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Old 03-30-2012, 11:39 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Comparison: 2008 Prius vs. 2011 Insight

I thought this might be an interesting thread for someone considering the 2nd generation Toyota Prius (2004-2009) and the 2nd generation Honda Insight (2010-2012).

Yesterday I drove home a 2008 Prius with 27K miles. This will be my wife's daily commuter car. I've had the '11 Insigth for a year now and have put almost 20K miles on it. Prices of these 2 vehicles are actually very close on the used market. So it seems likely that folks would consider them as alternatives. Besides the obvious 2-3 years difference in how old the cars are, there are other significant differences too. Over the next few weeks, as I gather more impressions, I plan to post some more info here. Would be great if others who have direct experience with both cars contribute.

Also note, that the 3rd gen Prius is a significant step from the 2nd (mostly in the right direction) - you will have additional data points to consider and things migth stack-up differently.

So let me get started. Again, I am comparing the 2 gen Prius - the 3rd is a lot more dynamic and rides firmer, and being more expensive and larger is IMO not a direct competitor with the Insight (the Prius C is). N

ote that I have exactly the same brand and size tires on both cars: 195/60-15 Michelin Primacy MXV4 (V-rated, brand new on the Prius, around 1,000 miles on the Insight) and they are inflated to the same PSI (36 front, 34 rear) on both cars. The Insight with factory tires (prior to the slightly wider tires on the '12 model year) drives a lot more wobbly than a Prius with factory tires (which too rides worse than one with tires like mine).

Drving Impressions (initial, as I've had the Prius for only a couple of days and under a 100 miles of mixed city and highway driving).
The Prius has a more solid ride that feels heavier and less bouncy than the Insight. Prius is better tracking on the highway (less wondering from side to side). The Prius absorbs small bumps in the road better (less jitterry as it is heavier). Less body roll from side to side in turns.

A bit more outside noise seems to enter the Prius cabin (from tires and from wind and other cars), IMO - hard to tell for sure as the difference is not huge.

Steering on the Prius is heavier and less "real" than on the Insight, which is light and a bit more communicative to what is going on.

Starting from a stop is immediate with the Prius. The Insight hesitates a split second and jerks when the transmission engages and the anti-roll feature on the breaks disengages (or when picking-up speed from a rolling stop).

Brakes on the Insight feel "normal" and with less change in pedal feel as the car stops. The Prius brakes take some getting used to, but since I previously owned a '02 Prius I am used to them and actually like how they work, because I can feel whether I'm using 100% regenerative braking or when I engage the friction brakes (the Insight in contrast always seems to engage the friction brakes a little but there I got the level of regen and level of acceleration/deceleration displays, which the Prius does not have, so I can use these to judge my stopping efficiency).

Interior. We got well loaded '08 Prius (package 6, sold to us a Touring edition but I'm pretty sure it is not a touring but a base with Package 6, the difference being a firmer suspension and 16" wheels vs. what we got in 15" and unknown suspension, probably a bit softer than the Touring edition). In contrast our Insight is the Base model so it has only the minimum of bells and whistles.

Regardless of trim level, however, there are some differences. The Prius is a lot more "techy" with lots of things that might require a look in the manual to figure out. I like it, nevertheless as most of it is useful stuff. The touchscreen controlls pretty much everything, but there are buttons for most important things. The Insight controls are a lot simpler but work just as well.

Most used Priuses that I've ridden in seem to have plenty of plastic rattles. Our Prius is no exception, unfortunately, and on even a little rough roads has a rather noticeable squeak from the front seat and some minor rattles. The Insight (knock on wood) so far has developed only one rattle and I have it fixed (see a previous post I made on the subject). I already fixed (very easy, Toyota has TSBs for it) the most annoying squeak and I'm hopeful that the rest will be easy to fix too (but they are minor so might not even need to be fixed).

The front seats in the Prius do not adjust up and down and the driver seat is too close forward for me to be fully comfortable (I'm 6'4" with long legs and large feet). The Insight has noticeably more leg room for the driver. But the Prius has a lot more room in the back, where I can sit comfortably without my knees touching the driver seat back even when the driver seat is all the way to the rear. Plus there is actual foot room under it, unlike the Insight where I can't sit in the back unless I am at a 45 degree angle sideways and crouched down as my head hits the roof too much. Both the front and the rear doors (especially the rear) are a lot more comfortable to get in and out of the Prius for a tall person as there is more head room. The 2010+ Prius makes that even better.

There are a lot of small-item storage areas in the Prius, probably more than the loaded Insights (and definitely more than what I got in the Base). I can't compare the navigation and sound systems because my Base Insight does not have navigation and the sound is pretty basic (the Prius has a relatively high-end audio and not too bad navigation though it is a bit dated compared to state of the art systems available elsewhere).

