Mileage Loop: 2010 Honda Insight

We ran the Insight twice in our usual test loop. When we drove with a lead foot, we got a very modest 38.8 miles per gallon. On the second slow and steady run, we easily managed 51.2 mpg.

The new Honda Insight is being billed as the Prius-fighter. Living up to that expectation will depend on real-life numbers that drivers start to post. The 2010 Honda Insight went on sale in March with an MSRP of $19,800—so it won’t be long before new owners start reporting their first tank or two.

We recently put the Insight to the test on our usual 114-mile driving loop to measure efficiency and overall functionality. Official EPA ratings for the Honda Insight—powered by an 88-horsepower 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine combined with a 13-horsepower electric motor—are 40 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway. As we reported in February, several auto journalists trying to max out on mileage broke the 60-mpg mark.

As usual, we ran our test loop—a mix of highway, city, and country roads—twice to get a top and bottom end to the vehicle’s fuel economy range. Our first run—in which we drove like the typical oblivious lead-footed late-for-everything driver—produced a very modest 38.8 miles per gallon, just under the city EPA number. Not bad when you’re accelerating hard off the line, and passing consistently on the left.

On the second run, we chilled out. The name of the game was ‘slow and steady.’ We also utilized the ‘ECON’ button that softens the throttle and modifies the CVT’s shift points. This feature also cycles down the air-conditioning compressor for further frugality, but we kept the AC turned off for good measure. The result, in this case, was a very thrifty 51.2 miles per gallon—well above EPA highway numbers.

Based on this experience, we believe that the new Insight will be able to compete on mileage quite well with the second-generation Prius—but we expect the new third-generation 2010 Toyota Prius to have the upper hand on fuel efficiency. In real world conditions, we wouldn’t be surprised if the new Prius beats the Honda Insight’s numbers by 10 to 20 percent. Let’s not forget that consumers will usually pay a few thousand dollars more for the privilege, and for the Prius’s extra size. The Prius is classified as a midsize sedan, while the Honda Insight is a compact.

Despite the small platform, the Insight feels spacious, airy, and somewhat futuristic. Like the Honda Civic, there’s plenty of forward space and a clean, multi-level dash. The seats are well positioned and covered in a soft eco-friendly cloth.

The rear seat of the Insight is adequate and offers a 60/40 split fold—not found in the Honda Civic Hybrid. Cargo room is also sufficient—maybe not for a family of four, but certainly for a couple taking a road trip. There is access to the cargo area granted by a rear hatch, featuring a dual glass panel. The problem with this design is that the glass is divided at a point that obstructs the rear-view—a common complaint for Prius drivers as well.

The Insight drives quite differently than the Prius. The Insight had a little bit of a buzziness from the engine during periods of stronger acceleration. Handling wise, the Insight leans more toward its cousin, the Honda Fit—which is to say, it is more nimble and responsive than the Prius. But its ride is not as soft and comfortable, nor does it feel as solid as the Prius. Also, with the Insight, the transition from gas to electric and back did not feel as smooth or seamless as the Prius’s.

Despite any misgivings with the new Honda Insight, hybrid fans should celebrate the introduction of a viable alternative to the Toyota Prius. Though it may fall slightly short in a few areas versus the Prius, money talks (and you-know-what walks). Again, the Insight could run about $3,000 less than the Prius or Honda Civic Hybrid. For about $20,000, you could drive away with a well-built and reliable Honda Hybrid that, if driven carefully, can go almost (or even more than) 50 miles on a single gallon of gas.

If you’re thinking about buying a hybrid, test-driving the Honda Insight is a must.


  • crookmatt

    I think this may take some of Prius’ market share, but not significantly. I think the market share of hybrids overall will continue to climb making the Prius, Insight, and Ford Fusion the top Hybrids sold in the US in the next 2-3 years.

    Regardless of who get’s the best mileage and which one is “best” for one reason or another. Not every car fits everyone needs or wishes, so in the end–the more hybrid models available to the public, the better!

  • simon@syd

    It looks so close to a wagon. That would be an interesting variant! But I think a big competitor for it will be second hand Honda Civic Hybrids…

  • Jeddy

    These things are tiny. I took a looksee and test drive. They handle nice, but they are small inside.

