Toyota and Honda have long been the leaders in affordable, great-value cars. With low entry fees, excellent fuel economy, and long-lasting engineering, both Japanese automakers have proven that quality doesn’t always have to come at a premium. Just compare the 2021 Toyota Prius vs the 2021 Honda Insight. While hybrids have often sacrificed affordability for their environmental boons, Toyota and Honda have changed the game. Who says hybrids have to be expensive?
Both hybrid offerings, the 2021 Prius and 2021 Insight offer outstanding maximum fuel economy. With the Prius, you will get around 58 miles per gallon city, 53 miles per gallon highway, and 56 miles per gallon combined. Meanwhile, the Insight gets up to 55 miles per gallon city, 49 miles per gallon highway, and 52 miles per gallon combined. These cars are evenly matched in this regard, even as they stand head and shoulders above most other 2021 vehicles. However, when you compare the new Prius and new Insight from head-to-toe – or roof-to-tire – one vehicle unquestionably offers the better value.
First, take a look at how the 2021 Prius and 2021 Insight compare price-wise. At first look, the Honda Insight is the more affordable model, with a lower starting price of only $23,130. The 2021 Prius, meanwhile, starts at $24,525 – a difference of just over $1,000. However, when you look at the higher trim packages available for each model and suite of upgrades to customize your experience, the price difference becomes less noticeable.
The Prius has a great amount of available trims, including the LE AWD-e that offers supreme all-wheel drive handling and performance. Prices range from the base cost of $24,525 all the way up to $33,650 for the most elegantly designed and best-performance Limited edition. Now compare this to the 2021 Honda Insight, which has only a few trims to choose from: the base LX, the slightly upgraded EX with some attractive built-in features, and the leather-wrapped Touring edition that’s sporty and elegant.
The Touring edition of the new Insight starts at $29,040, but a similar Prius XLE AWD-e, the best-reviewed trim of the Prius, starts at $29,575 – a difference of only $535 favoring the Insight. In other words, the more performance and style upgrades you add to the Prius and the Insight, the more closely priced each one is. Our overall thoughts on this price system are that Toyota rewards Prius drivers with plenty of affordable upgrade options, while the new Insight locks you into one of 3 more streamlined packages.
Driving Both Hybrids
Now that we’ve broken down the price points, with the Insight holding a marginal lead, take a look at the driving performance available for both the 2021 Prius and 2021 Insight. The 2021 Prius offers reliable performance that’s agile enough for city or highway driving while maintaining top-grade fuel economy in both settings – exceeding that of the new Insight. Its body is designed with features like sleek sidelines and an active grille shutter that direct airflow to maximize fuel economy. It handles aerodynamically at all speeds, and its 16-valve aluminum engine with intelligent variable valve timing combines the best of excellent drivetrain power and unbeatable economy.
Available all-wheel drive for the 2021 Prius offers superior traction and handling, giving this sedan some surprisingly capable off-road potential. The responsive steering and balanced torque keep you in control as you blaze your trails or even commute through rainy or icy conditions. Better yet, several 2021 Prius trims have standard all-wheel drive. Even better is the fact that all-wheel drive power doesn’t penalize the Prius’ max fuel economy.
As for the 2021 Honda Insight, you get peppy and responsive acceleration, albeit with a noisy engine that sounds like it’s working hard to keep up. And while its peak performance matches that of the Civic, with which it shares many mechanical elements, that’s hardly an inspiring performance car. However, the new Insight’s fuel economy does lag behind that of the new Prius, despite not offering an all-wheel drive setup.
A great-value car looks more luxurious than it is, offering head-turning body styling for a fraction of the cost of an imported luxury-brand car. However, in this facet, of our two hybrids is the definite leader. Honda advertises the 2021 Insight as having a bold design, but we can’t help but think that this Insight looks pretty familiar. It closely resembles older versions of the Accord or Civic sedans – vehicles that are hardly known for their impressive exterior designs – and its simplicity makes the Insight unlikely to stand out in a crowd of sedans. While you can alleviate some of the plain-old-sedan boredom with premium colors like Cosmic Blue Metallic paint, if you’re willing to pay for the upgrade, every edition has a boxy shape and that typical striped front grille that’s so very Honda.
Meanwhile, the 2021 Prius offers a surprising alternative to your run-of-the-mill sedan in its sharp-edged, near-futuristic design. Tapered sides and a more aerodynamic silhouette make the new Prius feel as innovative as its highly economical. It may not be a favorite among those who crave classic sedan styling, but those who would jump at the opportunity to drive a uniquely designed vehicle like a Tesla can appreciate the new Prius’ forward-thinking design at a fraction of the price.
As if hybrid engine technology that combines a gas engine with electric plug-in power isn’t advanced enough, both the 2021 Toyota Prius and 2021 Honda Insight are also available with other advanced technology. The 2021 Honda Insight has an infotainment device contained within a disappointingly small 5.0-inch screen – barely an upgrade from your phone! It’s a rudimentary system that, in its base model, doesn’t even offer smartphone integration. This is a shocking omission for a 2021 vehicle when even highly affordable American-made automobiles have more advanced base tech. You can choose to upgrade to get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration as well as navigation, but you may feel cheated when you have to fork over more money for these basics. Thankfully, the Insight makes up for its disappointing interior features with a suite of advanced safety features, including adaptive cruise control and automated emergency braking.
The 2021 Toyota Prius has a more diverse array of standard tech features, for more value out of the base model than that of the 2021 Insight. The standard infotainment device is a crisp 7.0-inch display that’s Bluetooth and USB capable and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Interact vocally with Amazon Alexa, and stream your favorite audio through the available 10-speaker JBL system. You also get a free trial for SiriusXM satellite radio in every 2021 Prius.
As for safety features, you get a host of technologies, even in the base model, including pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, steering assist, and so much more. Meanwhile, available features like a Head-Up display – driving stats projected right onto your lower front windshield – and wireless charging are competitive with luxury-level vehicle technology at a fraction of the price.
So which of these hybrids offers a better value, even if they’re both attractively priced? Our money is on the 2021 Toyota Prius, which has a more generously outfitted base model, better-priced premium trims, better fuel economy, and more interior comfort. Its innovative design that’s a departure from the usual, plain sedan just seals the deal.
While we can’t choose the best car for your specific lifestyle, we feel that a 2021 Prius hybrid is a versatile enough vehicle with well-rounded benefits that will suit just about everybody. Its ample interior cargo space tops out at 50.7 cubic feet, despite its compact exterior design and roomy cabin that comfortably seats five make this the perfect family vehicle. Plus, available crossbars and all-wheel drive are perfect for adventurous drivers. The 2021 Prius’ outstanding prices, even for the most decked-out trim, make this an excellent buy for car shoppers on a budget.