Sunday, April 5, 2009

Honda Insight numbers disappoint

Back in November, I wrote about how excited I was with the new Honda Insight that was to be released this spring: ["Daddy's new car?"].
Well, the car is out, according to an email I received from Boch Honda last week, and available for purchase for $20,400 [the high end model, with navigation, is $23,700].
As you can see from the Honda site ["The Insight"], the new Insight's design looks just like the extremely successful Toyota Prius. It is slightly cheaper and does offers a whole lot of extra features to make it saleable.
But, like everything in life, there's just one problem: The fuel efficiency is a big letdown.
Last year, there were rumors that the Insight would deliver 60 to 70 mpg, similar to the older two seat model. This would put the Insight a huge step above the Prius, which is rated at 48/45 [This is down from the 60/48 rating Prius was originally rated at. In 2008, the government reset the mpg standards to make them, well, more accurate. Most Prius and Honda hybrid owners I know get between 40 and 45 combined city and highway mpg].
However, now that it is out, the mpg on the Insight is much, much lower than previously expected. According to the Honda Web site, the new model will get 40 in the city, 43 on the highway or less than the Prius' 48/45.
What a disappointment.
The Insight, however, is a slight increase in mileage over the Civic line: The Civic is listed at 26/34 vs. 40/43 for the Insight. But it is not much of an improvement when you consider the price difference [Civics start at $15K and change for the DX model which doesn't have AC. The LX starts at $17K and change, with an invoice price of $16K. If you haggle, you can get one for around $14K]. And under certain driving conditions, the Civic can get more than 40 mpg [I know, I got 41.6 mpg combined in the Civic last fall although, admittedly, my combined mileage tends to be between 36 and 39 most weeks, due to city driving]. If you are really struggling for cash, but need a new car with high mpg, the Toyota Yaris might be the way to go. It's rated at 29/36, with a $12K price point. I have heard that under ideal driving conditions, the Yaris can get up to 40 on the highway. This makes it a slightly better deal than the Civic although the Civic is a much nicer vehicle.
If gas prices go up to $4 and potential buyers are driving a ton of miles to get to their jobs, purchasing a hybrid will be worth it in the long-run. But right now, with gas prices at $2 a gallon, they just aren't worth the extra money.
What is unfortunate about this is that the American consumer really needs an inexpensive, highly fuel efficient commuter car. Forty mpg and $20,000 isn't good enough. This ideal car should be in the $15,000 price point range and get 100 mpg or more [the Volvo Recharge concept car is rumored to get 124 mpg but who knows how much that will cost]. Or, it should be taken off the gas grid completely and put on the electric charge grid. We are almost there as far as usage but not price point. Electric plug-in concepts are supposed to be delivered to showrooms within the next year or two, but at much higher price points than Civics or hybrids.
At this point in car production history, hybrids are still a novelty and not worth the extra money. They make the buyer feel good about spending thousands of dollars more for a car they perceive to be more fuel efficient when they could save that money, buy a stripped down Civic or Yaris, and get just as good mileage.

No comments: