Honda was the first car company to sell a gas-electric hybrid vehicle in America. That original Insight, a two-seat, teardrop-shaped oddity equipped with a 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine, a manual transmission, and an electric motor with a battery pack, was EPA-rated to get up to 61 mpg on the highway.
Then Toyota came along with the Prius. It sat up to five people, and after the redesigned 2004 version arrived with its iconic boomerang-shaped roofline, the name Prius became nearly as synonymous with hybrid cars as Kleenex is tissue.
Today, both the Insight and Prius remain available to consumers. Honda’s entry transformed from the inspired original into a Prius clone during its first redesign, but now the Insight is basically a restyled Honda Civic sedan with a more tailored appearance. Insight prices don’t exceed $30,000.
Toyota adheres closely to its 2004 Prius styling recipe, the 2020 version looking similar to it inside and out. It’s more sophisticated, of course, but the design themes established then continue to guide the car’s look and layout today. Prices top out at more than $33,000.
The Honda Insight is more powerful than the Prius, but across all trims, the Prius is more efficient than the Insight. (Photo: Honda and Toyota)
The best things about the Honda Insight
With the Insight, Honda offers a genuinely stylish hybrid car with an upscale appearance. The Prius, as weird-looking as ever, can’t compare when it comes to outright attractiveness.
Furthermore, the Honda has more total horsepower (151 hp) with no reduction in fuel efficiency. The LX and EX get 52 mpg in combined driving, according to the EPA, the same as the Prius LE, XLE, and Limited. Note, though, that the Insight Touring rates 48 mpg, while the Prius L Eco earns a 56-mpg rating.
Inside, the Insight has more passenger room than the Prius, but a smaller trunk. Still, at 15.1 cubic feet, the Honda’s trunk is nearly as big as many midsize sedans, such as the Camry Hybrid’s 15.4 cu.-ft. cargo hold.
Safety is also an Insight hallmark, the car earning 5-star ratings in every test conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It also comes with standard Honda Sensing driver assistance and collision avoidance technologies.
Honda offers a longer roadside assistance plan, too, eclipsing the Toyota by one year and 12,000 miles. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard with EX and Touring trim, and some people might really like to have the Insight’s Key by Amazon in-vehicle package delivery service.
Honda uses a conventional design for the Insight’s interior, while Toyota sticks to the futuristic, center-oriented design the Prius has used for more than 15 years. (Photo: Honda and Toyota)
The best things about the Toyota Prius
When you pay more for a Toyota Prius in comparison to a Honda Insight, you’re getting much better cargo space and utility. Thanks to its 5-door hatchback design, it holds up to 27.4 cu.-ft. of junk in its trunk and as much as 65.5 cu.-ft. of cargo with the rear seat folded down. That’s as much as many SUVs can carry.
Toyota also offers an electronic all-wheel-drive (AWD) system for the Prius, making it a better foul-weather friend. And with its larger 11.3-gallon fuel tank, the Prius can travel 36 more miles before making a gas stop – when you compare versions of the cars that get 52 mpg in combined driving.
Another benefit of Prius ownership is a free scheduled maintenance plan for the first two years or 25,000 miles. Safety Connect subscription services are free for three years, and every Prius includes a 6-month/2GB trial to Wi-Fi Connect, transforming the car into a rolling internet hotspot.
Apple CarPlay is standard, but the Prius doesn’t offer Android Auto. Every Prius has navigation, though, through a Scout GPS connected app. A head-up display and an automatic parking assist system are optional, and unavailable for the Insight. In all but the L Eco trim, the Prius includes a proper blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, something you can’t get in the Honda Insight.
Offering up to 65.5 cu.-ft. of cargo space, the Toyota Prius provides just as much utility as an SUV. The Insight’s traditional trunk is roomy, though, at 15.1 cu.-ft. (Photo: Honda and Toyota)
Honda Insight vs. Toyota Prius. Which is better?
Good looks, top safety ratings, and affordable prices make the Honda Insight compelling. However, the Toyota Prius better blends impressive efficiency with superior utility and more standard technology. Plus, its optional AWD system is a gift to Snowbelt residents needing extra traction.
Our heart chooses the Insight for its sense of style, but our head says the Prius is the better hybrid.