We talk of the Prius as the first hybrid to make it to market at a price we can all afford, but the reality is there was another unique hybrid on the market before the Prius showed up; the Honda Insight. This car was different from what the Prius would come to be but had the hybrid powertrain and enough intrigue to be interesting. Even though the Insight was offered for several years eventually Honda had not experienced enough sales to keep this model rolling and cancelled production after the 2014 model year as it has fought the good fight against the strength of Toyota and the Prius.
Why the Insight Lost
The first generation of the Insight showed us a two-door vehicle that offered a small economy hatchback area and covered rear wheel arches. Even though you might have thought covered rear wheel arches went away many decades ago this was still a great way to provide better aerodynamics and subsequently improve the overall efficiency of the vehicle. With this body style you might think the Insight would have instant success as it was certainly a more intriguing build than the first Prius that would come out the very next year.
As for power, the Insight offered a tiny 1.0-thee cylinder engine that was aided by an electric motor to create a combined 53 mpg. This was enough to make it one of the most impressive cars at the time when it came to those who wanted a car that would provide huge fuel mileage, but this ended up being a car that fell short when it hit the mainstream stage. Part of the drawback may have been the fact it only had two doors, which limited the passenger capability and rendered the Insight a car that could only be enjoyed by those who didn’t need to haul around the entire family.
Another drawback to the Insight, other than the fact it only had two seats, making it impossible to take a group anywhere, was the fact it came with only a manual transmission, which further limited the crowd that could purchase and enjoy this vehicle. The next year the car was offered with the CVT, but by then the Prius had hit the market and the Insight would be forever relegated to playing catch up on the hybrid market which became much more competitive than you might have thought.
What Gave the Prius the Upper Hand
From the start the Prius offered us what the Insight did not, which came in the form of four doors, a backseat and a useful cargo area. This instantly gave the Prius more clout on the market because it certainly had the right look and build to be good for a small family to ride or to be the carpool choice to make the commuter’s dream. This simple but impressive model would be the build that showed the market what a hybrid car should be instead of one that was more like a roadster than you would imagine.
Even though the original Prius could only reach 41 mpg combined, the practicality was perfect for the market and the price came at an affordable level. Once the Prius had the following desired, Toyota chose to let us know the hybrid model could be a great looking and by 2004 the Prius had undergone style changes to give it a sportier look. The Insight did not see revisions that made a difference until 2009, which was way too late for this car to gain the foothold it needed to be able to actually be a competitive vehicle in the hybrid market. Unfortunately the Insight not only came to the market in 2009 late, but it also offered 42 mpg combined which was less than the 46 offered by the Prius at the time which was akin to showing up late to the party with the wrong outfit on. After this dismal second generation of the Insight the car was discontinued in 2014 showing the Prius as the grand champion of hybrid powertrains on the market. Even though this meant the Prius had won over the Insight there were sure to be new challengers on the market for the Prius to fight head to head.
The new models that are built to go up against the Prius include the Volkswagen TDI and the Chevrolet Volt, which are both made to be amazing hybrid vehicles. With these on the market going up against the Prius will we see a repeat of the failure the Insight gave us or will these models come in and fight strong against the Prius? So far both these models have proven to be fantastic offerings to give us some great choices on the market, allowing us to have the hybrid selection that is right for our needs.