2010 Toyota Prius vs. 2010 Honda Insight: The Commute

Last week, we ran our latest Mileage Challenge featuring four ultra-fuel-efficient cars, and before that we rounded up six fuel-sippers to see which one was the best daily driver. But none of these reports put a brutal, real-life morning and evening commute to the test.

That’s exactly what I did in the new 2010 Honda Insight and 2010 Toyota Prius, the two most affordable hybrids on the road. We hear a lot of car shoppers say they buy hybrids to help save on their gas costs and cut down on emissions during their commute. But how did the two do in terms of fuel efficiency, comfort and entertainment for my often 90-minute morning commute and 45-minute afternoon commute? Let’s find out.
One thing our Mileage Challenge couldn’t take into account was morning cold starts and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Luckily, I could. One fresh morning I hopped into the Prius and headed to work via the infamous Kennedy Expressway. Here are the stats:
  • 23.2 miles in a little over an hour
  • Average speed: 20 mph
  • Average mileage: 60.6 mpg
Before you shake your head in disbelief at the mileage figure, it was a nice 60-degree day so I didn’t use air conditioning — just vents (both cars went through the same treatment in this regard). I also used the electric-only EV mode for approximately 2.4 miles during the bumper-to-bumper portion of the drive, which was well under 20 mph. That really ratcheted up the mileage, but I think any Prius owner would use the EV mode in such a way since it is just a simple button push. It also gives you something to do while you’re sitting in traffic listening to traffic reports.

The Prius was a pleasant commute car with a nice sounding stereo that lacked an USB iPod interface, relatively comfortable seats and a sedate ride. Besides hitting that EV button, driving the Prius seemed like piloting any other car. At least in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The afternoon commute went like this:
  • 23.9 miles in about 45 minutes
  • Average speed: 19 mph
  • Average mileage: 55.0 mpg
Dring my afternoon commute, I didn’t use the EV mode and traffic was much lighter. I don’t know why my average speed was lower than the morning commute since the afternoon commute is much more open (less construction) and I routinely got up to 60 mph, which never happens in the morning drive. That easily knocked down my mileage by a few mpgs.

The huge difference between the two commutes wasn’t the dip in mileage; it was how the Prius changed in demeanor. At high speeds, road and wind noise is much more audible. This remains my biggest knock on the Prius overall.

How did the Honda handle the same route?

Its first morning went like this:
  • 23.6 miles in about 70 minutes
  • No average speed display
  • Average mileage: 43.1 mpg
I hauled a two-drawer legal-sized filing cabinet in the Insight’s cargo area with the rear seats down, which weighed things down quite a bit. While a lot of my Cars.com colleagues think the Insight has a rough ride, I found that in bumper-to-bumper traffic there’s nothing really detracting from the ride, which is much like my experience in the Prius. What bugged me most in the Insight was how far you had to reach to fiddle with the stereo system. I liked that the model we tested had an USB iPod port, though.

However, the seats were nowhere near as comfortable as the Prius’ were. Our Insight was an EX model with a few minor upgrades that raised its price close to the Prius’ starting price, $21,300 and $22,000 respectively.

The ride home again was more wide open:
  • 23.5 miles in about 40 minutes
  • Average mileage: 45.3 mpg
This is where you can see the difference between the two cars’ hybrid systems. The Prius does better in slower bumper-to-bumper traffic, and the Insight’s mileage improves in higher-speed settings. Like the Prius, wind noise was really bad in the Insight at high speeds. Winds were also whipping something fierce — about 30 mph — during this afternoon commute, but the thin glass on both cars was a real detriment.

What does this exercise mean to you, the potential hybrid buyer? If you have a commute with light traffic, the Insight will return better mileage than its EPA ratings of 40/43 mpg city/highway. Whether you deal with heavy or light traffic in your commute, the Prius has good mileage while providing a better atmosphere for the driver. 



Excellent report - exactly the kind of information new car buyers need.


the Prius actually does betting in both conditions according to the November Consumer Reports issue. that, along with the availability of the Jetta TDI, and now the Golf TDI, negates any reason to get an Insight.

Ken L.

Believe it or not, if the there's another mad dash to purchase fuel sipping vehicles again, the Prius will be tops, then your run of the mill popular 4 cylinders (Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, etc.), the Insight and then the TDIs from VW. The public tends to stick with what they THINK they know.

Troy S.


What is the price difference between the Jetta TDi and the Insight?

Also, what is the difference in cost between diesel and gasoline?

Which is more expensive to maintain/insure?

I'll take the Insight please.


why would you take the insight? I don't get it. I have read lots of reviews of both card and in almost all cases, or many different reasons, the prius comes out on top. Note I am a Honday lover; I have owned several of them and loved them, but I think the bottom line is toyota just out-egineered them on their hybrid offerings. Not two ways about it. Pay maybe a grand more and just get a much better car with the prius.


and Sorry about the horrific typing.......

Perhaps I missed something in the summary:

". . . If you have a commute with light traffic, the Insight will return better mileage than its EPA ratings of 40/43 mpg city/highway. . . . "

Didn't the Prius beat its EPA ratings in both the morning, 60.6 MPG, and evening, 55.0 MPG, commutes? Even if we adjust for the 5% error of the indicated MPG, it still comes in 57.6 and 52.2 MPG. How about a fair conclusion for both vehicles versus their EPA numbers.

Isn't that exactly what I said? The Insight proves it does better in highway mileage while the Prius bests both scenarios and is a better driving environment.

I try not to get too rah rah in my conclusions but the numbers are right there in black and white. Plus the Prius is nearly the same price.

I think real life road tests are worth more to a consumer than closed track road tests.


Yeesh Honda did a damn good job making the insight look JUST LIKE a Prius. From everything i have read, the Insight is a joke, and the prius is definatly a much better handling, riding, comfortable car with better mileage. The track tests on hybrids are useless, you have to do real world test for sure


I am dubious of the information presented by this article. I am not sure the writer knew what car they were driving--the insight tells the driver average speed. realistically(as observed by day to day commuting), i get well over 50mpg no matter what sort of driving i do in my '10 insight as long as i don't exceed 65mph. Believe that!

How are you dubious of the information in this article?

Do you drive in bumper to bumper traffic? I-90/Kennedy Expressway in Chicago is one of the most congested in the country. Perhaps you encounter a different driving pattern than I do.

Please list why you think your mileage differs. Clearly we're not here to just make stuff up.


I'm dubious of the claims of IPDaily. No way an Insight gets 50 mpg in all kinds of driving. In stop and go, the mpg will drop like a rock cause the Honda won't move without the gas engine running.

Ray Van Ausdal

Since the Prius display of average speed is totally incorrect, it is very unlikely that its computation of MPG was accurate. And, if you ran on battery only, you need to make sure that the battery was back to its original state of charge. Time for a re-match.


Typically, a hybrid vehicle really shows its strength in stop and go traffic. On the open highway, which is not the norm for most drivers, the milage of many non-hybrids starts to compare well. In truth, hybrids far out perform most cars in realistic driving conditions.


This is nonsense...the top
of the line Prius vs the Insight top of the line is no comparison PRius is >10grand more...for WHAT? the car is no where near 50% better by any strecth of the imagination ...plus the brakes work on the HONDA...LOL
Actuall, the Insight is also a better looking vehicle and only looks margiinally like a prius from the side/rear....
Honda wins....


I just bought an Insight and I am happy with my purchase. I know side by side the Prius is a better car, but it cost a lot more. For me the top of the line Insight was $5000.00 less than the bottom line Prius.

i bought a 2010 insight ex new and love it and its a big savings compared to prius considering the gas savings differ. do u have any idea how many gal of gas you have to buy to make up the savings of mpg?

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