Metro Hippies the world over have been waiting for this showdown of the two greenest car companies next eco-offerings.  I’m talking 3rd generation Toyota Prius vs. 2nd gen Honda Insight, both of which will hit the mass market next year.  These hybrids are both refined, streamlined, and kind… to the environment that is!  Let’s face these puppies off and see which will be on my new wish list.

2010 Toyota Prius

2010 Honda Insight

Both are pretty safe designs, and if you ask me, Honda particularly dropped the ball.  Not only is the Insight incredibly boring, but it has done some pretty obvious borrowing from its competitor.  It has a virtually identical teardrop profile to the current Prius and pulls in the ‘glass below the tail light’ feature that has been to this point a Toyota staple.  Granted, when aerodynamics are taken into account design variances are minimized.  This doesn’t negate the notion that Honda could have done more to make its Insight a tad ‘edgier.’  Design prize goes to the Prius.

As these cars will face off in a year’s time, it is worth noting that there are significant differences in marketability.  For starters, the Insight is an entry level vehicle and will retail for an estimated $18,500.  The Prius is considered a mid-size sedan and it will start in the $22,000 range.  Fuel economy is also significantly different… The Insight’s EPA numbers show that it will average around 41 mpg while the Prius is expected to improve to a real world 50 mpg.  Obvious edge to Toyota here.

The interiors in both models seem pretty swell.  Pictured directly below is the Prius, which has what I call ‘gorgeous functionality’… it is clean, modern, and very refined.

The Insight’s layout isn’t so bad itself, but clearly there is a lot more going on visually… it seems to spread out its components throughout the dash, opposed to more of a singular system seen in the Prius.  Its speedometer however is placed in a much more visible location right behind the steering wheel, opposed to the Prius’ gauges which are tucked significantly further away.


There are exciting new features on each model to help increase their green credentials… The most obvious example is an optional solar panel that is available on the rooftop of the Prius.  This will be used to run a fan on the interior of the car to keep it cool while sitting in a parking lot on a hot summer day.

Another new feature for the Toyota is its addition of three different driving modes: Eco, Power, and EV.  Each mode allows for more or less gas pedal responsiveness, depending on your driving preference.

The Insight has its own method of sharing its eco-efficiency with its pilot.  A guide will not only tell you your MPG’s but will provide feedback on ones braking and acceleration habits via an ambient light that changes colors.  Pretty flippin’ cool!

So let’s tally up our totals and see where we’re at:

Styling:  Prius

Interior:  Wash

Price:  Insight

Fuel Economy:  Prius

Features:  Prius

The winner is clearly the Toyota when faced off directly against its less glamorous adversary.  The Insight however just might be the best car ever built for $18,000 and will attract many new buyers into the hybrid market.

Both options are still stepping stones to bigger and better things… I was disappointed to see that Plug-In Hybrid Electric (PHEV) technologies are still not yet available.  A couple years back both companies had flirted with the idea of having a plug-in market ready by 2010, delivering an estimated 100 mpg instead of 40-50…. A significant difference.  Regardless, both offerings are steady improvements and will continue to help change mainstream conceptions.

I’m sure both cars will sell like hotcakes… get yourself into a reservation program to get some of this hybrid action!


About Joshua Foss

Joshua is a leading voice for transformational change. He is the editor of Metro Hippie, co-founder and director of development of the Ecala Group, and adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is also an ambassador for the Living Building Challenge and is a frequent speaker at national conferences, trade shows and summits.