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BWC High-Mileage Review

The Little Test Car That Could
Remembering The Honda Insight (1999-2006)

Honda chose well when naming the first mass-produced hybrid sold in the United States. The Insight was designed to test hybrid technology in the ‘real world’. It served its purpose admirably, providing Honda with the data and insight it needs to launch its next generation of hybrid.

According to Honda, it will be replaced by a new hybrid car smaller than the eighth generation Civic. While year round production of the Insight will stop in 2006, limited production during the winter will continue as necessary, presumably for parts. During its six year production, Honda never sold more than 14,000 Insights.

The Insight currently has the smallest drag coefficient among all street-legal, production cars, with a coefficient of 0.25. The previous holder of that title was the 1989 Opel Calibra whose drag coefficient of 0.26 held the record 10 years from 1989 until the Insight's debut. [EDITOR'S NOTE: The GM EV1, an electric vehicle with a limited of 1,100 had a Cd of 0.195. This car is no longer in production, and none remain on the road today.]

This review is quite exhausting, sorry, exhaustive. So, if you’re strapped for time due to a tight deadline at work, or merely running late for your court-appointed community service, you can use the shortcuts below to jump directly to the sections that interest you most.

Section shortcuts for BWC members on the go:

Begin At The Beginning. Hybrid Electric Vehicles Defined
Things People Like About The Insight (May Not Apply To All Model Years)
Things People Don't Like About The Insight (May Not Apply To All Model Years)
What's The Deal With The Batteries? The Shocking Truth: Battery Lifespan And Disposal:
Quick EPA Stats
Some Of The Features (2006 Model Specific)
Recall Info
BWC Member Comments
Not-So-Quick Stats (2006 Model Specific)


Begin At The Beginning. Hybrid Electric Vehicles Defined:
A hybrid is any vehicle that uses two or more sources of power - in today's HEV's, the two sources are electricity (from batteries) and mechanical power (from a small internal combustion engine). HEVs can offer the very low emissions of electric vehicles with the power and range of gasoline vehicles. They also offer up to 30 more miles per gallon, perform as well as or better than, and are just as safe as any comparable gasoline-powered car - and they never have to be plugged in for recharging. Widespread use of HEVs would help reduce our nation's growing dependence on foreign oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions by one-third to one-half.

Not all hybrids are alike. There are many ways to combine the engine, motor/generator, and battery. Three basic hybrid configurations are the series, parallel, and split (or through-the-road) designs.

With the series configuration, the engine never directly powers the car. Instead, the engine drives the generator, and the generator can either charge the batteries or power an electric motor that drives the wheels.

In the case of the parallel configuration, the engine connects to the transmission, as do the batteries and the electric motor. So both the engine and the generator/motor can supply power to the wheels, switching back and forth as driving conditions vary.

The engine drives one axle and the electric motor drives the other in the split configuration. There is no connection between the engine and the electric components except "through the road."

Things People Like About The Insight (May Not Apply To All Model Years)
:
- Crazy good fuel economy
- Quiet
- Fun to drive

Things People Don't Like About The Insight (May Not Apply To All Model Years):
- Loses power on steep hills
- Poor rear visibility
- Standard radio and speakers not the best

What's The Deal With The Batteries? The Shocking Truth: Battery Lifespan And Disposal:
The hybrid battery packs are designed to last for the lifetime of the vehicle, somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 miles, probably a whole lot longer. The warranty covers the batteries for between eight and ten years, depending on the manufacturer.

Hybrids use NiMH batteries, not the environmentally problematic rechargeable nickel cadmium. "Nickel metal hydride batteries are benign. They can be fully recycled," says Ron Cogan, editor of the Green Car Journal. Toyota and Honda recycle dead batteries, and have asserted that disposal will pose no toxic hazards.

Since the Insight's introduction, many have wondered what costs an Insight owner would face if the car's NiMH battery pack needs replacing. As of October 2006, Honda is paying the replacement cost of these batteries on cars with up to 150,000 miles of use.

Quick EPA Stats:
- Fuel Type: Regular Gasoline
- MPG (city): 60
- MPG (highway): 66
- MPG (combined): 63
- Fuel to Drive 25 Miles: 0.40 gal
- Miles on a Tank: 601 miles
- Tank Size: 10.6 gal
- Annual Petroleum Consumption (1 barrel=42 gallons): 5.4 barrels per year

Some Of The Features (2006 Model Specific):