    Buying the 2010 Prius instead. Going with the best for a reason …

  • Paul Piekos

    I have test driven the 09 Civic, the 09 Prius & the 10 Insight. The Civic is adequate but I found that the regenerative brakes very touchy. The 09 Prius feels like you’re driving a golf cart, no car feel whatsoever. The 10 Prius is not out yet. Took the 10 Insight out and was more impressed. It drove much more like a car and better than I expected for this size vehicle. I got 42 MPG on the test drive and I hot-rodded it. The back seat is small, but hey, if it’s your car, you certainly won’t be riding in the back set.

  • Jason Fussell

    I don’t know if I would buy an Insight. I am happy with my 2007 Prius and look forward to upgrading the the new one in a few years. It has more advanced features that I will be willing to pay for – otherwise it may make sense to just buy a Fit or Yaris.

  • RKRB

    -Thanks for the article. I agree with Matthew Crook, the first poster, that the more diversity in the hybrid market (up to a point) the better.

    -Please keep us informed how the Insight stacks up to the Prius ’10 and similar cars. For comparison, it would be nice to have your mileage figures for the most recent Civic hybrid, a VW diesel, and something like the Fit or Yaris. it would also be nice to have several drivers test the vehicle, and report on the mean and standard deviations for a representative sample (this may be difficult to do, though). Going even further it might be good to test different models of the same car, to see if there is much inter-vehicle variance. This may just be the literature review-centered statistical nerd in me, but it is nice to compare apples to apples.

    -To back up a previous post, it is worth noting that the mileage difference (and total cost, and carbon effects) may be so small that other factors (the cost of the vehicle, dealer price-gouging, safety, your driving preferences, etc.) may be far more important. For instance, a 50 mpg vehicle will use 240 gallons in 12000 miles, whereas a 45 mpg vehicle will use 267 gallons. At $3/gallon gas, if the 45 mpg car costs $2000 less, the payback time will be about 39 years.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Go Green, keeping your car longer will save more energy and emit less carbon for our planet than buying a new, slightly more fuel efficient car. You’ll also save enough money so you may be able to afford a Volt or Model S when they are available.
    Buying new cars every 3 or 4 years is succumbing to marketeers’ manipulation to make them money at the expense to our planet.

  • Sid

    I’ve examined the new 2010 Insight and test driven the car,… more than once. To be fair, I have also rented a Prius more than once for extended periods of time. I like the Insight. Feels good on the road. I find the driving character to be much more sporting and nimble than the 2009 Prius.

    I find the interior design of the Insight more to my liking mainly because I prefer the parking brake to be hand-operated. The seats I also found to fit me better and they feel more supportive during cornering. The biggest compromise I see is in backseat room. The current Prius has lots more room in back. However, for my intended use of the car, that’s not a major drawback. For others it might be.

    The power train in the Prius is quite clever with the eCVT implemented with planetary gears and multiple electric motors. Being an electrical engineer, I find this design quite cool. The Insight powertrain is more conventional. Both are quite effective in increasing fuel mileage.

    Its a close call for me. Compared to the 2009 Prius, I prefer the Insight. I’m trying to decide now whether to wait and testdrive the 2010 Prius or get an Insight now. It might be easier to negotiate price on an Insight once the new Prius is available. What is certainly true is that if I get a 2010 Prius, I will spend more money because I don’t think I could resist getting the sunroof which comes with the solar cell array. That option has got to be pricey. Hmm,… the Insight is looking better and better.

  • Anonymous

    I know the Insight is classed as a smaller car but, how does it’s cargo capacity compare to the new Prius with the back seats folded down. Anybody have volume numbers?

  • crut100

    I’m just glad there is another option out there to compete with the Prius. It keeps those Toyota dealers honest and gives us consumers another choice for a reasonably priced high mileage car.

  • Spectrum Pearl

    2010 Honda Insight EX w/Navi

    Purchased: March 29, 2009

    My mileage stats thus far, according to the Multi-Information Display. Based on a 50 mile round trip work commute, combination of city and freeway driving.

    Week 1: 48.2 MPG, (Combo of other drivers’ test drives at the dealer and my first five days of ownership).

