May 14 2009
02:13 pm

With their new Insight hybrid, Honda is going after the Toyota Prius in a big way. The 2010 third-generation Prius has several updates and remains the king of MPG. The new Insight, however, is significantly less expensive.


Here are comparisons by Popular Mechanics and Motor Trend.

My impression is that the Prius is a little more advanced technologically, a little more powerful, and somewhat larger and roomier. And as mentioned it gets better mileage. (And drivers are reporting much higher MPGs for both cars than the EPA estimates.)

There are things I'm not wild about with the 2010 Prius redesign, though. I'm not sure I like the new center console, and the optional moon roof is ugly and the solar panel is a bit of a joke. (All it does is run a fan to reduce interior heat buildup when parked. They could have at least had an option to trickle charge the battery, even if its only a few symbolic milliamps.) But I like the fact that it has more power yet gets even better mileage.

The best thing about the Insight is the price. It tops out only slightly more than where the Prius starts.

And perhaps the other best thing about the Insight is that you can actually buy one today and drive it off a local lot. There are no 2010 Prius listed in any local Toyota dealer's online inventory. (Some chat board fanboys with access to Toyota's U.S. inventory said a week or so ago that there were only 74 in the U.S. They were monitoring ship manifests to track new arrivals.)

You can, however, get your hands on a second-generation 2009 Prius. All the local dealers have them, and speculation is that they will have to move them before they get any 2010s allocated. You can probably get a pretty good closeout deal.

Anyway, Honda hit the ground running with the Insight, and it looks to be a pretty good value. And more important, it's available now.

Oh, and one more thing. You can't get either in green. What's up with that?

UPDATE: Side-by-side comparison...

2010 Prius 2010 Insight
IC engine 1.8L 4cyl 16v 1.3L 4cyl 8v
ICE HP 98 hhp 88 hp
ICE torque 105 fp 88 fp
Electric motor HP 36 hp 13 hp
Electric motor torque 153 fp 58 fp
Combined HP 134 hp 98 hp
Transmission  CVT CVT
Height 58.7 in 56.2 in
Width 68.7 in 66.7 in
Length 175.6 in 172.3 in
Wheelbase 106.3 in 100.4 in
Head room (front) 38.6 in 38.4 in
Head room (rear) 37.6 in 35.9 in
Shoulder room (front) 54.9 in 52.7 in
Shoulder room (rear) 53.1 in 50.4 in
Hip room (front) 52.7 in 51.6 in
Hip room (rear) 51.2 in 48.7 in
Leg room (front) 42.5 in 42.3 in
Leg room (rear) 36.0 in 33.5 in
Curb weight 3042 lb 2723 lb
Seating capacity  5 adults 5 adults
Passenger volume 93.7 cf 85.0 cf
Luggage capacity  21.6 cf 15.9 cf
Fuel tank 11.9 gal 10.6 gal
EPA MPG (city) 51 mpg 40 mpg
EPA MPG (highway) 48 mpg 43 mpg
EPA MPG (combined) 50 mpg 41 mpg
Price (base) $22,750 $19,800
Price (loaded) $32,520 $23,770
R. Neal's picture

Bump: updated with

Bump: updated with comparison chart

edens's picture

They could have at least had

They could have at least had an option to trickle charge the battery, even if its only a few symbolic milliamps.

The solar panel can power the smug control device.

It's optional equipment, though.

bizgrrl's picture

I just can't figure out why

I just can't figure out why Honda stopped making the Insight in the first place. Now they are playing catch up. I thought I heard somewhere that Toyota may keep around the 2009 version of the Prius (Prius v1 and Prius v2 ?) with a lower price to compete with the Insight.

I'll at least have to see the Insight. I'm curious about the dealer sales pitch. When comparing the Civic hybrid to the Prius, one of the big differences, to Honda anyway, was that the Civic was more "normal", especially to start up.

michael kaplan's picture

the original 2-seat insight

the original 2-seat insight had a relatively long run - from 2000 to 2006. while impractical for many because of its size and lack of luggage space, the car has become a cult artifact of sorts, with gatherings of owners and their cars around the country. some environmentalists raised a health issue, that the battery-to-motor cable ran under the driver's seat, posing a radiation risk from electro-magnetic fields.

to my eye, there was always a design problem with prius v.2, that the front looked disconnected (in design) from the rear, as if each part were designed by a different team. when i finally got to drive the car, that design issue had a functional component: i simply couldn't see out the rear because of the horizontal bar that tends to block rearward vision and the dark gray glass used in the panel under the bar. i can understand why toyota makes available a rear 'backup' camera, and wonder to what extent this problem has been resolved on both prius v.3 and the new insight.

