Prius #3 vs. Insight #2

Hybrid history is about to repeat itself. When you look back at a hybrid vehicle timeline, you will realize that has been nearly 10 years since the first real hybrid battle took place on U.S. soil.

original_honda_insight_photo.jpgIt was 1999 when the original two door, made-for-two Honda Insight became the first mass produced hybrid car to gain traction in the U.S. market. With a look unlike anything car buyers had seen before, and fuel economy numbers that reached 50, 60, and sometimes 70 miles per gallon (can you say hypermiling?), we won’t soon forget the “little hybrid car that could”.

original_toyota_prius_photo.jpgLess than a year later, Honda suddenly was forced to share the green spotlight when a new contender crawled into the ring. After spending a few years training in Japan, the Toyota Prius became the first mass produced, four door hybrid vehicle to be sold in the United States. The Prius was bigger than the Insight, and although the gas mileage wasn’t as impressive (52 city/45 hwy was its EPA rating), it was able to seat five people rather than only two.

Over the next few years, the Prius underwent a total redesign (in 2004) while the Insight saw few changes. For many reasons including practicality the Prius gained a solid foothold in the hybrid community while the Insight became less and less popular. After selling only 320 Insights in the first quarter of 2006, Honda decided to throw in towel. Production stopped in September and Honda announced they would bring a new hybrid back in 2009, smaller than their hybrid Civic.

Fast forward to March of 2009 and Honda did return with a new smaller hybrid…the 2010 Honda Insight, Part 2!  With a starting price of $19,800 for the LX model, the Insight is a full $2,200 less than the 2009 Prius ($22,000).

Ready For Round Two?

Yesterday Toyota took off the gloves, announcing that it would cut the base price of the ‘09 Prius by $1,000, a move most likely made to compete more closely with Honda’s Insight. So, here we go again. Unfortunately, with all the different prices for various models of the Insight, the currently available Prius, and the newly redesigned 2010 Prius (set to reach dealers in May or June), it might be confusing for potential buyers who are hybrid price shopping. The 2010 Prius will be priced at $22,700, but according to a recent article on Edmunds.com, Toyota plans to also sell a stripped down version of the 2010 Prius later this year, dubbed the “Prius I”. 

Edmunds recently conducted a head to head comparison of the 2010 Prius vs. 2010 Insight, and in the end they had a hard time choosing a clear winner. The Prius beat the Insight handily in the zero to 60 mph race (10.1 seconds versus 10.9), although the gap was  narrowed at the quarter mile mark (17.3 seconds compared to 17.9 for the Insight). In the all important overall fuel economy test, the Prius again edged the Insight by 1 mile per gallon (52.2 to 51.2).

Edmunds liked the steering and handling of the Insight better, but they had nothing good to say about its firm ride, extensive road noise, and cramped rear seating. They noted that the Honda was more fun to drive, and cost less than the Prius…so, which hybrid did they pick in the end? You’ll have to watch the video to see. Happy Earth Day!

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