The Insight's best attribute is its fuel efficiency. We measured a phenomenal 54 mpg overall, which bests the Toyota Prius' 52 mpg. But the Insight doesn't achieve similar success in other CR evaluations.
Honda based the Insight on the Civic, and because of this the hybrid has some of the same quirks, as well as ones found in other Hondas.
For better or worse, the Insight doesn't scream hybrid. It's a conventional-looking sedan that isn't styled to highlight its fuel-efficiency credentials.
At first the Insight feels like a solid, well-mannered compact sedan, particularly around town. Drivers get a good initial punch from the electric drive system, which is typical of hybrids. The hybrid powertrain is responsive in all-electric mode and at stop-and-go speeds, and in fact, the Insight is quicker than the Prius.
But when pushed hard, the gas engine unleashes a startling noise that ramps up with a loud drone. This is the Insight's most glaring fault.
There are some other frustrations too. The Insight gets Honda's push-button gear selector, which we found cumbersome to use and requires more attention than a shifter should require. The EX trim's 8-inch touch-screen infotainment hub has a rotary volume knob, which we appreciate. But the system has small on-screen buttons, lacks a tuning knob, and many tasks require drivers to conduct multiple steps.
The Insight is so low to the ground that it feels like a spelunking adventure to get in. It’s just as awkward to get out. The driver's seat lacks sufficient lower back support, which is something we have been seeing recently in Honda's vehicles.
There are positives beyond the Insight's fuel economy. Like the Civic, the Insight has a comfortable ride that soaks up bumps and road irregularities. Handling is sound and responsive. Finally, rear-seat room is generous for a compact sedan, and the hybrid battery pack doesn’t intrude on trunks space.
The Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety features is standard equipment. This package includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist.
However, the Insight lacks a blind-spot-warning system. Instead, the EX and Touring trims get the Honda LaneWatch system. This feature displays video image of the right side of the vehicle in the center console when the driver activates the right-hand turn signal; the left side of the car doesn't have coverage. We’ve never been fans of this system.
Yes, the Insight costs less than the Prius, and its better mileage will save drivers some money. But overall, we think a Prius is worth the extra expense.