    Week 2: 49.1 MPG (Eco Mode)

    Week 3: 51.3 MPG (Eco Mode)

    Week 4: 48.5 MPG (Eco Mode, Air-Conditioning/Automatic climate control use- Phoenix is warming up)

    Week 5: 50.1 MPG (Eco Mode, Air-Conditioning, car continues to coach me regarding more fuel efficient driving habits)

    Contrary to Honda’s marketing department, this is NOT the hybrid for everyone. However, it happens to be the right hybrid for my use and budget. Compact, sporty, efficient, and comfortable.

    This is my first entry into the hybrid segment. Compared to the 2002 Mitsubishi Galant I drove for 7 years, the Insight is a dream. Compared to the 2008 Toyota Prius I rented last year, the Insight is a fun and worthy alternative. Compared to what I’ve read about the 2010 Prius, the Insight will fall short on several fronts. They’re shortcomings I can live with, however, especially given the value and quality of my first Honda product.

    I’ll echo the sentiments of those who have commented here about the wider selection of hybrids coming to market- the more, the better.

  • Rob D

    I’m still waiting for a car that averages 60 mpg in real life. I’m willing to wait another 4-5 years. I want a car that can be used for average daily driving of about 60 miles per day and also for fairly long trips of 300 miles per day. Actually, 600 miles per day would be my preference. What do you think my chances are of getting such a vehicle in the next 4-5 years? I’ve owned Honda Accords for over 15 years now and I’m happy with them, but I’m willing to go smaller. I really like the fold down back seat of the Insight. It’s one of the feature I’ve really liked and used in my Honda Accords.

  • DenisR

    I would not be caught dead in it. I dont care what the mileage is, even if they gave it to me for free i would not take it… Why cant these stupid car companies make a descent looking hybrid vehicle? They are just perpetuating the non sexy image of a hybrid vehicle, hence delaying the mass adoption of Hybrid vehicles.

  • sean t

    DenisR,
    Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. To me the ugliest car is the Hummer. And stupid too, like a man with muscles and no brain.
    Manufacturers try to make the hybrid cars have much better Cd than normal cars, do I have to repeat that? There are some hybrids which have the same bodies as their normal counterparts like Civic, Camry, Altima, etc. What is your excuse then?

  • Gerald Neff

    My wife and I bought a 2010 Insight EX on Earth Day, April 22. It is her car and I don’t get to drive it much. It is getting over 51mpg. It drives great, very spry with quick steering and enough power to suit us. With the rear seat folded there is plenty of room for her massage table and maybe a pair of xc skis. The build quality is exceptional, seams are all equal, doors close beautifully and compared to her 97 Civic LX it is quite luxurious. If I could change one thing it would be the speedometer. Location is not the best and I prefer analog over digital. Other than that this car fits our needs better than anything else that is available.

  • Mr.Bear

    My office has both 2008 Civc Hybrids and Priuses. When I started looking at buying my own hybrid, I was excited about the Insight’s $17.5k starting price. But when that was bumped up to around $19.5k, I thought, for $3k or $4k I can get a much nicer Prius or Civic Hybrid. So that’s what I did. Three days ago, I picked up one of the last 2009 Priuses, Package #4, for $23.5k, roughly $2k below MSRP with factory and dealer incentives.

  • Johnny

    Is this REALLY a better value. 2010 Prius has a stronger engine, better fuel economy, push-button start. The EX Insight sells for $21300 and the 2010 Prius Package 2 sells for $22000. I thought I was supposed to be saving thousands of dollars. Where’s the value?

  • TJB

    Bought an Insight EX about 3 weeks ago after looking extensively at the ’09 Prius. Decided that the Insight was a better fit for my needs. So far I’m averaging about 43 MPG.

    Love the car. Looking forward to seeing how it’ll take Vermont winters.

  • wow

    Johnny, the LX Insight is well-equipped for $2k less MSRP than the comparable 2010 Prius. Toyota says they’ll have a base level prius intended for fleets for still $1k more than the LX Insight (probably not as well equipped as the LX). There are plenty of people who that will appeal to.

    I think you’ll find there are allot of economy car buyers over the last 5 years who considered buying a hubrid but found the Prius too expensive. There are still people who think a couple thousands of dollars is a significant amount of money. These buyers have been going for a Yaris or Versa type economy car. The Insight filled in a significant portion of that gap between the Prius and the economy cars (and even dragged down the 2010 Prius price with it), and managed to also be a fun car to drive.

