed in different classes (small car over $21K for the Insight and family car under $30K for the Prius) at the Canadian Car of the Year competition conducted in October by the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada.

Those who think we’re not quite there with hybrids (yours truly included) would be interested to know that neither the Insight nor the Prius emerged victorious in their respective classes. At the same time, three of four diesel-powered vehicles entered in the competition did take top honours among their peers.

Journalists’ preferences aside, what we’re looking at is Honda’s interpretation of what consumers want to see in their next hybrid vehicle. What hasn’t changed is Honda’s approach to hybrid power: this is what’s termed a ‘parallel’ or ‘mild’ hybrid in that it is not designed to propel the car solely on electric power. The electric motor is there to assist the gas engine in moving the car around. So that means, for the most part, that if the car is moving, the engine is running, thus reflecting a fundamental difference between Honda’s and Toyota’s hybrid designs.

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