2010 Honda Insight EX vs. 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid Comparison Notes

Discussion in 'Honda Hybrids' started by msantos, Jun 8, 2009.

  1. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    2010 Honda Insight EX vs. 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid Comparison Notes

    To conclude the 2010 Honda Insight Review, the following point by point comparison to the Honda Civic Hybrid should highlight the specific areas where each car offers a significant advantage over the other.

    Where the Insight excels over the Civic Hybrid:
    • In Canada, the base Insight’s pricing is measurably lower than that of the HCH, but it becomes more expensive when configured in the fully optioned EX trim. Sure, the higher-end Insight comes with Navigation and the HCH-II does not (not even offered as an option!). Unless you are going to use the navigation often enough, this feature may not be of much value to a many buyers. Exacerbating this is the fact that only the most southern parts of Canada are actually covered in the Navigation DVD.

    • Cargo flexibility. The simple fact that it is a hatchback with folding rear seats means that one can carry items that would never, ever fit in the Civic Hybrid.

    • The Insight's instrumentation is its killer app. The Insight is the hybrid for everyone not only because it is more affordable than the Civic Hybrid, but also because it makes it simple for just about anyone to get good fuel economy. The instrumentation is engaging and the experience is rewarding -- more of an addictive gaming experience than ever before.

    • It provides better acceleration performance. For the typical urban driver this may be an important attribute.

    • It has superb projector headlights. These headlights really do a much better job of illuminating the road ahead.

    • It has attractive and stylish LED taillights. They not only look stylish but also contribute to energy savings that cannot be ignored. These LED taillights are quite visible during most times of the day and night... except when the individual LED’s get washed out by direct sun light.

    • The EX aluminum wheels are very stylish and certainly more attractive than the aerodynamic lightweight wheels of the Civic Hybrid. Of course, a small minority will argue that the Insight's wheels are a detriment to fuel economy since they are significantly less aerodynamic than the OEM wheels provided with the HCH. Apart from the usual fundamentalism however, these wheels will appeal to a broader base of car buyers.

    • Unlike the HCH or Prius, the 2010 Insight sports a 12V battery charging system indicator. This is a critical feature to have especially when the 12 battery is weak or failing. As with other hybrids suffering from a weak 12V battery, the hybrid system will often fail to start and even when it does; it can leave some of its subsystems in an inconsistent and malfunctioning state. Clearly, Honda is seeking to allay owner fears that the vehicle is badly damaged when it fails to operate correctly in the event of a 12V battery failure.

    • The outside temperature display can now be adjusted. On the HCH-II and Insight-II, this temperature plays an important and rather critical role in defining temperature transition states which dictate the activation of one or more hybrid features. Since some deviation is possible, there is very little an HCH owner can do about it. The 2010 Insight offers the ability to adjust this input to better match typical driving scenarios.

    • It has a full featured trip computer. The Insight will display Range, Elapsed Time and Average Speed.

    • It has full MID support for vehicle settings. Through the MID, drivers can configure a whole series features (Auto Door locks, climate control, interior lighting, etc) without requiring the complex and blind dance of key turns, brake pedal presses, shift lever swings and assorted button presses that are so common in the HCH-II.

    • For snow-belt drivers, the Insight’s defogger will turn itself off after 10-30 minutes with actual duration determined by outside temperature. In contrast, the HCH-II's defogger will stay on for just 15 minutes regardless of the conditions. On this front the 2010 Insight is more energy efficient and smarter.

    • It has narrower and less aggressive headrests which not only provide improved comfort (for some folks) over the HCH-II but also allow for better peripheral visibility... particularly for those who shoulder check before switching lanes.

    • Given the "Analog" nature and behavior of the charge/assist needle gauge, the Insight II actually allows you to see a micro-assist or a micro-regen. In the case of micro-regens, this new ability allows drivers to manage the battery pack's state of charge with a negligible impact to fuel economy. In the HCH-II a ScanGauge is required and very fine foot control must be used to achieve roughly the same results... and even then, it can still be a hit or miss scenario.
    The Insight's projector headlights look good and their night-time performance is better than what is currently offered on the HCH-II. And the more efficient LED taillights not only help keep the Insight's fuel economy high but also improve the overall package in the "looks" department.​

    Where the Insight loses ground to the Civic Hybrid:
    • Interior noise levels are higher. The Civic feels more solid (and heavier) but also quieter in a variety of driving regimens. This difference is particularly dramatic at highway speeds and is attributable to lower levels of passive insulation as well as aerodynamics.

    • Overall front and rear passenger space is more abundant in the HCH. After all, it is a larger car. The rear seats on the 2010 Insight can be a real challenge for taller passengers.

    • Fuel economy in low speed suburban driving is significantly worse. While the new Honda Insight makes it easier for the average driver to achieve 3.5 L/100km (70-75 MPG US) runs, it still does not match the potential offered by the HCH in the exact same driving routine. In this environment, an HCH can easily tap into FE potential that extends all the way to 2.6 L/100km (90 MPG US).

    • Higher speed highway driving is yet another area where the HCH will remain supreme. The HCH can often lock itself in a sub 1800 RPM routine while traveling at speeds up to 100km/h (62 MPH) with FE potential that ranges from 3.3 to 2.6 L/100km (70-90 mpgUS). The 2010 Insight in the other hand can only achieve up to 75 MPG while traveling at 75km/h (45 MPH) or less. At speeds higher than 75 km/h the fuel efficiency drops dramatically with a maximum potential of 4.3 L/100km at 100km/h (55 mpgUS at 62 MPH). At these speeds the Honda Insight’s engine revs close to and even above 2000 RPM. This not only makes for a noisier highway driving experience but also significantly lower fuel economy potential when compared to the HCH-II.

