Total global sales for the Insight amounted to only around 18,000.
The Honda Insight was a subcompact hatchback 3,945mm (155.3in) in length with a wheelbase of 2,400mm (94.5in) a height of 1,355mm (53.3in) and a width of 1,695mm (66.7in). The Insight was only available as a two-seater. Only three different trims were available: a manual transmission without air-conditioning, a manual transmission with air-conditioning, and a continuously variable transmission with air-conditioning. Although produced until 2006, the only major change was the introduction of a trunk mounted, front controlled, multiple CD changer.
One key in increasing the vehicle's fuel efficiency was reducing the mass via the extensive use of aluminum and plastic. Honda built the insight with aluminum front brake calipers and rear brake drums; the fuel tank was plastic; the engine mounts were aluminum; and the exhaust was a small, thin wall pipe. The Insight weighed 1,847lb (838kg) in manual transmission form or 1,964lb (891kg) with CVT and air conditioning. The combination of materials and design gave the Insight body structure 13 percent more bending strength and 38 percent more torsional rigidity than a comparably-sized steel body, despite weighing 40 percent less.
The New York Times wrote that the Insight's styling "suggested Popeye's pal, Olive Oyl, in her ankle-length dress. The rear fender skirts seemed frumpy."
The gasoline engine is a 70hp (52kW; 71PS), 1-liter, 3-cylinder unit providing lean burn operation with an air fuel ratio that can reach 25.8 to 1 . The electrical motor assist adds in another 10kW (13hp) when called on, and similarly provides significant deceleration when used in regenerative mode for braking. (This both improves fuel efficiency and also dramatically extends the lifetime of brakes). When the car is not moving, for example, at a stop light, the engine shuts off. The digital displays on the dashboard display fuel consumption instantaneously. On the manual transmission up and down arrows suggest when to shift gears. The Insight uses the first generation of Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid technology. (The next generation, used in the Honda Civic Hybrid, is much more space-efficient.) The Insight has a 3-cylinder 1.0L (61cuin) engine and a brushless 10-kW electric motor located on the crankshaft. Located behind the seats are a series of commercial grade "D" sized NiMH batteries wired to provide a nominal 144 V DC. During heavy acceleration, up to 100 Amps are pulled from the NiMH batteries, the electric motor provides additional power; during deceleration, the motor acts as a generator and recharges the batteries using a process called regenerative braking, charging them with up to 50 Amps of current. A computer control module regulates how much power comes from the internal combustion engine, and how much from the electric motor; in the CVT variant, it also finds the optimal gear ratio. Dashboard gauges monitor the current battery, instantaneous fuel consumption and mode of the electric motor — standby, engine assist or charging the batteries.