Dynamite comes in small packages. Back in 1999, when Honda began selling the world's first mass-production hybrid electric vehicle, the Insight, nobody would foresee that the little car would not only amass a huge cult following, but also light the fuse for what is now the big thing in the auto industry. Hybrid cars are commonplace now, as most manufacturers now, at the very least, produce hybrid versions of their otherwise non-hybrid models. That still begs the question though - aren't the best hybrids the ones that were designed as hybrids and nothing else?
That brings us back to the Honda Insight - which, at a starting MSRP of $18,350, is the most affordable dedicated hybrid sedan in America. What's more, it still gets excellent gas mileage. Although the EPA rates the 2012 Insight at 41 mpg in the city and 44 on the highway, more eco-minded drivers will undoubtedly be able to get much better fuel economy numbers. Remember - when the EPA tests any vehicle that comes equipped with any kind of "economy mode" toggle switch, that switch is not engaged, meaning that the fuel economy figures reported by the federal government for any given car do not represent what a vehicle may be truly capable of, and that's certainly the case for the Insight.
Unlike most hybrids that can propel themselves at times using their electric motors alone (either at low speeds or for very short distances), the Insight is a true parallel hybrid - meaning that the electric motors assist the gasoline engine at all times - so there's no "EV" mode - hence, the designation of IMA or Integrated Motor Assist. That's not a bad thing, because you won't run the batteries down as quickly in an Insight as you might be able to in other hybrid vehicles. And because the battery pack is small, you can fold the rear seats down in the Insight, whereas on other hybrid sedans in this segment, you cannot. Also exclusive to the Insight in the compact hybrid sedan segment is its ability to manually "shift" the transmission via steering wheel mounted shift paddles - something that enthusiasts buying their first hybrid will appreciate.
Although the current generation Honda Insight has been on sale since 2009 (as a 2010 model), Honda has given its dedicated hybrid sedan a bit of a facelift for 2012. This year, you'll particularly notice the lower front fascia - it's more aggressive, and you'll notice the revised design for the turn signals down there (they aren't fog lights - but those are available, too).
Inside, the Insight has plenty of room for four adults (comfortably), but with the middle seat belt in the rear, you can certainly carry a total of five. Headroom is good, and the overall fit and finish is classic Honda - among the best in the business. On the EX model, there's new seating surfaces available. You'll see that on the headrests, and on the edges (bolsters) of the seats, there's a leatherette material, while in the center of the seat, it's still fabric - this allows you to slide in and out of the seats more easily (for better accessibility).
For more information about the 2012 Insight, visit www.honda.com or please stop by our dealership for a test drive and see why the Insight is truly the Honda of mainstream dedicated hybrids.
Source - Honda
Image Credit - House of Japan