• 00 - 2001 Honda Insight in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin
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  • 17 - 2001 Honda Insight in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin
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  • 22 - 2001 Honda Insight in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin
  • 02 - 2001 Honda Insight in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin
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  • 47 - 2001 Honda Insight in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The original Honda Insight was the very first hybrid-electric production car available in North American (beating out the Prius by nearly a year), and nothing could touch it for fuel economy and aerodynamic efficiency. Featuring aluminum construction, all manner of wind-cheating tricks, two seats and a curb weight of well under a ton, it looked like the car of the future … that is, a nonexistent American future in which solo commuters didn't feel compelled to pilot three-ton off-road dreadnoughts to the suburban office park. Nearly all of the first-gen Insights sold here came with fun-sapping CVT transmissions, but all the first-year 2000 models and a handful of the subsequent Insights got five-speed manual transmissions. Here's one of those rare fuel-sippers, spotted in a Denver self-service car graveyard.

The manual transmission got far better fuel economy than the CVT (60 highway mpg for the 5-speed versus 49 mpg for the CVT), but few American drivers feel like working a clutch pedal 25,000 times during a typical stop-and-go highway commute. The good news is that this sort of hybrid was made for stop-and-go traffic, harvesting back much of that braking energy and storing it for later use.

Power came from a 67-horsepower, 1.0-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine plus a 13-horse electric motor. I have a friend who bought a $200 Insight with a bad hybrid battery pack, and he says those 13 horses (and 36 lb-ft of torque) make a huge difference in drivability; he ended up springing for a new battery after a few months of agonizingly slow driving.

The digital odometer meant that I couldn't check the mileage reading on this car, but I'm guessing it was very high. The original manuals were still in the glovebox, though.

I'm starting to see increasing numbers of Insights in these yards lately, and most of them have been picked pretty clean by owners of still-driving Insights; they love their little Honda spaceships and work hard to keep them on the street.

Here's some official Honda discussion of the technological geekery inside this car.

Honda Insight Information

Honda Insight

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