The Truth About Cars reviews the new Honda Insight hybrid.
Hybrids are cool and all — but my next purchase will probably be a diesel.
UPDATE: Wrong link. Fixed now.
Ed talked about Clarksons review of the insight:
Hybrids with diesel engines make a great deal of sense but only in really huge trucks. Hybrids make no sense at all in small cars. The Prius is a good car and Im sure that the Insight will be too, but they are indeed the most sexless, drab, boring and dull cars ever made. They make even Citroen look sporty and exciting and without a runway model laying across the hood of a Citroen, you’d swear it wasn’t a car, but the box that the corvette was shipped in.
For example, there will never be a convertible Prius and the reason for that? Because no one would ever subject themselves to driving one just for the sheer joy of it so a convertible option is sort of pointless. Its like having a highly automated line at the DMV, yes its better that what was there before, but its still the DMV.
In the words of Star Trek geekdom, The Prius ( and very probably the Insight) is a four wheeled “agony booth”. If you want performance and efficiency, get the VW Jetta TDI. Yes its a diesel, and yes its fun to drive, two things the Insight will never be.
I’ve got a diesel VW and I LOVE it. The only downside is finding a station with diesel, but you learn the ones in your area pretty quick. If you’re driving somewhere away from home, it’s a sure bet there will be plenty of spots with it along a highway.
I’ve had my car for 4 years and I adore it.
Diesels make excellent torque, and I’m perfectly happy with my ancient Mercedes one (despite it being radically underpowered by modern standards), but the cost/benefit ratio is kinda dubious for a new purchase, in a sedan.
They usually cost thousands more, without enough increased fuel economy to pay for it (especially if we end up with more expensive diesel than unleaded again, for a long time). The benefits from going to
(For a towing rig, they make all kinds of sense, of course.)
29/40 vs 21/30, for the Jetta TDI vs. non-TDI S (manual in both cases). You save one gallon of fuel per hundred miles on the highway. At today’s prices (roughly), that’s 2.5 cents a mile. That’s $375 in a year (assuming you drive a high-mile 15k a year).
The $5,000 extra you pay for it would thus be repaid in a mere 13 years! (Assuming a modern VW actually lasts that long without catching fire.)
Now, if you value the extra torque (225 or so vs 175) enough for that to make sense, go for it – it should be very zippy. But the numbers don’t suggest a diesel is actually cost effective for normal car-buyers.
(This logic of course applies even more strongly to overpriced hybrids.)
Stephen, if you’re looking at current retail prices as part of your pro-diesel decision-making, I’d point out that the normal relative level for the price of diesel has historically been slightly higher than premium gasoline. Here in metro Atlanta it’s lower than regular unleaded only because summer’s coming (gas oes up) and the recovery still hasn’t happened (diesel floats low).
This isn’t to say that diesel is a bad choice, only that the current relative price profile isn’t necessarily a good long-term gauge.
I have a 2006 VW Jetta TDI, it has been a great car, practical and reliable. I was making 47mpg before I replaced the original tires with another brand and model. Turns out that quiet, grippy rubber has high rolling resistance, so it dropped to 43mpg. At least my winter tires still return 47mpg.
Plenty of zip to blast up the mountains, and since I drive 30,000 miles annually I have saved a bunch of fuel. Even if the alternative would have been a 30mpg gasoline car, that’s a thousand gallons saved in the last 3 years.
Stephen, you will also appreciate a turbo diesel at your altitude. I have heard of Prius owners cursing their steeds (ha!) on I-70, slowly ascending toward the Eisenhower tunnel.
90% of driving is done in dreary conditions: low speed, going to work, other traffic everywhere. It makes little sense to buy a fun car (Mustang or Jeep,) a stylish car (Cube or PT Cruiser,) or a statement car (Insight or Prius or even a Tesla.) I don’t need sexy, stylish, or to make a statement when I just need to get my ass to work. The best car is one that is affordable, will last, and is reliable.
I think such concepts as stylish and fun are mostly add-ons. Look at those crazy kids and their souped up non-sportscars is you need to see the future. They take something that won’t make insurance companies go on red alert (Civics rather than Camaros or Mustangs) and turn them into street racing machines. Not very well, mind you, since they tend to put on ridiculous exhaust systems that actually restrict horsepower, but the wings and flashings and other plastic doodads make a boring car into something fun. That’s the future: not boring conformity but boring faux rebelliousness. Just like always.
Yeah, I bought a fun car too. But I know that the stuff that will save the car companies isn’t the hype, but the day-to-day reliability. Toyota is able to still make the Prius because it makes the Corolla and the Camry and not because of anything else. GM can’t make jack shit on innovative fronts because it can’t even decide which of its four hundred brands would sell a Camry clone, and that’s assuming it could build one in the first place.
Four words son: Three Thirty Five Dee.
And it has a large enough rear seat for a couple of car seats (snort).
my favorite description of the new Honda (And I like Honda’s btw):
“It’s terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It’s the first car I’ve ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn’t have to drive it any more.”
I knew I’d find Ed’s comments on THIS one….
(snort) BTW, had a Hit and Run on the convertible Friday. And only 34k miles on the 1997 Sebring…(sigh)
jon, for all your whinging, it’s still possible to own a car that’s relatively fun to drive, while demonstrating economical traits.
I drive a 1992 Acura sedan (4-door LS) wherein I average c. 30 miles per gallon for overall driving. I can enjoy decent pickup, good handling, and excellent visibility, all without government-mandated airbags and other detritus.
A while back I drove a ’91 Festiva. While it looks pretty dorky, it was fairly nimble, and provided about 45 mpg overall. Not a “dreary” car.
jon obviously has trouble assimilating the concept of a “fun” car. He apparently has trouble understanding a car which demonstrates good acceleration, exceptional handling, and high-class styling.
jon, in fact, fails to differentiate between “good,” “fun,” and “reliable.” A well-designed car can fall well within all three domains. I’ve owned several Hondas (and one Acura) while fulfill all three requirements quite nicely.
I suspect that jon is an automobile “puritan,” in that he seems to expect a “useful” car to demonstrate significantly different qualities than a “fun” car.
I’ll even go so far to speculate that jon lives in an innner-city environment, as my suburb/exurb driving experience shows very nearly no common factors with his cited “dreary conditions.”
All that said, the newest high-compression “clean” diesel VW’s demonstrate low emissions along with excellent mileage. I am not surprised Stephen intends to buy a new diesel for his next new car. It is not -in many respects- a bad choice.
Whinging? No, I was saying that many people buy cars for utility first. As in, will it get me to work without breaking the budget? That’s the reason Kia and Hyundai aren’t at risk of going under right now. That’s the reason Honda and Toyota are able to make these hybrids that cost more to build than they sell for (though I hear that’s not so much the case with the Prius anymore.) And that’s the reason so many people decided not to buy a new truck or SUV this past year.
I was also saying that styling, after utility is covered, is a luxury. And yeah, most of us spring for it (I’ve owned a Civic, a Corolla, and a Camry myself, which makes for a somewhat alarming contrast to my woolen Puritan garb with the big buckled shoes.) Not a shocker, that.
Fun is where you find it. For me, I don’t care what I’m driving when the road is clear and the conditions are ripe for some fun. Maybe I’m the biggest killjoy in the world, but I still see a car first and foremost as a way to get me and whatever from A to B. I live in a suburbanish area and drive to work in the exurbs, so I get a good view of the commutes of most people where I live. I stand by my earlier statements.
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