Honda insight 2011 reviews

2011 Honda Insight

2011 Honda Insight Overview

The Insight has a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor. More than one reviewer called this setup sporty, and thought the Insight steered and braked like a gas-only car, which are big compliments in the hybrid world. Still, a few reviewers thought that the Insight was underpowered, though that isn’t uncommon for a hybrid. With fuel economy averages of 40/43 mpg city/highway, the Insight has some of the highest fuel economy ratings in the class. It also has an excellent safety score.

Auto critics said the Insight’s interior is well-made and that the controls are easy to use, but rear-seat space is limited. The front seats are comfortable, but reviewers complained about the headroom in the back seat. On the other hand, the Insight has good cargo space for a hybrid. If you want Bluetooth, a USB port or navigation, you’ll have to upgrade to the LX trim or higher, as none of these features are available on the base Insight.

See the full 2011 Honda Insight specs ”

Other Cars to Consider

The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is available as an Eco model that gets up to 38/42 mpg/city highway, making its highway fuel economy ratings just shy of the Honda Insight’s. If you choose the Cruze Eco over the Insight, you’ll also get top-notch safety scores, better performance, more room for passengers, a lot of trunk space and an interior that feels upscale for an affordable small car.

Though they’re developed by the same automaker, the 2011 Honda Civic Hybrid and Insight have their differences. Their fuel economy ratings are identical, though the Insight trumps the Civic Hybrid with higher safety ratings. If you want a more traditional-looking hybrid, the Civic Hybrid is the better choice because it’s only available as a sedan. You will have to sacrifice performance, though, because reviewers knocked it for being slow to accelerate. The Civic Hybrid also has a lot less trunk space than the Insight.

Compare the Insight to the Cruze and Civic Hybrid “

The Honda Insight is Honda’s single focus, dedicated hybrid sedan — and the most affordable hybrid currently available in America. Similar in profile to the Toyota Prius, Insight is actually classified as a compact vehicle (to the midsize Prius), but still suffers greatly in comparison. Chief among the complaints is the Insight’s relatively mediocre fuel economy for a dedicated hybrid — 40 mpg city/43 mpg highway.

This 5-passenger, front-drive sedan is powered by Honda’s integrated motor assist (IMA) system that pairs a 1.3-liter 4-cylinder engine with a 10-kilowatt electric motor for a total output of 98 horsepower.

Insight is available in two main trim levels. Mainstays such as cruise control and vanity mirrors are not available in the bare bones LX version. EX adds more comfort features, including navigation and Bluetooth, but can’t help the Insight’s rough ride, poor noise and vibration isolation issues. Given its harsh reception and relativity slow sales thus far, it is rumored that the Insight’s shortcomings will reportedly addressed sometime during the 2011 model year.

Bodystyle: Compact
Engine: 1.3L I-4 and electric motor
Transmissions: CVT
Models: LX, EX

There has been much speculation that Honda will boost the Insight’s battery range and electric motor output in an attempt to improve fuel economy. How that would be possible, while keeping the price down is unclear. Other areas that will likely be addressed include the suppression of wind noise and road vibration. Look out for more details in the fall of 2010.

Skinny, 15-inch wheels and a narrow, Kamm back profile give Insight great aerodynamics but leave it susceptible to wind gusts and grooved roads. EX models receive alloy wheels and side mirrors with imbedded turn signals.

The Insight’s instruments are fun and futuristic. Legroom is decent in the rear seats, but shoulder room is tight. EX models receive paddle shifters and cruise control. Bluetooth is available on EX via the optional navigation system.

Insight feels light and tight on the road, but suffers from poor NVH isolation and a rough ride. A paddle-shift enabled CVT does offer the pretense of sportiness, but the Insight is slow, particularly in ECO mode, and fun-to-drive only for those with good imaginations. EPA fuel economy numbers can be achieved with diligence and compromises to driving enjoyment and passenger comfort.

All seats have three point seatbelts. Driver and passenger have dual stage, multi threshold front and front side airbags. Outboard passengers have side curtain airbags. ABS and EBD come standard; stability control available only on EX.

40 mpg city/43 mpg highway

  • Low cost
  • Futuristic gauge cluster
  • Wind noise
  • Ride Harshness
  • Fuel economy
  • Lackluster performance

Coarse, loud, slow; Honda misfires

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  • Chevrolet Volt
  • Nissan Leaf
  • Toyota Prius
  • VW Golf TDI

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MARC URBANO, THE MANUFACTURER INGO BARENSCHEE

It’s one thing to arrive late to a party. It is quite another to arrive so late that all the other guests have already moved on to a better, slightly more fashionable party. Such is the case with the Insight. Honda started the affair with the original Insight in December 1999, but Toyota’s Prius, which made its U.S. debut early the next year, proved to be far more popular. After seven model years, Honda sulked away. For 2010, the company came back to see a hybrid shindig now fully populated by almost every automaker sporting the latest in dual-propulsion technology.

Although the second-generation Insight adds two doors, three seats, and an extra cylinder, power—as in other Honda hybrids—still comes from a gasoline engine paired with an inline electric motor that provides assist at low speeds and converts kinetic energy to electricity when coasting or braking. With the motor permanently linked to the engine, the Insight lacks an engine-off  full-electric mode, which makes it appear dated compared with other hybrids that can cruise with the engine resting.

Honda’s angle is affordability. With the 2010 LX model commanding a modest $20,510, the Insight was positioned as the least-expensive hybrid on the market, undercutting the Prius by $1650. The Toyota, however, came with EPA figures of 51 mpg city and 48 highway. The Insight’s smaller price came with correspondingly smaller EPA fuel-economy numbers. Our Insight rates 40 mpg city and 43 highway, the same as the Civic hybrid’s 2011 numbers (revised from a previous 45 mpg highway). The Civic starts at $4000 more than the LX Insight but also comes with more power and more interior space, and the new-for-2012 Civic hybrid hits 44 mpg on both cycles.

MARC URBANO, THE MANUFACTURER

The EPA mileage figures are a bit of a head scratcher, but the Insight managed an observed 38 mpg to the Prius’s 42 in a July 2009 comparison test, narrowing the gap between the two in real-world driving. Plus, our early impressions of the Insight pegged it as the driver’s choice. We decided to investigate further, and West Coast technical editor Aaron Robinson took delivery of a Tango Red Pearl Insight EX, base price $22,010. Adding to the pretense of a driver’s hybrid, the EX model comes with paddle shifters that contrive manual “gears” in the continuously variable transmission. To that we added navigation ($1800), satellite radio ($310), a cargo cover ($195), and carpeted floor mats ($104) for a total price of $24,419.

Living with the Insight revealed a number of peculiarities, such as its stop-start system. In theory, the system shuts down the engine at low speeds and when the car is immobile. But on a hot day, the engine would fire up unpredictably to give some much-needed juice to the air conditioning. The engine also runs when the transmission is in park; this is so an unknowing driver doesn’t exit the car when all’s quiet, thinking the ignition is off. For all the trouble of a stop-start system, our Insight spent more time idling than we expected.

The Insight was also highly susceptible to crosswinds, inspiring logbook descriptions that, depending on the weather conditions, ranged from “abject wobbler” to “I can’t believe the upper-arm workout I get just to stay in my lane.” One potential culprit was a bad alignment. Just past 20,000 miles on the odometer, we noticed abnormal wear on the front tires. A local dealer ­performed an alignment ($95) at the next routine service. The crosswind problem ­persisted, but by then the Insight rode on Bridgestone Blizzak WS60 ice and snow tires ($420). We couldn’t rule out the winter tires as a contributing factor since they are not known for dry-road prowess. With the arrival of spring, we switched back to the factory all-season tires, replacing the abnormally worn fronts at a cost of $421 (including mounting and balancing). This made no difference, and the Insight still lacked directional stability at highway speeds.

