Honda Tweaks Insight for 2012

Honda has announced several small but noticeable tweaks for the 2012 editions of its Insight hybrid. Combined fuel economy for the hatchback will increase to 44 mpg, 1 mpg more than the current model. The exterior will be updated with new front and rear bumper styling and a slightly refined grille, contributing to a 2-percent improvement in aerodynamics. The interior will be reconfigured for added leg and head room, with Honda promising more premium materials and “a more technically sophisticated appearance” for the gauge cluster in the LX and EX models. But will this tweaking bring the Insight any closer living up to its billing as a “Prius fighter?”

In 2009, Honda brought the Insight back after a four-year absence from the market, poised to challenge competitor Toyota’s best-selling hybrid. The second-generation Insight grew from a 2-seat subcompact to a 5-seat compact, and its price was cut to less than $20,000 in an attempt to undercut its rival. (Fuel economy also shrank from a combined 53 mpg to just 41 mpg.)

Honda had high hopes for the Insight, projecting sales of 70,000 units per year in North America. To date though the car has failed to live up to those hopes, with annual sales topping out at little more than 20,000 units for its first two years, and last month’s numbers barely eclipsing the 500 vehicle mark.

So what prevented the Insight from mounting a true challenge to the Prius? For one, the overall hybrid market still hasn’t matured to the levels Honda anticipated when it set its ambitious 70,000-unit sales goal. Hybrids are still a relatively niche purchase in most parts of the country and so far, gas-electric shoppers have shown that they’re willing to pay a little more for the added amenities, roominess, and fuel economy of the Prius.

Toyota also helped make that decision easier when it lowered the price of the least expensive Prius model to just $1,500 more than the Insight, shortly after the car’s release. Last year, Honda countered by introducing an even more affordable version of the Insight that starts at just $18,200—$4,600 less than the Prius II. For 2012, Honda will increase the base price of the Insight by $150, to $18,350.

So will these new tweaks help the Insight reach its Prius-fighting potential? Probably not. But many reviewers and Insight drivers would point out that that doesn’t make the it an inferior car. With sound fuel-efficient driving techniques, the Insight is capable of posting Prius-like fuel economy numbers in real-world situations, at a price thousands of dollars lower than the world’s best selling hybrid. For shoppers looking for an affordable new hybrid that gets them where they need to go while providing significant fuel cost savings, the Insight is a very compelling option—and added refinements certainly won’t hurt that equation.

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  • van

    When the city centric Prius hits the showrooms, it may be priced very near the Insight. While perhaps a tad smaller, it will offer 52 plus MPG, perhaps as high as 62. Time will tell.

  • Max Reid

    Insight is still much better compared to Civic, Corolla and so many small sedans out there with a 40 MPG + Combined mileage and lot of trunk space.

  • Nelson Lu

    However, mileage wise, it is basically the same as the new Camry Hybrid and the 2013 Fusion Hybrid — which are much larger, much more powerful, and much more comfortable cars. I just don’t see the appeal.

  • usbseawolf2000

    Prius v is also rated combined 42 MPG.

  • Gary

    If you drive 12K miles a year, the difference between a Prius at 5 mpg and an Insight at 44 mpg is only 33 gallons a year — not much.

    But, I guess there is something magic about being able to say 50 mpg.


  • anonymous

    Hello Nelson

    Camry-H & Fusion-H starts at 26K and also their trunk space is just 13 cu ft, whereas Insight starts at 18.3 K and its trunk space is 16 cu ft.

    You can fold the rear seat to create a huge space.

  • Hondaman

    My 2010 Insight is getting 52 actual MPG’s calculated, 54.5 MPG showing at the dash. Worse MPGs are winter blend fuel at 47 MPG calculated. Real world driving MPG is much better than EPA estimates in this car. I’m very happy with it so far. It’s a cheaper alternative to the Prius with equal the MPGs.

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  • Jeff Libman

    I have read a few articles on the updated Insight. I have read elsewhere about the updated air conditioning system. My question is did they fix the problem where the Insight’s air conditioner turns off at a stoplight and blows hot air at you, because if they didn’t, they won’t sell many of these to informed customers in Arizona (like me) or other warm weather places.

  • Max Reid

    While this Insight-2010 has sold more than 150,000 units worldwide, its still expensive at 18.2 K, why not Honda reduce the price further, since its much smaller than Civic and has only a partial Hybrid.

  • Capt. Concernicus

    This is much better than a Volt. Think of all the money you would save buying the Insight instead of a Volt.

    Plus, it’s a Honda, so you know the quality is better.

  • hybridhybrid

    honda, let me give you some suggestions.

    1. you should destroy all insight, crz, and civic hybrid, parallel hybrid system or so called IMA and work on something more advanced like a series-parallel hybrid (which is not very advance actually). buyers nowadays are not stupid anymore especially when it comes to choosing hybrids.

    2. as with one, stop your cheap alternative parallel hybrid and work on a more complex hybrid system.

    3. it irritates me to hear the ICE on and off continuously in a congested traffic. why? thanks to your cheap parallel system. and this is one reason i decided to buy the prius 3.

    4. once the prius C is revealed late this year/early next year, the price will be almost on par with your insight. yes it may be smaller, but still, more complex than your parallel system. oh, and better MPG too, so you might want to think of releasing the fit hybrid into the american/canadian market or work on a better system (again).

    4. i’m living in canada, and you know what, i’d suggest you fire all the personnel in the marketing division in your honda dealers here. reason i bought the prius 3 is: total of $3700 discount, free mats, visors, hood deflector etc, plus 0% finance for 36 months on a brand new model. what can you offer with your insight when i was so interested in it and the crz? no discount on new models, $1500 off for a ripped demo unit with 10k on it and best of all, 4.9% finance for 36 months. and your marketing people can’t even believe that toyota is able to give me this deal which puts my prius completely on par with your insight in terms of price. you call this marketing? FAIL!

    honda honda, i’ll still be waiting for you to produce a better hybrid… for now, i’ll be staying with toyota

  • Eric B

    Price. That’s the appeal. I’d rather have a Fusion Hybrid, but the Insight is way cheaper.

  • tapra1

    The interior will be reconfigured for added leg and head room, with Honda promising more premium materials and “a more technically sophisticated appearance” for the gauge.CWDev

  • limi hapter

    I think Honda has made some brilliant cars and there latest models of hybrid are really awesome designed.. cell phone spy software

  • Will Gagne

    Buying the individual Honda parts to put this car together yourself is probably cheaper than what you can buy it for brand new at a dealership.

  • hamia pelric

    To date though the car has failed to live up to those hopes, with annual sales topping out at little more than 20,000 units for its first two years, and last month’s numbers barely eclipsing the 500 vehicle mark. text spy