Honda Insight EX Review

Let's skip right to the central questions here. Should Toyota be worried? Is the new Honda Insight a Prius-killer?

Yes and no.

Yes to the first question because Honda has come through with a hybrid for a couple thousand dollars less than the Prius sells for (Insight EX base price: $21,300. With destination charges, $21,970). And in tough economic times, the car payment (if you can afford one at all) matters big.

No to the second because there will be a large group of people (especially existing Prius owners) who will choose the Prius for reasons that the Honda (at least at present) can't touch.

The Insight is shaped like the Prius (apparently the best shape for reducing wind resistance), has four doors and is powered by a gasoline-electric hybrid engine. But that's pretty much where the similarities end.

Honda got to the price advantage by making a smaller, less powerful, less comfortable, less refined car that actually gets fewer miles per gallon than the Prius.

If you've never driven a Prius, you might not notice. If you have, you most certainly will. The Prius interior is almost like being in a Camry. The Insight makes a Civic (one size class smaller) feel a bit roomier.

If you stomp on the gas pedal of a Prius, you're surprised by what it can do. The same move in an Insight produces a lot of noise from the 98 horsepower four-cylinder gasoline engine and the continuously variable transmission, but frustratingly little speed.

Each evolution of the Prius reminds us that Toyota also makes Lexus...refinement is definitely on the agenda. The Insight was built to hit a price target and it shows.

And even with all those things, the Prius wins the fuel economy contest with an EPA estimated 48 city/45 highway to the Insight's 40 city/43 highway.

That't the objective stuff. The subjective, like Honda's overly complicated, overly cute instrument panel and dashboard layout are strictly matters of opinion and taste. But for me, I gotta ask...is this the same company that built my '84 Civic Sedan, a model of simplicity and ergonomics that got 46 miles per gallon on the highway for the 14 years and 140,000 miles I owned it?

Think I'm being harsh? Read what Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson wrote about the Insight in a Times of London piece.