MARC URBANO, THE MANUFACTURER

Technical director Don Sherman advanced the theory that the Insight’s slippery profile produces lift at high speed, thereby decreasing stability. Whether or not that’s the reason for its wandering ways, the Insight’s shape is the source of our other main complaint: The all-glass fastback/Kamm tail is separated by a crossbeam that obscures rearward vision.

MARC URBANO, THE MANUFACTURER

Fortunately, we spend most of our time behind the wheel looking forward, and the Insight has an expansive view through its windshield. Ergonomics and the front seats are also top-notch. The one exception is the dated navigation system, which is plagued with tiny buttons.

Our Insight visited the dealership a mere three times during its 40,000-mile tour, and each stop was for scheduled maintenance. Total service costs came to a low $357. At 26,640 miles, we replaced the weatherstripping on the passenger-side roof (which repeatedly popped out of place under the duress of automatic carwashes) and the trim on the rear wiper, which was falling apart. The cost of both pieces came to $41, and they were installed in our garage by our capable road warriors.

We experienced unusual—and unusually heavy—tire wear on our meandering Insight. MARC URBANO, THE MANUFACTURER

Our average fuel economy of 39 mpg is a testament to the Insight’s fuel-sipping prowess. Moreover, 40-plus mpg figures were common on highway trips. But some of that ­frugality no doubt came from the modest 88-hp, 1.3-liter four, which has few other positive traits. Even with the additional output of the electric motor (13 horsepower, 58 pound-feet), the Insight is slow. Zero-to-60 acceleration was a lazy 10.9 seconds when new and slowed to 12.0 seconds at the end of our test. We made sure the battery was fully charged for both track sessions, so we cannot explain why the car became slower with age. Flooring the gas pedal, and putting up with the accompanying engine drone, was simply part of the Insight experience.

More than the lethargic powertrain, and more than the erratic crosswind handling, the Insight fell in our consideration as the miles wore on. Why? Its general and off-putting lack of refinement. The sporty-feeling ride, it turns out, is actually only sporty for a hybrid. Compared with other cars, even Honda’s own Fit, the ride is rigid. Worse is the integration of the hybrid system. Pulling away from a stop, the Insight’s engine fires up with a shudder, in contrast to the smooth light-off of the Ford Fusion hybrid. Brake-pedal modulation is generally bad at all velocities but gets worse at parking-lot speeds when the re-gen abruptly cuts out just before the car stops.

MARC URBANO, THE MANUFACTURER

In the moons since this Insight’s introduction, the hybrid world has advanced significantly, and newer offerings provide seamless operation and better driving dynamics. Ironically, most of the new hybrids use powertrain configurations similar to Honda’s, with their electric motors sandwiched between their engines and transmissions. But in the best hybrid systems, an extra clutch allows for smooth power delivery and electric-only operation. Our Insight gave us 40,000 miles of mostly trouble-free, high-mpg driving, and it remains the most affordable hybrid available, a bragging right no automaker seems eager to challenge. But the Insight is also the most basic of  high-tech hybrid transportation, and it left us wanting.

Date: November 2010
Months in Fleet: 11 months
Current Mileage: 14,189 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 39 mpg
Range: 413 miles
Service: $55
Normal Wear: $0
Repair: $0

To rack up the requisite 40,000 miles on a long-term test car in a reasonable amount of time—in a year or so, preferably before the subject car goes out of production—it is necessary to take the vehicle on a number of long-distance drives. Roaming the American autobahn, however, is not the Honda Insight’s forte, so it is accumulating miles more slowly than some of (okay, all) the other cars in our fleet. A tad noisy at highway speeds, the Insight is flirting with the edge of its comfort zone above 70 mph. If you live in, say, Big Sky country, where even the milk trucks move at 80 mph to cover the vast distances, this Honda hybrid feels a little overmatched.

