The 2000 Honda Insight was the first gasoline-electric hybrid electric car sold in America. But while this ultra-lightweight 2-passenger car was a technological marvel, its versatility was too limited for wide appeal. That prize went to the larger 5-place Toyota Prius Hybrid. Well now Honda is back with a reformulated Insight, and this time it looks like they got both the chemistry and practicality right.

With last year’s oil price shocks still a vivid memory, the timing for the 2010 Honda Insight couldn’t be better. Now a 5-door 5-passenger compact, the second gen Insight may finally make Honda a major hybrid player.

Powering the Insight is Honda’s latest Integrated Motor Assist system with a 1.3-liter i-VTEC inline four with variable cylinder management and a small, 13 Kilowatt electric motor.  The combination is good for 98 horsepower and 123 pound feet of torque.  If the system sounds familiar, it is basically a refinement of the current Civic Hybrid’s setup.

Efficiency has been increased slightly, and though horsepower numbers are down a few compared to the Civic, torque remains the same.  Power finds its way to the front wheels through a CVT transmission, with steering wheel mounted shift paddles from the Fit. 

But, since the Insight is not quite a “full” hybrid, with a very limited ability to run on pure electric alone like the Toyota Prius, Government Fuel Economy ratings are lower than you might expect - 40 city and 43 highway. But, in our initial drive we were able to get into the 50’s without really trying too hard.

And speaking of trying hard, Honda, knowing that the most critical part to good fuel economy is the driver, has come up with unique ways to help you get the most out of your Insight.

Behind the digital speedometer, a subtle light gives you instant feedback on your driving.  If its dark blue, you are not driving with good efficiency; turquoise, you’re getting better; and bright green, naturally, means you are doing your best for the ecosystem.  In addition, an Eco Guide display located in the gauge cluster keeps track of your recent as well as lifetime driving habits. So, you’ll know when you fall off the green driving wagon.

Another high mileage aide is ECON mode. It forces you to drive more efficiently by smoothing out your throttle inputs and limiting overall power. It even regulates the air conditioning. Now, full power is still available at wide open throttle if you need it for emergencies. We found it a little restrictive.

Fortunately, the Insight feels pretty powerful for daily driving and can almost be described as peppy.  Our drive took us through some windy desert roads near Phoenix, Arizona.  We weren’t expecting a sports car experience and our expectations were fully met.  However, with some of its architecture coming from the fun Fit, the Insight is not exactly a snoozer, either. 

Inside the Insight, the overall feel is more techno-geek than truly inviting.  Gee-wiz shapes are surrounded by hard plastics, but the driver oriented controls are large, work well, and feel high quality.

Seat comfort up front is very good.  In the rear, leg room is plentiful, but head room is tight for those six feet and over.

A wide opening hatch in back makes for easy access to the cargo bay.  The hybrid battery has gotten so small it’s now located under the spare tire and does not impede cargo room at all, which is a generous 15.9 cubic feet with the 60/40 split rear seat backs up and 31.5 cubic feet with them folded. Yes, the Insight is a very impressive package overall. 

When it comes to packaging, the new Insight certainly has the futuristic wrapping that hybrid owners seem to crave.  The front end is very similar to Honda’s FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle, while the profile is very reminiscent of the original Insight with a downward sloping roofline and upward wedge character line leading up to a hacked off rear with see through glass panel.  All that’s missing is the rear wheel-well covers.  Hmmm… aftermarket maybe?

The design screams aerodynamic efficiency as well as, “Hey, look at me! I’m driving a hybrid.” And that is what we think the Insight is all about. Feel good looks, practical packaging, very good if not earth shaking mileage, and lastly, price, which is an impressively low $20,470 with freight. Two trim levels plus navigation are available. That makes Insight two grand cheaper than the slightly larger Toyota Prius and about $3,000 less than the Civic Hybrid.

So, the reformulated 2010 Honda Insight is the most affordable hybrid to date, and while it may not be the ultimate hybrid car, when sales begin in April, it will make this technology much more accessible, and that will have both buyers and Honda seeing a lot more green.



  • Engine: 1.3-Liter I-vtec Inline Four
  • Horsepower: 98
  • Torque: 123 Lb Feet
  • EPA: 40 MPG City/ 43 MPG Highway