    The Inisght is the economy hybrid. It’s not going to take as many sales from the Prius as it is going to take from the economy cars, IMO.

  • wow

    I’ve been getting the following kinds of mileages out of my 2010 Insight:

    -On a very short drive (2 miles) starting with a cold battery in the city, can range anywhere in 30′s to 40′s; depends allot on hills.
    -On a long city drive 45-50mpg
    -On the highway @55mph, 55 mpg
    -On the highway @65mph, 49mpg
    -On the highway @75mph, 44mpg

    Over 3 fill-ups I have averaged a hair under 50mpg and I am not a slow driver. I’ve confirmed this with both the displayed mpg and also by doing the old-fashioned calculation method.

  • DJB

    The more the merrier. The Insight doesn’t have to have the best fuel economy on the road to have fuel economy better than at least 95% of what’s sold in America. The lower sicker price might bring more people in to hybrid ownership, even though you might come out with a lower total cost of ownership on a Prius.

    Honda continues to lead on cleaner cars, from natural gas, to hybrids, to hydrogen. Nice going.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    It is my opinion that the Insight will only provide some competition to Prius. As some have pointed out, the Insight is a compact while the Prius is a sedan. The upper end Prius will cost ~$32560 which will be above the Insights highest price, and many young family incomes, by a fair margin. People that want a good “bang for the buck”, and do not need a large car or back seat, will probably do very well owning an Insight. The real competition that I see for the Insight will be the cheaper, hotter, and faster Fit and Yaris type vehicles. Honda should have very little trouble selling the Insight to very young families (those without a lot of excess income) over the Prius. It will be interesting to see if Honda can convince young singles to buy the Insight over the competition’s cheaper, hotter, and faster compacts.

  • LLL

    We bought the Honda Insight three weeks ago and just love it. We are getting 52 miles per gallon with mixed highway and town driving.

  • rudolf

    Driving a 2005 Prius in and around Amsterdam;
    fuel consumption so far: 50 miles per US Gallon

    Pity is that Insight II is not offering manual gearshift.
    Remember those awesome figures from Insight I !

    Honda & Toyota do excellent jobs in different ways.
    Honda : quite straight and effective
    Toyota: innovating and sofisticated

  • Catie

    I am looking at buying a new hybrid I just drove a 2009 prius, very smooth, I migth go drive a honda insight tomorrow. I just dont know which to get. The 2009 prius that they are tring to sell me is 24,267 with package 3.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    Catie, it always comes down to one’s needs and wants. Do three other adults travel with you on a regular basis? Do you carry large boxes on a regular basis? Do you plan to keep the car two years, five years, ten years, fifteen years, or more? Do you buy a good low mileage certified hybrid, a well priced 2009 Prius, the cheaper new Insight, or wait for the more expensive 2010 Prius to maximize your mileage? Maybe an SUV Escape hybrid would best fit your needs rather than a compact or a sedan. Once one has determined their needs, then it is time to look at one’s “wants”.

    Usually the cheapest way to go is to buy a good used car that meets one’s needs. The trouble is making sure that it is a good used car. The second cheapest way to go is to buy a new car and run it until it is time to turn it into the junkyard (usually ten or more years). That way one knows what has happened to the car in the first 5K miles that effects the car’s longevity the most. Add in the features that one wants into the car that meets one’s needs, and I can almost guarantee one’s happiness (some people will never be happy no matter what). As long as one picks a vehicle that is rated as reliable, the brand really does not make a difference. My only other suggestions are that one buys within ones means and that one buys a vehicle that gets approximately 10 to 50 percent better gas mileage than their present vehicle.

  • paul@paulburnett.com

    My 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (that I blogged about here for a couple of years) has over 190,000 miles on it now and still easily gets well over 50 MPG when I set the cruise control to 60 MPH. So I won’t be getting a new Insight any time soon. Besides, a new Insight wouldn’t have carpool lane stickers. (California in-joke)

  • BB

    I drive a 2009 Prius (Package 5 Touring edition). I love the car! My last vehicle was a 2005 F-150 4×4 crew cab pickup. I averaged 13 mpg. My lease was up last August when premium unleaded was $4.00/gallon. I couldn’t wait to give it back! I then decided I hated the gas companies and I committed to riding my motorcycle everywhere/everyday. I love my Harley, but riding in freezing rain, downpours, blistering heat, etc is not fun. I love riding, and have had motorcycles for most of my life, but always as a second vehicle that I could ride when I wanted. Having to ride EVERY DAY is like someone asking you what your favorite food is (Tex-Mex), and then being forced to have it for every meal, three meals a day, forever.