bizgrrl's picture

We saw an original Insight

We saw an original Insight the other day at the Mayo's close to town. It was in perfect condition. I thought it was a new Insight.

michael kaplan's picture

it's a beautiful little car.

it's a beautiful little car. a friend of mine has one with the license reading "70 MPG". you may have seen it driving around town.

but then, i had a 1984 honda civic that got 50 mpg and the car cost $4900 new.

michael kaplan's picture

comparison chart

interesting that the new insight has exactly the same engine (1.3 liter 8-valve) that my 1984 civic had. except the civic had slightly better overall gas mileage. i suppose the hybrid technology is offsetting the extra weight and accessories - power steering, door locks, airbags, etc. - that the civic didn't have.

F-Stop's picture

I went to the bank today to

I went to the bank today to deposit my stupid paper check, and they had a flyer advertising an extra .50% off their normal rates when you financed a "green" car. This is US Bank, and she told me they were the only bank doing this. Who knows.

I like both the Prius and Insight, but am too poor now to think about buying either. Going to buy an older Accord or Civic soon though, gas mileage should be better than my van.

michael kaplan's picture

am too poor now to think

am too poor now to think about buying either

maybe it's time to sell the camera :)

Up Goose Creek's picture

Inflection point

The talk about calculus in another thread led me to remember that the only useful application I had for calculus was I made a chart for MPG and the chart showed an inflection point around 24 - 25 MPG. It's a good thing I kept that chart because I could never recreate it, but the conclusion I arrived at was that after 25 MPG there is a point of diminishing returns that flattens out around 35 MPG.

The best way to picture this is to recall the car talk puzzler where the husband got his truck tuned up to get 11 MPG rather than 10 and the wife traded her 25 mpg compact for a 50 MPG prius. It turned out he was the one who saved more gas.

OTOH, the hybrid puts out a lot less pollution so there is that justification.

michael kaplan's picture

the hybrid puts out a lot

the hybrid puts out a lot less pollution so there is that justification

It seems so on the surface, but I heard that a ten-year-old Echo has a greener footprint than a new Prius because of the environmentally-unfriendly processes of manufacturing batteries and new cars. In the end, the best solution may be to drive less and design/redesign our cities to facilitate that. That kind of brings us back to the discussion of the Pellissippi extension ...

JWB's picture

The Insight feels...

and looks cheap and light, which it is, and Prius looks and feels solid and anything but cheap. That is RELATIVE to EACH OTHER. But both are swell cars.

Robert Speirs's picture

Hybrid cars

Come on. These aren't cars. I had a 1980 Dodge Colt hatchback that got 50 mpg. These kludges with twice the complexity of a standard car cost so much to make, design and sell that they will never be as efficient economically as a base-model 1972 American Motors Gremlin. Interesting that the calculations never take into account the massive subsidies from government that make these cars saleable. Other drivers are paying for the "green" savings.

I've been to Europe 4 times in the last five years. I've never seen one hybrid over there. Too expensive, too stupid.

michael kaplan's picture

Too expensive, too

Too expensive, too stupid.

Everything you've said is probably true. Bill Moyers featured an interviewed with Daniel Goleman last night, talking about Life-cycle Assessment (LCA) of products, folding in to the mix research/development, manufacturing, purchase, use and recycling of the products we buy. Goleman argued that much of what we buy as "green" is "fantasy and hype". Considered from that point of view, both Prius and Insight are corporate responses to consumer panic over gas prices. A simple reduction of weight through the elimination of convenience features (sold under the guise of safety) - airbags, power steering, electric windows and door locks, back-up cameras, GPS - would result in automobiles that easily got 50-60 mpg average.

Question Authority's picture

Joan Claybrook weighs down your car

Airbags aren't a "convenience feature." Electric window mechanisms are lighter in weight than the old hand-cranked mechanisms they replaced. That air conditioner you didn't mention adds more weight and sucks away more MPGs than the backup camera and GPS ever could. Finally, in California (and a lot of other states too, probably) power steering or power-assisted steering is required by law just like that convenience airbag.

Question Authority - ask me anything!

michael kaplan's picture

Finally, in

Finally, in California

wasn't california key in killing the electric car?

i hardly think power steering would be necessary in any lightweight car driven by someone not using a cellphone while they drive ..

michael kaplan's picture

It blew blue smoke the whole

It blew blue smoke the whole time.

sounds like more than a few cars that can be seen driving around north knoxville. it will be interesting to see what the fiat 500 will be like when it arrives in the u.s.

lightweight vehicles, even modern ones, don't need power steering, which requires a pump and belt that use engine power. that's true, too, of all electrical devices which ultimately derive from engine power. i've owned two vehicles that met contemporary safety standards (and handled superbly, btw) that didn't have power steering.

