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2010 Honda Insight  (Source: Motor Authority)

2010 Toyota Prius
The cheapest hybrid on the market is now the best selling, in Japan

The hybrid price war between Honda and Toyota has been fierce, with both companies slashing prices on their 2010 flagship models.  In the end Honda emerged the victor, boasting the cheaper price of $19,800 in the U.S.  Now it has taken an early lead in sales as well, setting an unprecedented record in Japan.

The Honda Insight became Japan's top selling vehicle for the month of April.  This marked the first time in Japan's automotive history a traditional hybrid has climbed to the top of the list. 

The Honda Insight retails for 1.89 million yen ($19,000) in Japan.  According to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association, approximately 10,481 Insights sold in April.  Small hybrids with an engine size of up to 660 cubic centimeters (aka, minicars) have cracked the top of the sales list in Japan, but the Insight in the first traditional vehicle to do so.

A Honda spokesperson cheered the news, bragging, "The all-new Insight has been very well received by a wide range of customers due to its excellent environmental performance, easy-to-use packaging, light and comfortable driving and affordable pricing."

Toyota is set to release the 2010 Prius next week, with May offering the first taste of the vehicles' head-to-head sales figures.  With Toyota aggressively pricing the established Prius, a larger vehicle, at only approximately $1,000 more than the Insight, it is expected to post strong sales as well.

While the sales of the Insight say less about the upcoming competition with the Prius, and more about the appeal of the Insight itself, they do also show that sales of hybrids are picking up again, despite a lag due to the poor economy.  That's good news for Toyota and Honda, which make a lucrative $3,100 on each of the hybrids sold, according to recent reports.

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By quiksilvr on 5/11/2009 1:24:18 PM , Rating: -1
Why is it so ugly? They said they made it that shape because its more aerodynamic, but it gets the same fuel efficiency as the Honda Civic Hybrid and that actually looks like a car rather than a hatchback that looks like its been neutered.

RE: But...
By PandaBear on 5/11/2009 1:39:30 PM , Rating: 1
No it doesn't get the same fuel efficiency as the Honda Civic Hybrid.

RE: But...
By Brandon Hill on 5/11/2009 1:43:15 PM , Rating: 3
Honda Insight: 40/43 city/highway
Honda Civic Hybrid: 40/45 city/highway

Pretty damn close...

RE: But...
By AEvangel on 5/11/2009 2:28:03 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah but why is the Civic like $3k more then the insight.

RE: But...
By Keeir on 5/11/2009 2:42:30 PM , Rating: 5
The fuel economy numbers are confusing. In this case, the Civic Hyrbid is a physically larger car at Wheelbase of 106.3 to Insight's 100.4(expense) with a more agressive Hybrid system (expense).

The Insight however, essentially takes the interior space of a Civic and puts it in a Aerodynamic/Mass efficient shape which lowers the overall expense and then uses a less agressive hybrid system which again lowers the expense. Turns out the savings in wieght/aerodynamics are essentially a wash with the reduction in Hybrid "oomph", but Honda can offer the entire package at a much lower price tag.

RE: But...
By RamarC on 5/11/2009 8:35:13 PM , Rating: 2
you forgot to mention that honda intended to undercut the prius. so regardless of manufacturing efficiencies and features, the new insight had to absolutely, positively be cheaper to break the prius mystique.

RE: But...
By quiksilvr on 5/12/2009 12:45:13 PM , Rating: 2
Or they could have just placed that lower powered engine in the Civic Hybrid to help cut down that $23,000 price tag.

RE: But...
By Keeir on 5/12/2009 6:47:37 PM , Rating: 2
Or they could have just placed that lower powered engine in the Civic Hybrid to help cut down that $23,000 price tag.

Yeah, your right. Most estimates I have seen would have trimmed around 1,000 dollars from that 23,000 price tag. But the problems comes about in the end fuel economy. The Civic is a heavier car, and despite what people want to believe sometimes, Car wieght does play a role in car performace. The increased aerodynamic drag of the Civic body and increased wieght of the Civic body would have likely lead to more like 35-38 City and 38-41 Highway (when combined with the new Insight's engine). I am going to guess that Honda wants at least a 40 mpg combined EPA rating to "challenge" the Prius. Alot of people suffer from Left-Number Syndrome, and the Combined MPG being 41/42 is alot more attractive than 38/39.

Moving forward, I would expect a revised Civic/Sedan hybrid from Honda using the cheaper Hybrid module, just don't expect to get the same fuel efficieny numbers as the Insight.

RE: But...
By quiksilvr on 5/12/2009 11:41:26 PM , Rating: 2
Fuel efficiency isn't the problem. They are getting the same fuel efficiency, it was just price. And by cutting down the power of the engine (and I'm also assuming weight of the engine and weight of the batteries needed), they would have easily cut price and mass and actually would have made it more efficient.

IMO, Honda went for this shape because consumers see that shape and immediately think "HYBRID". It's the same reason why so many cell phone providers are trying to imitate the iPhone. Is it necessarily a good thing? If there was a payoff for it (a more efficient hybrid) then yes. But since this is JUST as efficient and (also IMO) in an uglier package when compared to the Civic Hybrid.

RE: But...
By Mojo the Monkey on 5/11/2009 1:58:55 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, why not just build the engine into a mini LS460 body. More appealing, if you ask me. These are "look at me, I'm eco friendly" designs more than aero designs.

RE: But...
By Yawgm0th on 5/11/09, Rating: 0
RE: But...
By usbseawolf2000 on 5/11/2009 4:00:22 PM , Rating: 4
The iconic Prius shape gives the most interior and cargo room with the least aero drag penalty.