Hybrid system and fuel economy. As mentioned, the Prius is designed to work extremely well in the city with stop and go traffic and slow speeds. Once warmed-up, which takes about 10 minutes this time of year, the Prius seems to have no problem giving me back 50+ mpg (displayed) in traffic that I know brings the Insight to 40mpg (displayed). Distinct advantage in the city for the Prius. On the highway I am not sure if one or the other has an edge - both seem to have no problem beating 50mpg in easy driving at around 60mph. At highway I think the Insight might actually be a bit better, but I have not driven the Prius enough to tell for sure.

The computer on my Insight consistenly overestimates the fuel economy by 2-3mpg compared to actual at the pump. I have not filled-up the Prius yet but I expect (from reading online) that it will too give me a similar or slightly worse error. It is very nice also how the Prius starts and gets up to speed smoothly as opposed to the initial jerk on the Insight.

The engine start-stop, especially when cold, seems a bit more noticeable on the Prius but only when the car is not moving. If the car is moving, the transition is rather unnoticeable. The engine also seems a bit noisier on the Prius when idling at stop and especially when cold. The Insight is noisier and feels more strained when accelerating hard.

Battery management is a lot better on the Prius - in normal driving on the same roads where my Insight routinely runs out of juice and starts to force-charge when least convenient, the Prius never breaks a sweat in terms of battery use (have not seen it go below 60% charge yet). The Insight would annoyingly deplete its battery under normal driving and begin force-charging (as opposed to gently charging) in the middle of the most inconvenient moments - going uphill. Then, because the battery on the Insight is so small, the charging would be usually done before the next downhill. It is hard to modulate the gas pedal in either car to not charge the battery uphill, but it is easier with the Prius to coast downhill without either charging or discharging ("glide"). So pulse and glide is abit easier with the Prius. The large capacity battery and usable 100% electric only operation on the Prius give it the distinct edge in slow or stop and go conditions.

More as I get to drive the Prius more, which might not happen soon enough as my wife will take ownership of it starting sometime next week...
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Old 03-30-2012, 06:40 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I test drove both a Mk2 and Mk3 Prius prior to deciding on my Insight. They both felt like high quality, well engineered vehicles.

There are a few things I prefer about them compared to my Insight. The first is the way they behave in stop and crawl traffic. They are absolutely brilliant, seamless and effortless for this situation. Hill starts are effortless and seamless compared to the Insight's rather ropey hill hold function. The fuel tank is bigger (not by much). Rear headroom is much better on both Prius models.

However - I just struggled to see myself driving a Prius for several years. They felt like extremely competent appliances rather than cars I would enjoy driving in the long term. I do relatively little stop and crawl driving and the Insight (especially with paddle shifters) is a lot more fun on the open rural roads that I use.

Also - I dislike the layout of the Prius's dash and there's too much that seems like they just changed it for the sake of it. Foot parking brake? Seriously? And that daft little joystick thing? I'm sure I'd get used to it but why?
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Old 03-30-2012, 06:51 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Yup, a simpler layout might have been better on the Prius.

And I forgot about the parking foot brake. On one hand it is a good idea because it leaves a lot more room b/w the seats. On the other hand, I like to be able to use the hand brake as an emergency brake or to just have a bit of fun in the rain or snow. Almost can't do that with a foot brake plus it eats-up it seems a bit of foot room.

On the joystic - I actually like it. Small, does not take much room, easy to use. But I dislike that I have to enter the cabin very carefully as otherwise my knee cap smacks right into its lower and rather sharp edge (even when the front seat is all the way back).

The 2010+ Prii have the normal, eco, and sport modes and these make a big difference in how the car drives. Especially in sport mode they got very nice pick-up. Have not driven an Insight with paddle shifters, but I can't imagine being of much actual use given the weak engine and the CVT behind the shifters. I guess they might give a little bit additional degree of control on corners at the limit, but I don't often drive in a way that I would need it

The non-defeatable traction control on the Prius is also a negative IMO, in cases where you might get stuck in mud or sand or the like...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Uriel View Post
Also - I dislike the layout of the Prius's dash and there's too much that seems like they just changed it for the sake of it. Foot parking brake? Seriously? And that daft little joystick thing? I'm sure I'd get used to it but why?
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Old 03-30-2012, 07:07 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kocho View Post
Have not driven an Insight with paddle shifters, but I can't imagine being of much actual use given the weak engine and the CVT behind the shifters. I guess they might give a little bit additional degree of control on corners at the limit, but I don't often drive in a way that I would need it
On flat roads, they're close to useless. On winding hilly roads - practically a safety feature.

I've faffed around seeing if I can try to use them to improve mpg but not consistently. Using them to abuse assist or EV running has a payback eventually. Downshifting when going downhill will induce fuel-cut sooner than using the brake on a cold engine I suppose.
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