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.
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|
|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|
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