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Honda Insight in blue, Toyota Prius in red  (Source: Motor Trend)

Toyota Prius interior

Honda Insight interior
Honda's Insight brings a knife to a gunfight

Honda has been touting its second generation Insight as a worthy competitor to the Toyota Prius. In the real world, however, sales aren't quite backing up those statements.  The Insight is indeed a worthy competitor to the second generation Prius, but Honda is quickly finding out that it doesn't quite have the firepower to go up against the new third-generation Prius -- at least in the U.S. market.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Honda sold just 2,079 Insights during the month of June in the U.S. while Toyota was able to move a whopping 12,998 Prius hybrids. Since the Insight's introduction in March of this year, Honda has sold a total of 7,524 vehicles -- Toyota, however, has managed to move over 40,000 of its “green” icon. Honda is not expected to meet its sales goal of 90,000 Insights for 2009.

"We're all pretty disappointed. We thought we had the next hit on our hands," said Don Marino, Honda of Santa Monica's General Manager.

"Honda just hasn't had a cogent hybrid strategy at all," added Eric Noble, president of research firm Car Lab.

Honda's Insight does have a few characteristics which can win over consumers. It has a lower price tag than the Prius and more nimble handling. However, the Prius offers better fuel economy (50 mpg combined for the Prius versus 41 mpg combined for the Insight), is larger (the Prius is rated as a midsize vehicle, the Insight is a compact), is faster in acceleration runs, and offers more technology/options to pamper its driver and passengers.

Things are expected to get even worse for Honda when Toyota introduces its "stripper" Prius later this year. The current base Prius has an MSRP of $22,000 compared to $19,800 for the Insight. However, the price of entry for the Prius will drop to $21,000 with the new model in September making the price delta even smaller.

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By Iridium130m on 7/30/2009 3:33:52 PM , Rating: 2
Its caused by the high load on the puny barely 1.4L combustion engine. Almost Every hill I climb requires revs to 4500 RPM and assist from the electric motor, and I will still drop to 65mph. This, in turn requires recharging the battery pack on every downhill and flat run, not allow the engine to ever really get a break.

One thing people don't realize is Recharging the battery with the engine is inefficient...1/3 of the power that is generated to recharge NiMH batteries gets turned to heat. So constantly recharging the batteries from using them to climb every hill is an extreme waist of fuel. This is why Toyota moved to the larger displacement engine in the 3rd gen allow the engine to bear to brunt of the load on the highway while using aggressive EGR technology to make the engine act smaller in the city.

Without the A/C load and extreme heat, i can can close to around 40mpg, but the rated 45mpg is only achieved at 70MPH without any head wind very few hills on a cool day, but not cold day. (yes, the cold chews up my fuel economy as well).

By Alexstarfire on 7/30/2009 4:22:00 PM , Rating: 2
I shall say this again, but there must be something wrong with your car. AC and cold really aren't going to have THAT big of an effect on your MPG on the highway. A nearly 20% drop in mileage is far too much. I barely even have a 10% drop with freezing weather/AC, rain, and a headwind.

By Jimbo1234 on 7/30/2009 10:52:18 PM , Rating: 2
A/C should not consume more than 7 horsepower. When I worked for a mining truck OEM several years ago, the biggest, baddest A/C compressor for the equatorial heat applications required 7hp. That thing was at least twice as big as anything I've ever seen in passenger cars.

By Solandri on 7/31/2009 2:36:13 AM , Rating: 2
A sedan cruising at 65 mph should require about 25-30 hp. A full-size pickup will need 35-45 hp. A high-efficiency model like a Prius should be able to do it at 20-25 hp or less. So even a few hp for an AC is a pretty significant hit.

By Alexstarfire on 7/31/2009 2:39:31 PM , Rating: 2
No, it isn't. Especially when you aren't even near maxing out the engine.

By Lord 666 on 8/2/2009 10:53:25 AM , Rating: 2
A modern passenger car requires about 8hp to maintain cruising speed of 65mph.

By Lord 666 on 8/2/2009 10:59:36 AM , Rating: 2
Well, the most direct solution to your fuel economy problem is moving to a flatter area.

Still, you should take your Civic to a different shop for diagnostics and further research that class action suit. No offense, I drove the Civic Hybrid the first week it was available for sale and the test drive didn't last very long.

For a real world usable car with higher mpg than you get now, cut your losses and get a 2009+ TDI Jetta. Take one for a test drive and you'll jump the Honda hybrid ship.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein
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