Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

A new 2012 Prius or a new 2012 Honda Insight?

Have been looking at these 2 cars and wondering what the real diffrences are. Anyone have thoughts/opinions? I started out wanting an Outback but their gas mileage is so lousy. I looked at the Prius v but it’s really bigger than I need/want. I’ve owned 3 Hondas and never gotten less than 36 mpg (my old 4 door HB got 54 mpg on every road trip!) But the car I want - smaller wagon w/ hatchback & good mileage - doesn’t seem to be out there so I’ve narrowed it down to these 2. I’d wait another year or 2 & see if they come up with one but my 99 Civic is truely on its last legs…

Thanks for any thoughts/ideas.


Honestly, I wouldn’t get either. You can get similar mileage out of non-hybrid vehicles and not have to worry about spending 10 grand replacing the batteries down the road. Hybrids are an interesting concept, but they aren’t there yet.

I agree with shadowfax. Honda, Toyota, Hyundai and more offer similar size cars getting 36 to 40 mpg highway. Hybrids may get 44 to 50 mpg but that 4 to 14 mpg improvement costs you $3000 to $7000. Those thousands can buy a LOT of gas, even at $4/gal. It will take between 10 and 20 years depending on the choice to pay off the premium the hybrids cost with the gas savings. You have to want to prove how green you think you are by buying one of these models

skyactiv Mazda 3 hatchback will give you 40mpg on the highway, 30 in the city and it’s not a hybrid

I’d go with the Prius. The battery in them has proven to be very reliable, with a low failure rate. And if one fails, it’s more like $3,000 - $4,000, and that’s likely to drop. The added cost for similar models is about $3,000, too. I won’t argue it’s the cheapest possible way to drive, but it sure is nice getting 50 mpg day-in, day-out, city or highway. If you drive mostly highway, it’s not worth it, but if you drive mostly in town, going from 30 mpg to 50 mpg at 15,000 miles per year will save you $800/year at $4/gallon, so that’s about a 4-year payout.

Depends on your circumstances and your likes. It’s a far more useful ‘option’ than a fancy radio, nav system, or more-powerful engine.

Thanks for reponding but I must say both these comments seem so nebulous. I’ve read about the battery in another cartalk discussion citing taxi’s getting 100,000 - 200,000 miles/battery so I’m thinkin that’s not gonna be a problem. So what vehicles get 35+ gallons that are so much cheaper? I’d like to know - I’ve looked at quite a few cars online and haven’t found one.


The Honda is no where near as sophisticated as the Prius so the mileage gain is not as great, but then neither is the difference in cost between the hybrid and its closest non hybrid relative. Here is a comparison of 4 cars, MSRP and fuel cost for 15k miles at city mileage and $3.80/gal

Honda Insight, $20,275, $1390
Honda Civic LX, $19,595, $2036

Toyota Prius, $24,000, $1187
Toyota Corolla, $17,910, $2111

The Insight looks like it has a payback of only two years where the Prius needs about 6 years to overcome the difference between it and a Corolla. One more thing to note, the Hybrids do not do nearly as well in the north during the winter as the battery efficiency goes way down.

high end trim level Skyactiv Mazda 3 will go for about $24k, which is what the normal Prius retails for without any options. Ford Focus get a little lower mpg than Mazda, but starts at $19k; Titanium trim will cost about $24k

I have a friend who has a 2005 Prius and has had no problems in 110,000 miles. He runs 45-50 mpg. I ride in the Prius every other week for a 25 mile round trip to a band rehearsal and I’ve been impressed with the car since he bought it new in 2005. He has taken trips from Indiana to North Carolina and has found the car quite comfortable.
The University where my wife and I were both employed until we retired a year ago has Honda Civic Hybrids in its fleet. Now I know that the Civic Hybrid is larger than the Insight, but I have not been impressed with the Civic Hybrid when I have had to drive one. The road mileage I obtained was about 37 mpg. My research partner who travels with me to make our presentations owns a Honda Civic with the manual transmission and says she gets the same mileage. I am 6’ 2" tall and I didn’t have enough legroom in the Honda Civic Hybrid. However, when I drove my friend’s Prius, the driving position was quite comfortable for me. My wife drove the Honda Civic Hybrids a couple of times on recruiting trips and didn’t care for the car. After having driven the Hybrid Civic on the highway for a couple of trips, she specifically requested not to be assigned that vehicle. Her preference of the fleet which included the Honda Civic Hybrids, Chevrolet Impalas and Ford Tauruses wasthe Ford Taurus.
I know that the Honda Insight is a different car than the Civic Hybrid, but be certain you do a good road test. If I were purchasing a car today, the Toyota Prius would be high on my list. However, my needs dictate that I drive a minivan.