MARC URBANO, THE MANUFACTURER

At Home around Town

Coursing through clogged city arteries is what the comfortable Insight does best. There, its Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system saves carbon dioxide by shutting down the engine at idle and while coasting at speed, and its hyperefficient, super-clean 1.3-liter four-cylinder is easy on the gas when it’s running, thanks in part to a continuously variable transmission. No, the Insight is not quick—it needs 10.9 seconds to get to 60 mph—but California’s Air Resources Board rates it as a ULEV/AT-PZEV, which is, basically, code for tailpipe emissions clean enough to serve at an oxygen bar.

Heck, even we can average 39 mpg. And that’s with a logbook full of complaints that, in order to get the Insight to move out of its own way, you have to stand on it like Junior Johnson on the last lap at Darlington—especially so if you leave the car in econ mode. Besides making the throttle lazier, econ shuts the air conditioning off during stops. How much are you willing to give up to be green? Some of our drivers have made it clear that their personal comfort isn’t on the table.

MARC URBANO, THE MANUFACTURER

What Do You Think You’re Doing in There?

We thought a longer visit with the Insight would clear up some of the mysteries of IMA’s eccentric behavior. So far, it hasn’t. The system stops and suddenly restarts itself at lights to no readily apparent logic. When you pull into a parking space, the engine cuts out while you’re still in drive and then restarts itself when you move the shifter to park, only to be shut down a half-second later when you switch off the key. At least the Insight has been trouble-free. The car tells you when it wants an oil change; our first was at 10,274 miles and cost just $55. If this trend continues, it’s going to be a very cheap 40,000 miles.

Aside from the powertrain, the one thing everybody gripes about is the split glass in the hatch. A thick horizontal beam bisects the rear view, reducing headlight glare but also making it tough to judge distances and generally know what’s going on back there. Then again, in the Insight, you don’t have to worry about cops on your tail; you’re quite unlikely to be speeding in the first place.

Date: March 2010
Months in Fleet: 2 months
Current Mileage: 2075
Average Fuel Economy: 37 mpg
Range: 392 miles
Service: $0
Normal Wear: $0
Repair: $0

A decade ago, Honda’s skunkworks released both the original aluminum-bodied Insight hybrid and the Honda S2000, at about the same time. Honda’s engineers were heard to comment that compared to the Insight, the S2000 was “the easy one.” We put 40,000 miles on that original two-door, hand-built Insight and got 48 mpg, a figure that, while fabulous by itself, was slightly disappointing given the EPA window-sticker numbers of 61 city, 70 highway.

Down to Basics

Since that original Insight, the EPA has changed the way it computes mileage to lessen the advantage for gas-electric vehicles, and the Toyota Prius has made hybrids mainstream. It’s no surprise that Honda seems to be mimicking the Prius’s successful formula right down to its hatchback DustBuster styling. Gone is the rocket-age aluminum construction with its exotic thixotropic castings. The new Insight is all steel, to hold down costs.

MARC URBANO, THE MANUFACTURER

The 1.0-liter three-cylinder is now a 1.3-liter four-cylinder, and the optional five-speed manual that helped the original Insight supply decent entertainment value is gone. A continuously variable automatic does the transmitting, with paddle shifters on the steering wheel in case you want ratio control.

The hybrid system works pretty much the same, however. A 13-hp, 58-lb-ft brushless DC electric motor is parked between the engine (88 hp, 88 lb-ft) and CVT transmission. Total combined output is 98 hp and 123 lb-ft. The motor boosts the engine’s output when the driver summons its services with the gas pedal, and replenishes the nickel-metal-hydride battery as a generator during coasting and braking. Unlike the Prius’s, however, the Insight’s electric motor cannot move the vehicle off the line on its own, although it will temporarily take over for the engine in some coasting or light-throttle situations.

MARC URBANO, THE MANUFACTURER

The Insight’s window-sticker numbers are now 40 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway, reflecting the new car’s higher weight (about 850 pounds more than its featherweight predecessor, though a still-modest 2730 pounds), its larger engine, and the changes to the EPA test procedure. Thus far we’re seeing about 37 mpg on average, which, while not the advertised mileage, probably reflects typical Car and Driver driving patterns.