    • Despite sporting a shape that is universally accepted as more aerodynamic the Honda Insight actually has a higher drag coefficient than the HCH-II. This added drag is not very significant at lower speeds but does have a noticeable effect at higher speeds with higher wind noises and lower fuel economy.

    • The Auto-stop duration is something that is markedly different in the new Insight as well. In the Insight, the duration of the Auto-stop sequence is frustratingly short when compared to that of the Civic Hybrid. Try as I might, the gas engine starts after a mere 20-40 seconds of waiting time at a stop light – even with the ECON button on and the climate control turned completely off. In a similar situation the Civic hybrid stays in Auto-stop for even the longest stop lights and will only start the ICE if SoC dips to its lowest levels. There’s no doubt that the smaller 100V battery pack in the new Insight is a limiting factor in allowing longer auto-stop sessions.

    • No electrically driven air conditioning is available in the 2010 Honda Insight. Without going into the technical details of how Honda tried to cope with its absence this is a significant omission for those who live in warmer areas of the continent. Whereas the Civic Hybrid is able to provide active AC cooling via its electric half of the scroll compressor (when stopped at a red light, for example), the new Insight has to ignite the ICE to provide a similar level of passenger comfort. This omission has a measurable impact in the fuel economy potential of the new Insight when compared to HCH-II.

    • The HCH-II has a better defined glide zone. Of course, even when there are no assist or regen bars, the HCH-II could potentially be doing a small bit of either anyway, but with time the dead zone for inducing a good glide will be noticeable and repeatable. In the 2010 Insight it is almost impossible to lock a perfect glide and you are literally forced to choose between a micro-assist or micro-regen.

    • Overall quality of materials and fit in finish is noticeably superior in the HCH-II. This extends to the amount of sound proofing material, the relative thickness of carpeting, and even the smoothness of weld-points and seams.

    • Unless you purchase a lockable fuel cap, the Insight will not stop a gas thief from taking some of your gas (please watch the video for a good illustration). In contrast (and as with all other Hondas), to release the fuel door on the HCH-II you must press the fuel release lever inside the car first. If you buy a 2010 Insight we suggest you also purchase a locking gas cap. They are very inexpensive and they'll prevent the occasional MPG surprise.

    • The general layout of the dash in the HCH-II is more elegant and spacious than the rather busy and frenetic dash of the 2010 Insight. For some, the Insight's dash may take some getting used to, but after a few days behind the wheel it should feel just right.

    • While the HCH-II and 2010 Honda Insight share much in terms of power train and emission control systems, in the Canadian market the Insight is assigned a Tier-2 Bin-3 rating for smog forming emissions -- typical of most contemporary hybrids. The HCH-II on the other hand manages to achieve a Tier-2 Bin-2 rating -- the cleanest possible rating assigned to a gasoline powered vehicle. For reference, a fully electric car with absolutely no emissions receives a Tier-2 Bin-1 rating while a regular gasoline powered vehicle must achieve at least a Tier-2 Bin-5 rating. The lower the BIN rating, the "cleaner" the car is.

    • The 2010 Insight has great handling characteristics but the HCH-II has a better rear suspension geometry. The Insight uses a torsion beam semi-independent system, while the HCH-II implements a fully independent double wishbone with trailing arms. However, we doubt you'll ever notice the difference if you choose to drive either vehicle in a fuel efficient manner.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 8, 2009
  2. voodoo22

    voodoo22 Cheaper than the bus

    Great write up which I'm sure will be supremely helpful to many people.:woot:
  3. Dream'R

    Dream'R Well-Known Member

    This review is exactly what a serious shopper needs to read before deciding between these two Honda hybrids. It also gives great "insight" to the evolving refinements to the IMA design which will most likely be part of the next generation HCH. Thanks, Manuel!

    I've owned my HCHII for a year now and continue to enjoy the more engaging driving experience which comes from exploiting its IMA technology. The new Insight will bring this experience to an even broader audience. I think that hybrids are no longer seen as "unproven" technology and Honda has come up with a "winner" at a time when the auto industry badly needs a success story.


  4. echoman

    echoman Well-Known Member

    I do really like the HCH better than the Insight II. But the things that I do like about the Insight is the price of course. And I really like the full featured trip computer. Maybe the next gen HCH might incorperate this feature too.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 23, 2009
  5. tstodola

    tstodola Crazy California tree hugger

    thanks for a great writeup! I live in So. Cal, and the Insight is usually packed with options from Honda (or more likely) the dealer, which has driven the prices to over $27,000. for this money I would move from my HCHII to the Prius.
  6. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk 2010 Prius (CAN Touring) Staff Member

    MSantos, can you expound on the Outside Air Temperature Display? And the differences HCHII vs Insight2? I know on our HCHII there is a rudimentary capability to adjust the temp, say if you're seeing disparity between display and an actual measurement of temperature. When we just got the car I read up in the Owners Manual on this (page 67), but found it it awkward to change, just gave up. Maybe I should persevere.

    Does this setting directly impact fuel economy? In other words, if you adjust the ambient temperature setting, does the computer change some of it's thresholds accordingly?
  7. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    Hi Mendel

    The HCH-II does indeed allow for some OA temperature adjustments (about +- 3 C, if I recall correctly), but in my opinion it does not help as much as in does on the HI-II. This is because the HI-II offers a less stringent (lower) temperature threshold than that of HCH-II. ... ... and it is cumbersome to change too.

    Still, what I did in my case is that I upped the value so that if the OA temps were -20C I would still get autostop because the car would read it as -17C. As you know, the autostop does not work below -18C. While this may help a bit in the case of the HCH-II, the Honda Insight II really seems to make the best out of it.



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