2006 Insight New Car Test Drive
The Honda Insight was the most fuel-efficient car sold in America during the 2006 model year, in terms of EPA estimates, edging out the Toyota Prius.
Gas-electric hybrid powerplants are a practical, workable response to high fuel prices, global oil politics, and the need to reduce automotive emissions. They are on sale now, use no exotic technology, and require no investment in infrastructure. For the most part, they drive like the cars we are already driving.
Several automakers offer hybrid versions of conventional cars, but for 2006 you could buy only two hybrids that were designed from the ground up for maximum fuel efficiency. The previously mentioned Toyota Prius, with its equal emphasis on family-friendly room and practicality, has been by far the more popular of the two. But what the Honda Insight sacrifices in utility, it makes up in slick, sporty individuality.
Honda Insight seats only two people, and it's fun to drive, handling well on winding roads and cruising easily at high speeds on the highway. It looks slippery and futuristic. And it is. According to Honda, it is the most aerodynamic production car on the road.
Insight's tail-pipe emissions are bettered only by a zero-emissions pure electric car. An Insight can squeeze 66 highway miles from a gallon of gasoline when it's equipped with a manual transmission, according to EPA fuel-economy estimates, compared with the Prius, at 51 mpg.
Drivers who can live with its limited cargo capacity should find the Insight to be an enjoyable long-term companion.
Insight is a great car for someone who cares about the environment. Although it costs a few thousand dollars more to buy than a conventional compact, it is actually a bargain. Honda probably lost money on every Insight it sold, considering the cost of the high-tech parts and the all-aluminum body structure, let alone the research and development for such a low-volume car.
Little has changed since we last reviewed the Insight in 2001. A continuously variable automatic transmission, or CVT, became available for 2002. For 2004, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo replaced the original two-speaker AM/FM/cassette unit; and beige replaced black as the sole interior color choice. Safety and security were beefed up for 2004 as well, as Honda added seat-belt pre-tensioners and an engine immobilizer. A headlight warning chime was added for 2005. There have been no further changes for 2006 which, was the Insight's final year in production.
The 2006 Honda Insight is available in a single trim level and is available with a five-speed manual ($19,330), with air conditioning ($20,530), and an automatic with air conditioning ($21,530).
Insight comes with power windows, locks and mirrors; remote keyless entry; four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo; reclining bucket seats; digital/analog instrument display; a single 12-volt power outlet; vanity mirrors; an anti-theft system with engine immobilizer; heat-rejecting glass; cargo-area hooks, a hidden storage compartment; and 14-inch alloy wheels.
Safety equipment includes the requisite front air bags, seat-belt pre-tensioners, and anti-lock brakes (ABS). Air conditioning, when ordered, is of the automatic climate control variety and includes an air filter. There are no other factory options, and color choices are limited to red, blue or silver, all with a beige interior.