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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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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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