2010 Honda Insight vs 2010 Toyota Prius
For more than a decade running, the Toyota Prius has been the reigning hybrid king of the automotive jungle and the cornerstone of Toyota's green car juggernaut. But finally, a true challenger has arrived in the new, reformulated Honda Insight. Let's see how this classic 'David and Goliath' story unfolds. For many buyers, it all starts with the price, so let's get right to it.
The challenger, this compact 5-door 5-passenger 2010 Honda Insight provides a well-conceived package for a base price of $20,470. Insight tops out at $23,770 for the uplevel EX with navigation.
The defending champ, the just midsize 5-door 5-passenger 2010 Toyota Prius starts at $22,750, but you can spend well over $30,000 for a full-up model. Still, the base Prius includes cruise and stability control that the base Insight does not. And, to compete even harder with the Insight, Toyota will offer a stripped-down Prius for a thousand dollars less later this year.
But beyond the sticker, price, what advantages does each car offer buyers? Let's break it down. First the Insight. It's powered by a 1.3-liter four-cylinder gas engine and a small 13-kilowatt electric motor. The combo is good for 98 horsepower. 0 to 60 is a leisurely 10.8 seconds.
Not quite a "full" hydrid, due to its limited ability to run on pure electric power alone, the Insight has Government Fuel Economy ratings of 40 city/43 highway on Regular gas. We actually beat that with 44.7 miles per gallon in real world driving. Aiding the mileage cause is ECON mode, which promotes efficient driving by smoothing out throttle inputs and limiting overall power. It even regulates the climate control system.
In terms of road manners, the Insight feels more like a real compact car, and less like a specialized hybrid. Handling is definitely its stronger suit over ride. So, while entertaining to drive, it lacks total comfort for commuting.
Inside, the Insight provides a stylish and very modern interior. But, the hard, thin plastics show it was built to a price. The hybrid aspect centers on a gauge cluster with blue-to-green background lighting that signals when you're driving in a more thrifty manner. Also, an EcoGuide display keeps track of your recent and lifetime driving habits.
Up front seating space is roomy, but rear headroom is tight for those six foot and over. As to everyday practicality, the compact battery pack is under the spare tire and out of the way, so cargo room is generous at 31.5 cubic feet with the 60/40 seats down.
To its exterior, the Insight borrows the Prius' hunkered, wedge-shape hatchback design. But Insight lines are more attractive, taking cues from Honda's FCX Clarity fuel-cell car.
Let's stay on styling, as we move on to the defending champ. The Toyota Prius' iconic silhouette speaks volumes about its green attributes. Its 0.25 drag coefficient is the lowest of any mass-produced car. But, it's also one of the most homeliest cars on the road today.
In terms of inner bits, the third generation Toyota Prius is equipped with a 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle-four-cylinder gas engine and a re-engineered Hybrid Synergy Drive with a 27-kilowatt electric assist. Total output for this system is 134 horsepower. Still no hot rod, 0 to 60 is 9.3 seconds.
Government Fuel Economy ratings are 51 city/48 highway on Regular gas. Our real-world test yielded 46.9 miles per gallon, or roughly 2-miles-per-gallon better then the Insight. An advantage, but not as big as we expected, and compared to the Insight's single ECON driving mode, the Prius touts three separate settings, including "EV mode" for low-speed electric-only driving up to one mile. There's also "Eco Mode", which increases fuel economy in normal city traffic; and "Power Mode", which gives the Prius heightened throttle response when needed.
On the road, the Prius, unlike the Insight, favors ride over handling. It's far plusher and feels more substantial, overall. But at the same time, it drives like an appliance. Don't expect any fun factor here. Inside, the Prius offers a well-configured cabin with more amenities and a good deal more passenger space than the Insight, especially in the rear.
The front seats are much improved over last year and are now quite comfortable. There's also an available moonroof with solar panels that runs a vent fan to cool the interior while parked, plus a plethora of optional techno-goodies, like Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, not offered on the Insight. And in terms of cargo, the Prius provides 39.4 cubic feet with its 60/40 rear bench folded down. That's 25% more than the Insight.
So that's how it all lays out. Both of these are impressive cars. But which one of these two hybrids would we buy? Well, the Prius showed us slightly better mileage, is more powerful, has greater comfort, and a longer list of features. But adding on the costly options can quickly overwhelm fuel economy benefits. The Insight is clearly more affordable throughout its model lineup. Add to that competitive fuel economy, a sportier drive, and a more pleasing look.
Still, we found it wasn't enough to dethrone the champ, so we give our nod to the 2010 Toyota Prius. It's clearly the hybrid technology leader and the more refined of the two. But, while we pick the Prius, it took the 2010 Honda Insight to inject a dose of true rivalry and make the Prius as affordable as it is. And, in the end, it's consumers that are the real winners, and that's what competition, hybrid or otherwise, is all about.
2010 Honda Insight
Engine: 1.3-liter four-cylinder gas engine 13-kilowatt electric motor
0-60 mph: 10.8 seconds
EPA: 40 mpg city/ 43 mpg highway
Mixed Loop: 44.7 mpg
2010 Toyota Prius
Engine: 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle-four-cylinder gas engine 27-kilowatt electric assist
0-60 mph: 0-60 mph: 9.3 seconds
EPA: 51 mpg city/ 48 mpg highway
Mixed Loop: 46.9 mpg