2001 Honda Insight new car reviews

With gas prices climbing and traffic congestion only getting worse, the development of small, hybrid gas-electric cars like the new Honda Insight may be a glimpse of things to come. If this is a taste of our future, things may not be as bad as many of us once thought.

We recently spent a week with the Insight, and we liked what we saw. While this technological wonder looks a bit like a space pod (or the CRX of the future), there's no reason why this technology can't find its way into conventional-looking vehicles. If this is Honda's first attempt at a hybrid gas-electric car, just imagine what's on their drawing boards.

The heart of the Insight is a compact 995cc, three-cylinder gasoline engine featuring Honda's lean-burn VTEC-E technology. This low-friction engine is manufactured of lightweight materials including aluminum, magnesium and special plastics. It sends a maximum of 67 horsepower at 5700 rpm and 66 lb.-ft. of torque at 4800 rpm to the front wheels.

The car gets a boost in performance thanks to an ultra-thin, 2.3-inch-wide permanent-magnet electric motor that is powered by a 144-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack. The battery lives in the rear section of the car and is charged by regenerative braking. Unlike a pure electric vehicle, the Insight never needs to be connected to an outside power source, although it will not run solely on electric power. (In other words, it will stop when it runs out of gas.) With the electric motor, maximum output raises to 73 horsepower at 5700 rpm and 91 lb.-ft. of torque at 2000 rpm.

An LED charge/assist gauge on the digital dash shows the status of the battery pack. Under acceleration, the car uses some battery life to power the electric motor. During steady-state cruising or while coming to a stop, the electric motor acts like a generator and recharges the battery.

The Insight also features an idle-stop feature. When the Insight is stopped, the shift lever is in neutral and the driver disengages the clutch pedal; the engine turns off, increasing its fuel efficiency and decreasing engine emissions. As soon as the clutch is engaged, the engine quickly restarts, and the Insight is ready to drive away.

Other gas-saving features include an all-aluminum, aerodynamic body that is 40-percent lighter than a similar-size steel body while featuring a .25 coefficient of drag (lower than most any other production vehicle.) A fully-equipped Insight checks in at 1887 pounds.

The rest of the car is typical Honda, featuring well-bolstered sport seats, perfect pedal placement, ample headroom, excellent shift action and good ergonomics. Like the similar-looking Honda CRX, the Insight is a two-seater. Performance is not as snappy as a CRX, although the Insight will accelerate from rest to 60 mph in just under 10 seconds. Around town, it behaves just like any other small car.

According to the Insight's on-board fuel-efficiency display, we recorded 60.6 mpg during our week with the car. Obeying the shift light-and letting the electric motor do a lot of the work-raised that number closer to 70 a few times.

An Insight just like our test car, with five-speed manual transmission and air-conditioning, carries a list price of $20,180. With the amount of technology and engineering present, we suspect Honda is taking a loss on each car sold.

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spitfirebill PowerDork
11/12/14 6:59 a.m.

Good info Dave, but it sounds just like a Honda ad. I would definitely go look at one if I was in the market.

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