Functionality of a hatchback and the interior room is what make the owners so satisfied.

RE: But...
By matt0401 on 5/11/2009 11:24:04 PM , Rating: 4
As the poster above me has stated, the shape says "I like having a comfortable amount of interior room while having great fuel efficiency." If you interpret that as "Look at me, I'm a tool." then you need to take a hard look at just what a car is. Believe it or not, some people buy a car to move things, or move people, not to simply wax and display on a driveway and be used as a status symbol.

Not all of the Prius owners are obsessive greenies out on a mission to save the Earth. Some just like the idea of having a car good at moving stuff (lots of cargo room) and moving people (it's a mid-size, plenty of interior room). If you'd actually do your research and not blindly follow whatever South Park or the like tells you about Prius owners then you might just realize why it's so popular, and why cars like the Insight are capitalizing on this.

RE: But...
By Alexstarfire on 5/12/2009 7:09:31 AM , Rating: 2
They wouldn't want to do that, might make them look less masculine. :P

RE: But...
By redsquid5 on 5/11/2009 2:36:23 PM , Rating: 2
I think it looks pretty good, but the Prius looks better and the Civic hybrid better still. I bought the Civic, actually; the final decision ended up being that the Civic seat fit me better - driving position, etc.
These aerodynamic designs actually look better than every SUV on the market I can think of, and most other cars - seems there is a real effort towards the SUPER ugly, big grills, etc.
What I want to see is a hybrid in a Miata style body - now that would be one sweet commuter ride.

RE: But...
By quiksilvr on 5/11/2009 4:27:32 PM , Rating: 2
Well the Honda CR-V is a nice looking "SUV" but this is just inexcusable. If it was more efficient than the Civic Hybrid then I would say "Its ugly, but the shape cuts down the coefficient of drag so it's more fuel efficient."

But NO, it isn't. Its an ugly hatchback that isn't even as efficient as what it's trying to replace (a much better looking Civic Hybrid). Why would you buy this if you can just pay a grand more and get the Prius, which gives you 7+ mpg?

RE: But...
By Keeir on 5/12/2009 7:00:55 PM , Rating: 2
Why would you buy this if you can just pay a grand more and get the Prius, which gives you 7+ mpg?

But thats not really an "Apples to Apples" comparison. The cost delta is more like 2,000-3,000. But in the end, I agree with your conclusion. For relatively small gap in price, the Prius gives you more interior room AND more MPG with similar performace and look. Furthermore, the Prius has alot more options on the top end...

RE: But...
By quiksilvr on 5/12/2009 11:45:26 PM , Rating: 2
That's a delta I wouldn't mind paying. Why didn't they just put the smaller engine into the Civic (which would cut down its engine mass and battery mass) which would cut down the price?

Same goes for Camry. The Camry Hybrid is $25k, but its 150 HP. They couldn't make a $20k, 90-100 HP version?

RE: But...
By walk2k on 5/11/2009 2:38:05 PM , Rating: 2
I've seen it in person, in the blue color, and it's actually quite a good looking little car.

RE: But...
By Murst on 5/11/2009 3:43:45 PM , Rating: 2
I test drove this a few weeks ago. The car seemed really jerky. You could very easily tell when the engine would turn on and off. This was right after test driving the prius, which was very smooth compared to the insight.

Both cars sucked though, and got an Escape instead =/

RE: But...
By Batty on 5/11/2009 8:35:10 PM , Rating: 2
I also test drove the Insight recently and I agree the engine seemed shockingly weak and felt quite strange to drive.

It's my understanding the Insight was meant to be the economically sensible hybrid in that the price premium was low enough so customers could actually hope to recover the additional cost of the hybrid technology through gas savings, but I just don't see that happening. In Honda's own model lineup they have competing cars, like the Honda Fit, that offer similar power, quality, and trim for thousands less, and the Fit only gets incrementally worse gas mileage. It would take average drivers many years to recover the additional $4000+ cost of the Insight over the Fit.

RE: But...
By Alexstarfire on 5/12/2009 7:12:06 AM , Rating: 2
Very true, but these average drivers suck balls at driving anyway. I'm not going to get into an essay like rant over that so I'll just leave you with that simple statement.

RE: But...
By Alexstarfire on 5/12/2009 7:18:07 AM , Rating: 1
To be fair though it's still quite easy to tell when the Prius turns off. Some may not like it, but for those who are driving economically then it's great to be able to tell when the car is turned off. Of course if it's like the Civic Hybrid then it actually won't help at all and be very annoying since you can't actually propel the car on battery power. My dad has a Civic Hybrid and I hate the way they made that car with a serious passion. Why in the world would they make it to where the ICE starts up when you let your foot off the brake?

This does come from someone who drives a Prius, but it was damn difficult to not jack rabbit start in the Civic Hybrid. The ICE might turn on when you take your foot off the brake, but it would fucking lag when hitting the accelerator. God, I hated that so much.

RE: But...
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 5/12/2009 11:31:57 AM , Rating: 1
I have a Camry hybrid, and the gas engine engagement and disengagement is very smooth. Plus it has a CVT (no gears) so overall the ride is much better than a gas only vehicle (which I have owned plenty of over the last 35 years.)

The early Toyota hybrids were very jerky, but Toyota has had hybrids on the market since 1995, and about 4 or 5 generations have worked the bugs out. Honda had hybrids a few years ago, but they were performance hybrids (400# extra for a few more horsepower) and were not popular, so they pulled them. They are still way behind the curve. Nissan was smart and licensed the technology from Toyota, but no one talks about their hybrids much.

Anyway, if you just want a poon magnet, buy a Mustang or something.

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