    I lasted about 7 months with no car. The Prius is a dream car for me. It has all the bells and whistles that appeal to my gadget-crazy personality, and it still is a comfortable, quiet ride, and it gets better gas mileage than my Harley! Let me say this to anyone on the fence about buying a hybrid: You don’t have to be a “tree hugger” or be overly concerned about being “green” to buy a hybrid. Just consider that investing in the technology that makes us less dependent on foreign oil puts less money in terrorists’ pockets. You can use the money you save on fuel to buy other things, like a huge HDTV, a cool wristwatch, or more ammo : ).

    Toyota employs thousands of American workers, so don’t get hung up on the “Buy American” thoughts, either. With all of the auto makers having such diverse operations around the world, these Toyotas are just about as American as any GM car. And on the same subject, Fiat will be purchasing Chrysler any day now. That may make Chrysler a little less “American”, but they will probably also start building better cars. Buy smart, and drive safe! -BB

  • Klaus Lange

    Hello all Hybrid Fans

    i just had my new Honda Insight im living in Germany its the first one on the road in Germany exept the tamonstrators of the Honda dealers.

    Well guys it´s great first drive out 56 per gallon never thought it would go that well from the start.

    All i can say just go and testdrive this car and it will get you as well.

  • djwindsor

    I’ve had my 2004 Prius package 9 since Nov 2003. I’ve never had any issues with the vehicle. When I saw the new Insight I was amazed at how similar it looks to the current model Prius. I’m really happy that Honda came out with a hybrid to compete with Toyota. Since I only have 64,000 miles on my Prius I’m not in the market for a new hybrid. When I am, I will no doubt put my money down on the next gen Prius. I absolutely LOVE all the technology that the next gen Prius has. The main reason I prefer the Toyota over the Honda is because of the ability of the Prius to drive solely on electric power up to 42MPH.

  • cashless

    Good advise, I will test drive both..

  • Greg

    I am very interested in buying a new hybrid. I am stuck between a new Prius and 2010 Insight. Am leaning toward an Insight. The question I am wondering if anyone can answer is about the batteries. How long do they last? Should I wait for a car with the lithium ion batteries, instead of the nickel ones?

  • Charles

    I guess I am starting a rant.

    The Prius is not a sedan!
    The Prius is not a sedan!
    The Prius is not a sedan!



    The Prius is not a sedan!

    It is a midsized hatchback. There is a difference.

  • Bill

    I have about 10K miles on my 2010 Insight and am still improving my MPG almost with every fillup. I commute 70 miles per day with mixed hwy and city. I am currently getting just over 50mpg, but I am adding some driving techniques that show single trip values over 60 mpg. I just need to keep the wife away from the Air conditioner controls. I like that the Insight feels like a car and has some great interior features like the USB connector. The Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid were both too quirky for me.

  • mar

    I love my Insight. Just got it.

  • B Stoops

    I traded out a 2010 Accord for the 2010 Insight. I was completely taken. I personally think the pick up on the car is fine. The over all issue is the car is way too small and I really feel the quality is lacking. I already have 3 or 4 issues with this car out of the gate.

    Sadly I can’t just take it back. I will tell you this. I WON’T EVER be buying a Honda of any kind again in the future.

    Toyota RULES. Honda. Hmm. I can’t really say what I want but safe to say I am done with this brand.

    Bryce

  • syra

    For 2010, Honda Insight is a great improvement from the old model. In September 2006, Honda stopped making the old Honda Insight, a teardrop-shaped two-seater that has been loved by many owners happy, but also seen as unrealistic by mainstream consumers. Despite the old fuel economy model the real world of nearly 70 miles per gallon, the company sold fewer than 2,000 Insights in 2005 and less than 1000 to September 2006 before the company pulled the plug.