Faceoff: 2012 Toyota Prius c vs. Honda Insight
Two affordable cures for gas pain, but what about the side effects?
The cost of spending less at the pumps keeps falling. The debut this spring of Toyota's new Prius c hatchback not only drove the price of entry for hybrid cars to a new low, it also encouraged a pre-emptive price paring by the previous possessor of the cheapest-hybrid title, the Honda Insight.
The Insight's new 2012 starting price of $21,990 still exceeds the $20,950 asked for the base Prius c; however the two cars are close enough in price and purpose to put a fuel-frugal faceoff at the top of our spring to-do list. Insight, meet Prius c. Prius c, meet Insight. Let the sniffing of oily rags begin.
At one level, the Insight justifies its higher price by delivering more car for your cash: measuring 4,377 mm from stem to stern, it's really a compact on the outside — nearly 400 mm longer than the strictly subcompact baby Prius.
If value is measured by baubles for the buck, however, the Toyota aces it. Both cars include automatic climate control, remote locking, power windows, heated power mirrors and cruise control. But the base Prius c also brings a lot more, including steering-wheel audio controls; Bluetooth; a front centre armrest; and USB input.
With the exception of the USB plug as a dealer accessory, none of the aforementioned features are available at any price on the 2012 Insight, which comes in only one trim: LX, take it or leave it.
More fundamental than toys and trinkets are their powertrains. The Toyota is a full hybrid, capable of stilling the internal combustion engine (ICE) and operating on electricity alone for short distances at low speeds. The Insight's mild-hybrid powertrain employs its (smaller) electric motor mainly to assist the gas engine, which is always turning when the car is moving.
While the Prius has both a larger gas engine (1.5 vs. 1.3 litres) and more electric wattage than the Insight, their claimed total system horsepower ratings are almost identical: 99 and 98 hp respectively. Toyota doesn't quote a system torque output for the Prius, but we're guessing it's beefier than the Insight's cited 123 lb.-ft. at 1,000 to 1,700 rpm.