This Honda Insight lists for about $5000 more than our similarly equipped Four Seasons Fit. The extra money nets you a continuously variable transmission rather than the Fit's 5-speed manual or automatic transmission, two inches more in length (the cars have identical width and track), nicer floor mats, and, oh yeah, Honda's Integrated Motor Assist Technology. The hybrid scores a whopping 12 mpg better in the city and 8 mpg better on the highway. And yet, it drives very similar to the Fit, not surprising since they share many suspension components. In fact, the most noticeable difference on the road is not due to the Insight's electric motor but rather to its transmission. The CVT eliminates the engine drone that afflicts the Fit at highway speeds. Around town though, it makes the Insight feel more sluggish, and doesn't offer the precision of Honda's excellent manual shifter.
Honestly, if I were in the market for a small Honda, I'd pass over both these offerings and get a Civic, even if it meant scrimping on options. The Fit offers great interior versatility, and the Insight has exceptional mileage, but the Civic is the best all-around car, especially for those who do more than occasional highway driving.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor