Why The Original Honda Insight Has A Huge Cult Following Today

With the introduction of the second generation Prius, fuel economy became another sought-after metric like horsepower and torque. The Prius was different looking, but still distinctly a Toyota, and the shape quickly became iconic and ubiquitous as everyone looking to save on gas bought one. However, Honda's hybrid, the Insight, had an even funkier shape and achieved even better fuel economy. The Prius is likely one of the most important cars ever made and many are still being driven around today. But only the Insight has gotten its own share of fame from the enthusiast community.

On the outside, the Insight looks way more space age than even the most advanced electric vehicles from today, even though it was first revealed well over 20 years ago right at the beginning of the new millennium. The front looks kind of like a Civic or Accord in that it has a Honda badge, but from the headlights back, it starts to take a turn for the wacky. 

Basic on the inside, quirky on the outside

Every little facet of the Insight has been sculpted and chiseled to allow air to flow around it. It has skirts over the rear fenders like a Cadillac from the 1960s. The rear half of the Insight looks like a concept car and the roofline dramatically lowers and falls off onto a sort of ledge that's doing a good impression of a rear bumper. 

It's ostensibly a hatchback design, in that it has a rear hatch, but it also looks like it was designed in 2030. The interior looks more like a doctor's office than the bridge of the Starship Enterprise and is as barebones as possible, sporting only two seats, and a very basic cassette player. Betraying the mundanity is a digital gauge cluster that wouldn't look out of place in a space shuttle. 

The enthusiast community still adores the Insight today for a few reasons, and its otherworldly looks are certainly part of the equation. The potential fuel savings are absolutely unignorable, as the five-speed models can achieve upwards of 70 miles per gallon. For comparison, a 2004 Prius comes in at an estimated 46 combined miles per gallon. Seventy miles per gallon is extraordinary for even the most miserly hybrids today, and borderline magic over 20 years ago.

Adored by enthusiasts

The Insight also catches the eye of gearheads in that it checks a lot of boxes to qualify as a true enthusiast car, even if the speed metrics aren't quite there (the zero to 60 mph times was a yawn-worthy 10.6 seconds). Even then, it only weighed 2,089 pounds and it was a two-door with an available five-speed, stats that are basically impossible to find today. Its 1-liter three-cylinder working in conjunction with the drivetrain only produced 73 horsepower, meaning that it absolutely was not a performance car in any way, shape, or definition, unless the "performance" in question was fuel-economy. In that world, the Insight is a veritable supercar. 

The first-generation Honda Insight offers something that does not really exist today. It's basic and simple on the inside, with a very quirky exterior, a little like the AMC Gremlin or original Volkswagen Beetle from decades ago. The fuel savings make it undoubtedly cheap to drive, an important point to consider for people who want to save money and drive an interesting car. Unless it was dropped from orbit, an Insight won't win any races, and the only finish line it will regularly cross will be the ones at the gas station.