Honda Further Undercuts Prius With New Base Insight

By Chris Haak

Honda’s second-generation Insight, which is based heavily upon the Fit’s architecture, but without the conventional car’s peppy drivetrain or much of its sporty handling, has not been a sales success for Honda so far.  While the company initially hoped to sell 60,00o Insights annually in the US, sales have been barely over a quarter of that number, with 17,789 units sold through the first ten months of 2010, against 17,530 units sold during the first ten months of 2009.  Meanwhile, the Prius is whooping the Insight in terms of sales:  Toyota’s standard-bearer has moved 115,065 so far this year (again, through October 31) and 118,290 during the same period last year.

So does Honda’s solution involve developing a trick new hybrid system, tossing out the underperforming IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) mild hybrid system?  Nah, instead they just stripped content from the car to lower its price point.

The resulting “base Insight” has some curious equipment selections.  Honda took the Insight LX, removed Bluetooth, nice seat fabric, and a couple of stereo speakers.  The Insight now has just two speakers, unless a buyer steps up to the higher-priced LX and EX.  But in spite of the content cutting, the base car includes remote keyless entry, stability control, ABS, automatic climate control, power windows, and a CD player.  Isn’t it odd to see a car with power windows and automatic climate control, but with two measly speakers for its audio system?  Most likely, Honda found the Insight’s lack of sales success surprising, and hadn’t planned on the need to engineer loss-leader options like manual windows and manual climate control.

For all this de-contenting, Honda is asking $18,950 (including destination).  The base Insight now undercuts the Prius by $4,610, although that is not a figure that accounts for equipment differences; the base Prius is better equipped and gets better fuel economy than does the base Insight.  Honda also announced pricing on the Insight LX (which now includes cruise control, USB audio interface, armrest console, floor mats, and two more speakers for the stereo (for a total of four), and it comes in at $20,650, which is just a $100 increase over the 2010’s price.  The EX now costs $22,940, which is a $190 increase over 2010 levels.  Honda gives EX buyers two more speakers (now six total), alloy wheels, steering wheel paddle shifters, and heated side mirrors.  The Insight EX is also the only one that can be purchased with Honda’s optional navigation system.

When we reviewed the Insight last year, we were left somewhat unimpressed by the car.  It gave the distinct vibe of being a really cheap car with a somewhat-expensive drivetrain.  The 2011 base Insight will still have the same drivetrain, but one has to believe that the de-contenting will only serve to further emphasize the economy car impression that the car leaves the driver with.

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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3 Comments

  1. I’ve yet to see an enthusiastic review of the Insight. I’m sure Honda’s initial goal was “better and cheaper than the Prius!” but it’s pretty apparent their hybrid technology is a few years behind Toyota’s in efficiency and cost, so all they could end up offering was a cheaper car by way of obvious cost cutting.

    I also think it’s in a bit of a ‘tweener segment — too expensive for a budget car shopper, too cheap for the “look at me, I drive a hybrid!” crowd.

  2. Toyota sells more Priuses (Prii?) in a month than Honda has sold all year. They should just kill the Insight and bring the Fit Hybrid to the USA. I think the problem Honda has is if buyers want a cheaper car, they get the Fit. If they want more MPGs, they get the Prius. The Insight doesn’t really fill any niche and IMA is rubbish. A cheaper, decontented Insight won’t boost sales.

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