I’m not a Toyota person-But I cannot find anything to dislike on a Prius,one of my friends just got a used Prius and she is tickled to death with it.But somebody please tell me something,if you run out of gas with it,can you run to the gas station on the battery alone?I love the idea of regenerative braking it just appeals to the Scotch in me-Kevin

There is a reason that one outsells the other by such a wide margin. Get the Prius if you must but I would consider a Corolla…

Just bought a 2012 Insight - awaiting delivery. Had an ‘01 Prius sedan - great car - fit 4 6’ people. Aerodynamic Prius hatch is car for 2 adults and 2 small people (our family’s definition of adult is 6’)

Yes, several car makers have models that get 40 (or close to it) on the highway. Almost all of them are very small and don’t fit us for one reason or another.

Traded an ‘11 Versa hatch on the Insight - Decided to trade the Versa after 1 1/2 hour trip to my folks’ that made my hip hurt (incipient arthritis - ain’t getting old fun). Sat in more than 30 cars to judge fit and comfort level. At almost every dealership I started in the small fuel-efficient car and found it to be not comfortable – had to move to the mid-sized sedan to get a comfortable seat - up went the price and down went the fuel efficiency.

Sat in the Honda Insight and in the 2013 Accord - test drove both (1st test drives of over 30 cars looked at and sat in !) Both were comfortable, went with the Insight for the lower price and better fuel efficiency

and to answer kmccune - in our '01 Prius, if you ran out of gas, you had to go to the dealer and have something or other reset - couldn’t run on electric only if gas ran out.

The new Insight is rated lower than the Prius in fuel economy and road noise. Also, Toyota offers different size Prius models now, including a smaller one.

If I was having a hard time deciding between the two, I’d get the Prius.


So what vehicles get 35+ gallons that are so much cheaper?

Hyundai Veloster and Elantra GT, to name a couple. The GT gets 27/39, and we just went on a long road trip in my SO’s Veloster. On the way down, we averaged 35mpg with a 40mph headwind. On the way back, we got 42.


if you run out of gas with it,can you run to the gas station on the battery alone?

Extremely unlikely. We have one at work, and its electric mode is limited to very low speed driving, very gentle acceleration, and very short range. It usually turns the gas engine on by 20mph, or if you go more than about 1/4 throttle. As for its range, my best performance was to get it to the top of a 6 story parking garage and back down in electric mode before the battery was completely discharged. The battery is mainly useful as an acceleration boost - the car was not designed to be able to run around on battery alone for any appreciable time. If you want that, you need to look more at a Volt.

I was going back over my figures and I forgot one thing. The Prius will take almost 20 years to payback the difference in fuel economy over the Insight, but this is just pure economics. If pure economics were the thing that most car buyers considered, then there wouldn’t be so many SUV’s and large cars on the road. Even Camrys, Altimas and Accords would be a hard sell.

I only compared city mileage because that is where hybrids have the biggest advantage. If you do a majority of your driving on highways, then a hybrid may not be the best car for you. In many cases, the Prius would need twenty or more years to payback the difference in initial cost over some of the less expensive economy cars.

Thanks to all for your thoughts & ideas! Am taking all into consideration. But I’d just like to add that when it comes to going with a car with the best mileage that I can afford to pay for, obviously a good price and payback are important. But also important are the low emisions. I feel like I’ve been driving for 45 years and polluting all along. So if I pay a bit more over the next 25 years of driving in order to NOT pollute (or at least a lot less) I think it’s a small price to pay for my contribution to our unhealthy environment…

Thanks again to all.

Hybrids do not necessarily pollute less, they still use an internal combustion engine. If you drive less than 70 miles at a time/day, you might consider a Nissan Leaf, but it is pricy. There are some highly toxic materials inside those batteries of the hybrid vehicles that you might want to look at too, but they are contained and they should be able to recover most of them when the battery needs replacement.

Honda’s track record with hybrids is shaky. Many of the Civic hybrids and Insights had battery issues that killed the mpg’s while Prius of the same year were and continue to go on strong. If you plan to keep the car 5-10+ years skip the Honda for now. Perhaps they have improved their technology, but the Toyota system is more reliable and more proven up to this point.

I happened to be in Chicago today for a conference and saw a lot of ford escapes for taxi cabs,

If I was thinking Prius, I’d try and make the new Camry hybrid work, it’s a lot more car for a bit more money.