Ugly? Yes. But a manual adds some street cred.
Here’s the problem many have with today’s hybrid cars: they lack driving personality. The Toyota Prius still is and always has been an ideal example. But Honda, to its full credit, once offered some of its hybrids with a manual transmission, the first being the original 2000 model year Insight (it was eventually discontinued). Right, we know that modern, computer-controlled automatics and dual-clutches have proven to contribute more towards optimal fuel efficiency than manuals.
But rowing your own gears, especially when combined with the right engine and technologies such as regenerative braking and lightweight build components, is still totally possible. And that’s why the original Insight has earned our respect. Is it something we would have bought when it was new?
Probably not, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have recommend it to someone. Quite the contrary. Its hybrid powertrain, which eventually found its way into the Civic, contributed towards an impressive 47.8 mpg. Even today that figure is damn good. Its styling? Well, it wasn’t exactly pretty but it did have sort of a futuristic look going on that made it stand out. And yes, Honda did offer a CVT in the Insight beginning in the 2001 model year, but the five-speed manual was still the way to go. Motor Week has just re-released its 2000 year review of the first generation Insight and they too wish Honda would bring back the manual to its hybrids. Out of all of the automakers, Honda is one of the few that appreciates the manual, and does it right.