With even the thirstiest fill-ups of the 10.6-gallon fuel tank usually being no more than nine gallons, fuel stops are NASCAR-quick, and 400-mile transits of California’s nether regions seem to go by at an agreeably rapid rate. It’s a good idea to carry an empty bottle in the car if you’re really trying to make time, for the Insight usually needs a fill-up less often than you need a draining.

Our no-options, $23,810 Insight is an EX with Navigation model, or the top-of-the-line Insight with navigation, Bluetooth capability, stability control, 15-inch alloy wheels, and a stereo upgrade that includes XM satellite radio among the amenities installed above the base $20,510 LX.

A Good Start

We embarked from Honda’s Torrance, California, headquarters in late January, the car showing fewer than 60 miles on the clock. Within a month we had already piled on more than 2000 miles. Three road trips to northern California have given us lots of exposure to the Insight’s highly comfortable front chairs. The Insight is happy with 75 mph on the long, flat, ruler-straight I-5 through California’s Great Central Valley, so we find it best to just set the cruise, sit back and, for once, not be in a hurry. Amazingly, we still have managed to get pulled over by the CHiPs, though in this case the officer just wanted to double-check the car’s registration against its distributor license plate. Sometimes, it feels like we’re just big magnets to the iron filings of the Highway Patrol.

MARC URBANO, THE MANUFACTURER

We’re still getting used to the hybrid system. It offers two modes, a normal and an Econ mode, the latter activated by a large green button to the left of the steering column. We’ve run the miles about half in Econ, half not, and noticed about a six-percent improvement with the former. However, the Econ mode limits acceleration and cycles off the air conditioner more frequently.

The idle-stop function kills the engine when the car is running but stationary. However, it seems to operate by inscrutable rules. It sometimes restarts for no apparent reason, or doesn’t stop for the same mysterious reason. Pull into your driveway and stop and it’ll shut down—until you put the car in park, at which point it fires up again . . . for a few seconds until you switch it off with the key. This is a hybrid system that prefers to stay busy.

With another 38,000 miles left to go, we’re looking forward to learning the Insight’s as-yet-unrevealed secrets.

Pros

  • Excellent real-world fuel economy
  • Good ride and handling balance
  • Simple, easy to understand display and controls
  • Four-door practicality

Cons

  • Sluggish acceleration
  • Noticeable transition between gears
  • Noticeable rear blind spots
  • Narrow profile

3.5 5

The 2011 Honda Insight is perhaps the best value you can get in a high mileage (40+ combined) car. For, what it lacks in spirited driving characteristics and a less refined-feeling hybrid system, it makes up for with real-world practicality and usability.

The Insight’s narrow profile makes it less sure-footed than other cars, but it was smooth on the highway. As opposed to other hybrid systems, which offered smoother transitions in GHRI tests, Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist is a bit more perceivable, as the engine shuts off at stops, and quickly starts back up when accelerating. The transmission and gear shifting is more noticeable (by feel and audibly) during spirited driving, while more subdued driving will hide these transitions. An eco-mode dulls acceleration but provides slightly improved mileage.

Unlike the tiny two-door, early 2000’s Honda Insight, the current Insight is a much more practically sized four-door vehicle. It also integrates an updated version of the hybrid system, which Honda calls ‘Integrated Motor Assist.” Priced more reasonably than the Prius, the Insight competes in the same ultra-efficient realm. It’s aerodynamic constraints force the Insight into a similar body profile as the Prius, which feels narrow, and creates an off-angle rear windshield and blind spots that take some getting used to. In addition to our fuel economy, we loved the simple instrument panel. The speedometer sits conveniently just below the windshield and other dash information is very simply laid out and easy to see. Other interior controls were also simple and effortless, and a car seat popped right in.

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined): 40/43/41 mpg

Size Class: Compact

Drivetrain: Gas Hybrid

Base Price: $18,970

Reviewed: July 2011

Price When Reviewed: $24015.00