When you think of hybrids, chances are manual transmissions don’t cross your mind. After all, hybrids aren’t notoriously sporty, unless you count models like the BMW i8. But despite this, Honda dabbled in manual hybrids on multiple occasions, starting with the first generation Honda Insight. This later evolved into the Honda CR-Z, both of which are two-door, manual hybrids. So let’s look at these two manual Honda hybrids.
The first-generation Honda Insight was the Toyota Prius before the Toyota Prius
Debuted in 1999 and released in 2000, the Honda Insight came just one year before the infamous Toyota Prius did. However, there are some notable distinctions between the two models (besides the available stick shift, of course). For starters, the Honda Insight was built to be as aerodynamic as possible, which meant it was lower and smaller than the Prius. Because of this, the Honda Insight only had two doors and two seats.
And because of its size, and 1,887-pound weight, the Honda Insight didn’t need much power, packing just 67 horsepower from the 1.0-liter engine. The electric motor that made the Insight a hybrid never actually powered the wheels. Under acceleration, the motor and the engine worked in unison to boost the car from 0 to 60 in about 10 seconds. Not blisteringly quick, but quick enough.
But speed wasn’t the key to the Honda Insight’s success. The Honda Insight touted remarkable fuel efficiency. By today’s EPA standards, the earliest Honda Insights managed 49 mpg city and 61 mpg highway, Paired with a 10-gallon fuel tank, and you’re looking at 610 miles of range.
That said, let’s make one thing clear: the Insight wasn’t built to be glamourous. The first and only trim available in 2000 was the aforementioned five-speed manual, with air conditioning as an optional extra. Later, an automatic CVT transmission would be introduced, but despite being a budget option, the Insight didn’t sell very well.
Just 16,000 of these hybrids were made over a six-year period. However, the Honda Insight name carried on with a second-generation four-door built to rival the Prius in 2009. But in 2011, Honda also paid tribute to the original concept, a two-door manual hybrid, with the Honda CR-Z
The Honda CR-Z was meant to be a “sporty” hybrid
Okay, in actuality, the Honda CR-Z is a blend of the first-generation Honda Insight and the original Honda CR-X. It shares the same philosophy of a hybrid powertrain paired with a manual transmission, only this time, the CR-Z was meant to be the world’s first sporty hybrid. Unfortunately, it really wasn’t.
The horsepower topped out at 122 thanks to a 1.5-liter engine and an electric motor. And while the car felt light and agile to drive, it still took 8.3 seconds to get from 0-60. What’s more unfortunate is that, by the day’s standards, it wasn’t even that great of a hybrid.
The fuel economy for the Honda CR-Z was around 31 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. What’s more, the gas tank was .2 gallons smaller than the tank on the original Honda Insight (10.6 gallons compared to 10.8). But take away the “hybrid sports car” mentality, and you’re left with an interesting product.
For starters, the CR-Z featured many different interactive ways to guide you into driving more economically. The display would change colors if you mashed your foot to the floor, and little digital trees that’ll die if you drive uneconomically. Don’t kill the digital trees.
On top of that, you get a unique style and inherent quirkiness of a two-door, manual hybrid. But of the two, is the Honda CR-Z really better than the original Honda Insight?
2000 Honda Insight vs. 2011 Honda CR-Z: the specs and stats
|Vehicle Model||2000 Honda Insight||2011 Honda CR-Z|
|Price When New||$18,800||$19,950|
|Engine||1.0-liter three-cylinder||1.5-liter four-cylinder|
|Horsepower||67 horsepower||122 horsepower|
|Transmission||5-speed manual||6-speed manual|
|0-60 Time||10.5 seconds||8.3 seconds|
|Fuel Economy||49 mpg city/61 mpg highway||31 mpg city/37 mpg highway|
What’s incredibly funny is that, by the numbers, the 2000 Honda Insight looks slightly superior to the 2011 Honda CR-Z. As mentioned, the gas mileage is better, especially when paired to a similar-sized tank. And the price was a little lower, though not by much. The only area the 2011 Honda CR-Z really excels in is power. So yes, if you compare the 2011 Honda CR-Z to the 2000 Honda Insight, it’s a sporty hybrid.
But because of the engineering marvels of these original Honda Insights, and the fact that so few of them were built, owners tend to hang onto them forever. After all, why let a good thing go? If you ever find yourself in the market for a hybrid, you truly couldn’t go wrong with a 2000 Honda Insight, despite the fact that it’s over 20 years old and your feet are the crumple zone. But if you want more modern styling paired with decent fuel economy, then the Honda CR-Z is a fine option as well.