2010 Honda Insight vs 09 Civic Hybrid

A comparison of two great looking hybrids from Honda – new Insight and Civic hybrid with a focus on the price, driver’s comfort and general usability.

Well, it has been a couple of months now since Honda made their new, and VERY affordable 2010 Insight hybrid available in the US market, and I have already had the pleasure of test-driving it at the BOCH Honda dealership in Norwood, MA. There are a lot of things I want to say about both of these cars, as a proud Civic hybrid owner. But first, lets look at these gorgeous machines:

2010 Honda Insight, displayed at a car show.

Image of Honda Insight

Honda Civic hybrid on drive track:

Honda Civic Hybrid

The first thing that came to my mind, when I got an email from my dealer saying that Insights are now available and are in stock was what a fool I am, buying Civic hybrid LX for $24,000, six months before Insight is released (I did know about Insight coming out in spring of ’09, when I was buying my Civic).

Second, I decided to go in and trade my Civic for an Insight and get a grand or two backĀ  (Wrong!!! I will explain this in details later). So I called my salesman to confirm availability and schedule a time to test-drive it. I watched all the videos about Insight on YouTube.com before I came in, had a generally good impression of the car, and was really hyped to get it.

Here are my first impressions of Insight:

First of all, although it looks VERY similar to the current (2009) and the next model of Toyota Prius, while costs 4 grand less, it is considerably smaller than both Prius and Civic, and inside it feels more like a Honda Fit or a Toyota Yaris. My dealer had two models in stock, base model – LX – for $19800 (rounded up, including destination charge) and a more advanced one, but without Navigation. The second one – Insight EX was a Honda Demo car, and could not be sold for a month or two, and did not have a sticker on it, so I’m not exactly sure what the price was, but it was about $21,300.

Test drive:

Being a hybrid owner, my main concern was the mileage, so I did not take it into sharp curves. It was also raining, and was not the best condition to get accurate results. In a 3 mile stretch of city roads and traffic lights, I got about 42 mpg, so just about what the sticker on the car says. I was driving in a “green mode” however, but because of lights, uphill driving, and short distance, I could not really get a good mpg sample of this car. I do know that some testers get around 60 mpg on longer tests in “green zone”, and bear in mind that the EPA rating of 40/43 city/hwy mileage was taken in the normal mode, not green, so if you are a hard-core, hyper-mileage driver, you can expect some impressive results.

I will go back for a more extensive test-drive of the Insight, compare it to my experience of driving the Civic and post my findings later.

Why I got disappointed with the Insight – impressions of the car, as compared to my Civic (base model), keeping in mind the price and what you get with the car.

First of all, let me come back to the cost of the Insight, trade-in values of my Civic, and my disappointment. Like I said, I got my Civic for just under $24k and I also got a good deal (back in Oct. 2008) on the car and the trade. Because the Insight LX is priced at $19350 + destination charge, that completely screwed up the civic hybrid market, and to be able to actually sell “almost the same” car (from my lay-person’s perspective), Honda is having crazy rebates on civics plus a dealer cash-back (something you are not told by your salesman) so you can actually now get a brand-spanking-new Civic Hybrid for just around $20-21k. Because of these deals, dealers will only give you “high-teens” for an almost new ’09 Civic. So if I was to sell or trade in my Civic, which to me is worth about 23 grand (what I paid for it, less wear/tear and miles than I put on it in 7 months), I would take a loss of about $5000. That’s why I, like many other Civic owners, am stuck.

To get back to the comparison of these two cars, I have to say that you get a lot more of a car for almost the same money, if you go and buy a Civic hybrid today, vs the Insight, and here is why:

Base model of the insight is VERY basic. There is no cruise control, no radio controls on the steering wheel, no alloy rims – you get cast wheels with hub-caps. Insight is much smaller than Civic, and Civic is SMALL, compared to my previous car – ’08 Accord. There is no USB plug for your music thumb-drive, only an auxiliary plug (USB is only available in the most expensive model of insight – EX with Navi, which costs $23,100).

Insight LX does not have a compartment between front seats, but only fold-down arm rests, just like Fit.

LX does not have Steering-wheel mounted Paddle shifters to take control of CVT tranny, which makes your car feel more like a sports car, rather than a slow-rider.

Wheel mounter Paddle shifters

Basically, the LX, which is positioned as an Affordable Hybrid, lacks many conveniences that I’m so used to from driving a Civic LX, and for the added cost of EX, is it really worth it?

The good things about the Insight (LX):

Although I’m disappointed (both in Insight LX features and in what I paid for my Civic), Insight is a trully great machine. First of all, in Eco mode you can get about 60 mpg. Second, it is still a very affordable hybrid, and because gas prices WILL go back to their crazy levels of 2008, and probably higher, when the economy recovers, people buying them now will really appreciate it. Also, consider that when gas prices do go up, demand for hybrids will skyrocket again and dealers will charge premium over MSRP, just like they did in the early ’08 and when the 2nd gen Prius came out.

If you don’t really need all the comfy things that LX is lacking, then Insight is really for you. It finally has a fully-usable trunk, unlike my Civic’s trunk which is TINY, and the rear seats do not fold in. Insight is very futuristic, and the Eco display teaches you how to drive conservatively, reducing your gas consumption and actually scoring your driving.


Now that Honda positions its Civic Hybrid as a luxury hybrid, but still offers super deals (not officially), if I was buying a hybrid now, I would think long and hard whether to get a Civic or an Insight. On one hand, Insight has the potential to get phenomenal mileage (in Eco “green” mode) and is relatively inexpensive. On the other hand, mpg of my civic can be in 50+ range when I go from Boston to NYC, and in the summer I can easily get 45 mpg in mixed city/hwy driving, so as a hybrid, Insight is not much better.

As far as luxuries and convenience, Civic LX beats Insight LX hands down, and you need to go to EX to get even close in comfort. My estimate is that now you can get a Civic EX with leather and navi for around $23-24k (with very long negotiations, eager-to-sell dealer and a lots of “walking outs”), so I would probably go for the Civic. Later, when all these deals disappear, the choice will be clear – the Insight, and probably EX without navi (get a garmin for $200 – it works much better than Honda’s built-in GPS).

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