For years, it seemed as though the
Toyota was the darling of the "green" automotive movement
with its popular Prius (currently in its third generation). The
hybrid in its current form has an EPA combined fuel economy rating of
around 50 mpg and has a price tag that starts in the low 20s and
explodes from there.
Honda has tried to mirror the success
of the Prius with its second generation Insight, but hasn't had much
luck. The Prius continues
to crush it in sales despite the fact that the Prius is priced
higher across the board. Even with this evidence clearly
presented to Honda, the company is moving forward with an even
cheaper version of its Insight.
A new model, called simply the
"Insight", will join the Insight LX and range-topping
Insight EX. The base Insight is priced at $18,200 compared to $22,800
for the base Prius. While you get keyless entry and a USB port for
your audio player/smartphone at that price, don't expect features
like cruise control or even something as basic as floor mats --
you'll have to step up to the higher trim levels to get such
And while the base Insight includes the
aforementioned USB port for your MP3 player, you'll be blasting music
through just two speakers instead of four that you would get on the
LX and EX.
What hasn't changed, however, is the
performance and fuel economy seen on the higher trim models. The
Insight will still be rated at 40 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the
highway (41 mpg combined). The combined figure still puts it at about
9 mpg less than the popular Prius.
But it's not just the Prius that Honda
has to worry about these days -- there is competition coming from
both hybrid/electric vehicles priced much higher and more
conventional gasoline-engined vehicles that are priced lower. Nissan
and General Motors are coming to the market with the Leaf
EV and Chevrolet
Volt -- the vehicles are priced at $32,780 and $41,000
respectively before a $7,500 federal tax credit.
On the lower end of the pricing
spectrum, new compact vehicles like the 2011
Chevrolet Cruze Eco, 2011
Hyundai Elantra, and upcoming 2012
Ford Focus are putting up impressive EPA figures without the use
of a hybrid system.