Now that I've further distanced myself from personal friends that own and claim to love their Toyota Prius, I apologize to the Honda loyal who have opted to purchase the Insight, quite possibly the most under-powered Honda in the lineup. Frankly, I'd expect more from America's original production Hybrid. Anyone that reads me at Torque News knows that I'm a Honda fan. I don't question the engineering quality of the Insight. Simply put, I have a problem with the performance numbers.
The math simply doesn't compute. The company that brought us the high performance, high mpg hybrid CR-Z, has opted to present the newest addition of the Insight virtually mechanically unchanged. And that would be fine if the vehicle hadn't been under-powered, even as measured against the performance specifications of the slug queen Toyota Prius.
While I do like the line and look of the Insight as well as the interior trim and the personal electronic interface, I don’t care for the car’s underpowered 1.3 liter i-VTEC 4 cylinder 8 valve gasoline, electric booster combination. While the C.V.T. transmission is seamless, the combined 113 hp,(gas and electric) leaves me questioning Honda engineering -- Something I rarely do.
True, the power plant does produce a combined torque rating approaching that of the V6 Accord. And, Honda engineering has utilized the C.V.T transmission to transfer that torque to smooth available power. The car accelerates well off the light, but lacks in grade and passing acceleration.
As to road handling characteristics, the throttle by wire and electric assist steering is adequate. As to braking, cornering and tracking? You won’t be racing the car…
Most consumers purchase a Hybrid with good will as to ecological concerns. They look first to the vehicle's stated combined mpg. This is where the Insight falls way short.
When we compare the Prius’s 51 city and 48 highway mpg against the 30 city and 39 highway mpg that Insight claims, the mystery continues.
For me, a couple of questions come to mind: Is Honda deliberately killing the market for the Insight by producing a relatively heavy (2982 lb.) under-powered, odd looking Hybrid? Or, does Toyota offer a more efficient Hybrid for $2,000 over the cost of Honda’s Insight. I think the later.
With Honda leading the world in Fuel Cell development, performance hybrid technology and stand-alone plugins, I find the Insight to be a bit of a puzzle. Unless Honda R&D has near future performance upgrades on line for Insight, I believe that 2014 will be its last production year in North America.
For the Honda loyal that have opted to purchase the Insight , best of luck, and slow; safe, patient driving to you.