- 5-Speed Manual Transmission With Overdrive
- Electric Power Steering (EPS) Power Rack and Pinion Variable Assisted
- Front Power Outlet
- 4-Wheel Anti-Lock Brakes
- Driver Airbag & Passenger Airbag
- Anti-Theft & Locks
- Power Door Locks
- Selective Unlocking Via Keyless Entry
- Vehicle Anti-Theft Via Engine Immobilizer
- Remote Fuel Door Release
- Keyless Entry Operated Via Key Fob
- Multi-Function Remote Operates Door Lock/Unlock and Panic Alarm
- Panic Alarm Sounds Horn and Flashes Lights
- Cloth Seats
- Front Dual Reclining High Back Bucket Seats With Integral Headrests
- Lockable Glovebox
- Cargo Area Tiedown Hooks
- Battery Gauge
- Trip Computer With Average Fuel Consumption, Stop Watch and Trip Odometer
- Electroluminescent Instrumentation
- Tachometer
- Front Dual Map Lights
- Interior Load Area Light
- AM/FM Radio With 4 Speakers Total; CD Player
- Interior Air Filter
- SBRP165/65R14 78S Low Rolling Resistance All-Season Tires
- Compact Spare Tire
- Alloy Wheels, 14-In. X 5.5-In.
- Rear Window Wiper/Washer
- Dual Body Color Power Folding Exterior Rearview Mirrors
- Driver Vanity Mirror
- Power Windows With Driver Side One-Touch Down
- Rear Window Defroster
- Front Dual Sunvisors
- Intermittent Windshield Wipers
- Front and Rear Body-Colored 5-MPH Impact-Absorbing Bumpers
- Aerodynamic Rear Fender Side Skirts and Underbody Aero Cladding

Recall Info

Make / Models /Build Years:
Honda / Insight / 2006
Recall Date: JUL 25, 2006
Component: EQUIPMENT:OTHER:OWNERS/SERVICE/OTHER MANUAL
Consequence: THE LANGUAGE IN THE OWNER'S MANUALS IS NOT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CURRENT MANDATORY REQUIREMENTS.

Remedy: HONDA WILL SEND A POSTCARD TO DEALERS AND OWNERS WITH THE CORRECT NHTSA VEHICLE SAFETY HOTLINE INFORMATION AND WITH INSTRUCTIONS TO INSERT THE CARD INTO THE "REPORTING SAFETY DEFECTS" SECTION OF THE OWNER'S MANUAL. THE RECALL IS EXPECTED TO BEGIN IN EARLY AUGUST 2006. OWNERS MAY CONTACT HONDA AT 1-800-999-1009, ACURA AT 1-800-382-2238 OR HONDA MOTORCYCLES AT 1-866-784-1870.

Make / Models /Build Years:
Honda / Insight / 2002
Recall Date: FEB 24, 2004
Component: EXTERIOR LIGHTING: HEADLIGHTS
Consequence: AN UNEXPECTED LOSS OF LOW BEAMS COULD RESULT IN A CRASH.

Remedy: DEALERS WILL INSPECT THE HEAD LIGHT SWITCH AND COUPLER FOR SIGNS OF HEAT DAMAGE. IF HEAT DAMAGE IS PRESENT, THE DEALER WILL REPLACE THE SWITCH AND COUPLER. IF NO HEAT DAMAGE IS PRESENT, THE DEALER WILL REPLACE THE HEAD LIGHT SWITCH AND ONE MATING PIN IN THE COUPLER. OWNER NOTIFICATION BEGAN ON APRIL 5, 2004. OWNERS SHOULD CONTACT HONDA AT 1-800-999-1009.

Make / Models /Build Years:
Honda / Insight / 2001
Recall Date: FEB 24, 2004
Component: EXTERIOR LIGHTING: HEADLIGHTS
Consequence: AN UNEXPECTED LOSS OF LOW BEAMS COULD RESULT IN A CRASH.

Remedy: DEALERS WILL INSPECT THE HEAD LIGHT SWITCH AND COUPLER FOR SIGNS OF HEAT DAMAGE. IF HEAT DAMAGE IS PRESENT, THE DEALER WILL REPLACE THE SWITCH AND COUPLER. IF NO HEAT DAMAGE IS PRESENT, THE DEALER WILL REPLACE THE HEAD LIGHT SWITCH AND ONE MATING PIN IN THE COUPLER. OWNER NOTIFICATION BEGAN ON APRIL 5, 2004. OWNERS SHOULD CONTACT HONDA AT 1-800-999-1009.

Make / Models /Build Years:
Honda / Insight / 2001
Recall Date: JUL 23, 2002
Component: AIR BAGS: FRONTAL
Consequence: THE SEAT OCCUPANT MAY NOT BE PROPERLY PROTECTED IN THE EVENT OF A COLLISION, INCREASING THE RISK OF PERSONAL INJURY.

Remedy: DEALERS WILL REPLACE THE PASSENGER AIR BAG MODULE. OWNER NOTIFICATION BEGAN AUGUST 2, 2002. OWNERS WHO TAKE THEIR VEHICLES TO AN AUTHORIZED DEALER ON AN AGREED UPON SERVICE DATE AND DO NOT RECEIVE THE FREE REMEDY WITHIN A REASONABLE TIME SHOULD CONTACT HONDA AT 1-800-999-1009 OR ACURA AT 1-800-382-2238.

Make / Models /Build Years:
Honda / Insight / 2000
Recall Date: FEB 24, 2004
Component: EXTERIOR LIGHTING: HEADLIGHTS
Consequence: AN UNEXPECTED LOSS OF LOW BEAMS COULD RESULT IN A CRASH.

