I test driven this car along with the Prius (please read about it in my other ePinions). As such, I did not spend a great deal with it, so please keep this in mind.
First in the States!
Although the Prius was the first mass produced hybrid in the world (Japan got it first, doh!), the Insight was the first to hit our shores. In a form of a small sub-compact 2-door that looks like a sporty Civic CRX, it can only seat 2. Trunk is almost non-existant, as you can probably fit a loaf of bread in the space provided.
I have always thought that hybrids make great rental and company cars, since that their high price may steer potential customers away. The benifit of having hybrids in a fleet would be that your customers will not have to pay as much for gas. Of course, the company or rental companies will have to foot the initial bill for the vehicle's 20 grand price tag.
The Insight and the Prius are completely different, dispite the touting "hybrid" term. Though technically hybrids, both employ different ways of using the gas and electric portion.
Insight VS Prius
relies on the gas engine constantly. It works like a regualr car. The electric motor only comes into play when accelerating hard or driving uphill...hence the "assist" indicator on the dash. All it does is assist the underpowered engine. The battery for the electric motor gets charged when you brake, or when the motor is not in use, as the engine always charges the battery as it runs.
is a more complicated beast. It does not have a "main" source of power. When you first start the car, it is quiet at first, then the engine starts a second later after you turned the key. It's a weird feeling, but you'll get used to it.
So how is the power transfered? The Toyota Hybrid System does all the dirty thinking (get your mind out of the gutter!). It does whatever is necessary to save gas. This includes shutting off the engine whenever possible - even while driving - using just the eletric motor to drive the wheels - letting the wheels and brakes charge the battery - let the engine charge the battery (if it turns on) - use BOTH engine and motor to power the wheels - and if conditions are right, allow the wheels to charge the battery while motor and engine moves the car.
Complicated? YES! There are so many combinations, it is hard to list them all.
Unlike the Insight, which uses the motor as a generator when it is not in use, the Prius have it's own seperate generator to charge the battery. There are many was to charge the battery, too - braking, coasting (wheels), engine (generator)...
With a total of 73 bhp (67 bhp I-3 gas engine and 10kW electric motor) and a total torque of 91 lb-ft, the Prius have a more powerful drivetrain than the Insight. However, it feels more powerful as it pulls from a stop faster than the Prius (see my review). Still no Tercel beater,though. Perhaps it is because instead of going with a more driver-friendly automatic, a 5-speed manual is the only option. Thus, makes the Insight more efficent in transfering all of it's gerbil power to it's low resistant tires.
Handling is pretty scarry for this car. It barely grips the road as you turn the corner. Although it can be attributed to the special tires it uses, I blame it on the width of the car. The Prius uses the same kind of tires (low resistence, so it rolls without require alot of energy due to friction), but handles far better than the Insight. The Prius is also wider, and looks more like a regular car than a silver bullet like the Insight.
The seats on the Insight feels cheap, light, and may be easily punctured if you have things like computers, or other equipment you may want to place in the passeger side. Made this way so it can be lightweight, it is also uncomfortable to sit in after a half hour of driving.
I did not have a chance to play with every nook and cranny of the car, but I did notice that everyone complains about the stereo. Consisting of only two speakers, it would NOT sound like a concert hall. What do you expect? You are buying into a greener world, not tickets to the Warp Tour. For the short time I heard the stereo, it sounded just like any other OEM stereo - esp. a Honda - not good, but not that bad either. People who complain spent along time in their Insight, so I feel for them who are out there reading this.
The digital gauges is fuctional, though very confusing at first. Many would like the accuracy of analog dials, but then again, to remind everyone that this is not just ANY car, a digital dash makes such a statement. Compared to the Prius's LCD display, the Insight's CHARGE/ASSIST indicator is very simplistic. Which make sense, as the Prius's drivetrain is more complicated than the Insight.
There isn't much options on the Insight, but a CD-changer. But there are lots standard! This even includes an automatic climate control! These are usually reserved for cars like the Accord. Then again, for the price you are paying for this car, there BETTER be something like this standard, right?
This is not a car you would buy if you expect anything beyond great gas mileage. You also must drive green-conscience, as you should lighten on your lead foot if you want super results. Also, you MUST ABSOLUTELY LEARN TO SHIFT EFFICENTLY
. As with the Prius, it is very hard to merge into freeways, so be careful. A great city driver. It pickup and coasting feels much like my old Tercel I reviewed - actually BETTER (my Tercel was an auto...maybe that's why).
Would I get it? No. It's not practical at all. It may be good for a rental if you just want to go somewhere FAR and ALONE.
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