R. Neal's picture

The new Prius has no belts.

The new Prius has no belts. All pumps are electric, even the water pump.

(All of this technically still uses engine power generated by burning gasoline, but you get some of it back via regenerative braking.)

michael kaplan's picture

that's impressive. freedom

that's impressive. freedom from belts, at last. obviously, toyota (and others, no doubt) is heading towards the all-electric plug-in vehicle.

i don't know if this was mentioned, but toyota and honda use different hybrid systems. toyotas operate on electric and/or gas, while both electric and gas are always running in tandem on the honda, with electric being a supplementary boost power system. that's why the electric motor is much smaller on the honda.

what's amazing to me is that, after all these years, only toyota and honda are offering hybrid power in a small vehicle.

bizgrrl's picture

Ford is now offering the

Ford is now offering the Fusion as a hybrid. Both the Ford Fusion and Toyota Prius are considered "mid-sized" cars.

michael kaplan's picture

weight is also purveyed as a

weight is also purveyed as a safety feature. for $75k you can buy alot of it, along with a hybrid power train (check out the HYBRID decal on the side of the car). must explain why GM is doing so well.

Factchecker's picture

Electric is more efficient

I had a 1980 Dodge Colt hatchback that got 50 mpg.

Are you sure? Maybe highway miles at a constant 45 MPH? And good luck selling a 1980 Dodge Colt to modern Americans.

michael kaplan's picture

just checked the original

just checked the original sales info on my '84 civic and overall gas mileage was listed as 42 mpg in a range (for similarly sized vehicles) of from 9 mpg to 50 mpg. so yes, there were vehicles in the 80s that averaged up to 50 mpg.

R. Neal's picture

Just got back from a trip

Just got back from a trip out to WestKnox. Took the tank (Ford Freestyle, curb weight 4,112 lbs.) because we were planning on hauling some stuff back.

When we got off PP/I-140 at Kinston Pike, the MPG meter was 31.2. After some stop and go traffic and a couple of other stops, we came back via Kingston Pike and Alcoa Highway. MPG for the round trip was 27.4.

So it is possible to make big heavy, luxury tanks get decent MPG. Unfortunately, Ford screwed up the Freestyle when they renamed it the Taurus X (bigger motor, dropped the CVT transmission among other things) and ruined the MPG.

P.S. the yellow light at Morrell Rd. and Kingston Pike at West Town was about 3.5 seconds judging from my "Mississippi one, Mississippi two" timing. We pulled over and watched it again just to be sure. Somebody should go over there with a video camera. Next time I'm out that way I will be sure to do that.

Factchecker's picture

weight is also purveyed as a

weight is also purveyed as a safety feature.

Remember "road hugging weight"? Believe that was Ford's amazing boast about the (lame engineering of their) Pinto, IIRC.

The new Prius has no belts. All pumps are electric, even the water pump.

That's efficiency.

...just checked the original sales info on my '84 civic and overall gas mileage was listed as 42 mpg in a range (for similarly sized vehicles) of from 9 mpg to 50 mpg. so yes, there were vehicles in the 80s that averaged up to 50 mpg.

But that wasn't obtained MPG. That was the EPA's bogus system meant for comparison purposes. They've retooled the dyno test numerous times since then. My 1981 Fiat X1/9 had 75hp and weighed about 2400 lbs. It averaged about 26 MPG in overall driving, maybe 35 just highway. But it was fuel injected and ran clean. Aced the California smog tests. The Civic CVCCs were also clean in the day, and probably got better mileage through newer engineering and less weight, about 1800 lbs IIRC.

Today my BMW 5-series wagon weighs 3600 lbs and I average north of 28 MPG. Besides skb, I know several other people with large Fords who get surprising gas mileage. Right after I got my beemer, I was bragging about its mileage to relatives who were driving a '93 Lincoln Town Car (4.6l OHC V8, I think). We were going to dinner and I was sitting in front. So I asked what they were getting and punched up their trip computer. Their average was something like 25MPG. That was probably mostly highway, but that car is heavy and huge. The big GM hybrids are still obscene, but they do get the city mileage up above 20.

The new Ford Fusion is awesome for someone who wants something more traditional. 191hp, 41 MPG city, up to 47MPH on electric only, starts at $27k. Where is the wagon version??

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