Remedy: DEALERS WILL INSPECT THE HEAD LIGHT SWITCH AND COUPLER FOR SIGNS OF HEAT DAMAGE. IF HEAT DAMAGE IS PRESENT, THE DEALER WILL REPLACE THE SWITCH AND COUPLER. IF NO HEAT DAMAGE IS PRESENT, THE DEALER WILL REPLACE THE HEAD LIGHT SWITCH AND ONE MATING PIN IN THE COUPLER. OWNER NOTIFICATION BEGAN ON APRIL 5, 2004. OWNERS SHOULD CONTACT HONDA AT 1-800-999-1009.

BWC Member Comments:

Great if all you need is a 2-seater. My Honda Insight 2000 model year has been a great car for high miles per gallon. My family has an '04 Prius and the Insight always surpasses it by 10 mpg every tank full. Plus I know at a glance what my lifetime average mpg is (59). I've gotten up to 79 mpg on a 210-mile road trip by going about 50 mph and lots of strategic coasting. 64 mpg on a long highway trip is quite attainable even with another passenger and a weekend worth of gear. Other pluses that set it apart: it won't rust, being made of aluminum.

Some folks claim the car is buffeted by the wind but its drag coefficient is one of the lowest around-- so, I think it actually slices through winds better than other models.

I believe the 2004 Prius second generation body style was an attempt to copy the Insight shape in a 4-door. If the Prius weighed 1000 lbs. less, it could compete with the Insight for mileage ratings.


Not-So-Quick Stats (2006 Model Specific)

- Standard Engine: 1.0L I3
- Standard Transmission: 5 Speed Manual
- Cylinders: 3
- Horsepower @ RPM: 73@5700
- Fuel Economy Cty/Hwy: 60 / 66
- Combined Fuel Economy: 63
- Number of Valves: 12
- Torque @ RPM: 79@1500 (foot/lbs)
- Fuel Type/System: Hybrid Gas/Electric / Multi-Port Fuel Injected
- Turbo (yes/no): No
- Overdrive Transmission: Yes
- Battery Output: 10
- Compression: 10.8
- Displacement: 995 / 61
- Bore X Stroke: 2.83x3.21
- Cruising Range: 667.8
- Final Drive Gear Ratio Opt: N/A
- Power To Weight Ratio: 25.6
- Final Drive Ratio: 3.21
- Valves Configuration: Single Overhead Cam
- Supercharged: No
- Electric HorsePower RPM: 5700
- Electric Torque Feet Per Pound: 79 (foot/lbs)
- Electric Torque RPM: 1500 (foot/lbs)
- Electric HorsePower BHP: 73
- Cargo Volume (EPA): N/A
- Cargo Volume (MFR): 16.3
- Fuel Capacity: 10.6
- Passenger Volume (EPA): N/A
- Passenger Volume (MFR): 47.4
- Box/Cargo Height: N/A
- Box/Cargo Length: N/A
- Box/Cargo Width (Wheel): N/A
- Box/Cargo Width (Wall): N/A
- GVWR Standard: N/A
- GVWR Maximum: N/A
- Payload Standard: N/A
- Payload Maximum: N/A
- Brakes (Front): Disc
- Brakes (Rear): Drum
- Driveline: Front Wheel Drive
- Driveline (Opt): N/A
- Steering: Rack & Pinion
- Steering Diameter Left: 31.5
- Steering Diameter Right: 31.5
- Suspension (Front): Independent
- Suspension (Rear): Semi-Independent
- Tire Type: Passenger
- Tire Width: 165
- Tire Aspect Ratio: 65
- Tire Construction: Radial
- Tire Wheel Diameter: 14
- Seating (Standard): 2
- Seating (Optional): N/A
- Tow Capacity (Standard): Towing Not Recommended
- Tow Capacity (Maximum): Towing Not Recommended
- Headroom (Front): 38.8
- Headroom (Row 2): N/A
- Hiproom (Front): 48.7
- Hiproom (Row 2): N/A
- Legroom (Front): 42.9
- Legroom (Row 2): N/A
- Shoulder Room (Front): 50.5
- Shoulder Room (Row 2): N/A
- Seating (Maximum): 2
- Headroom (Row 3): N/A
- Hiproom (Row 3): N/A
- Legroom (Row 3): N/A
- Shoulder Room (Row 3): N/A
- Curb Weight MT: 1850
- Curb Weight AT: N/A
- Ground Clearance: 3.9
- Height: 53.3
- Length: 155.1
-Top Type (Standard): Hard Fixed
- Top Type (Optional): Not Applicable
- Track (Front): 56.5
- Track (Rear): 52.2
- Weight Distribution AT (Front): N/A
- Weight Distribution AT (Rear): N/A
- Weight Distribution MT (Front): 59
- Weight Distribution MT (Rear): 41
- Wheelbase: 94.5
- Width: 66.7
- Doors (Standard): 2
- Doors (Maximum): 2
- Where Built: Japan