Update December 2006.
Little did I realize just how much different this car is from others when I bought it. The Insight was designed to maximize fuel efficiency and yet provide a comfortable and safe driving platform. It incorporates a huge number of efficiency improvements: lightweight aluminum and plastic body, extremely low aerodynamic coefficient of drag, very clean-burning 1-litre internal combustion engine including a unique "lean-burn" mode, ultra-low friction everything that moves on the car (including special low-rolling-resistance tires), ... etc. All this, while retaining creature comforts of air conditioning, ABS brakes, electric windows, etc., and with air bags and a very crash-surviving safety package for the occupants. The car's space-age instrument panel provides incredible feedback for instantaneous graphic and numeric trip/overall miles/gallon - a continuous challenge to the driver to maximize these. You have to drive this thing for a while to fully appreciate its uniqueness. I've become so used to the engine automatically turning off at a stoplight (and seamlessly silently restarting using its electric motor when put into gear), that I am now irked by the senseless significantly-gas-wasting-idling of all normal cars.
During our year home away from cruising I couldn't resist tinkering with this car. A fellow engineer had designed a scheme for overriding the stock electric motor control system, resulting in either manual or programmable control over both Assist and Regeneration functions - think of this as an electric supercharger or electric braking, significantly increased over the stock system. In addition, I incorporated a number of switches to override some of the stock sensors - all aimed a further maximizing fuel economy. As of the end of 2006 Kathy and I have racked up over 15,000 miles on the car at an overall mileage of 76.3mpg. Not bad for a car that can also go 110mph and 0-60 in under ten seconds, and handles with the best of sports cars.
Personal best mileage over the 35.4-mile freeway drive to the boat from home.
That's nothing: earlier this year some Insighters did a Mileage Marathon using a stock Honda Insight and racked up 2,254.4miles on a single tank of gas (10.6 gallons)!
This photo details some of my modifications. The joystick on the right controls Assist/Regeneration and the two round-knobbed switches provide mode selection and programming control. The FAS switch turns off the engine injectors which turns off the engine without losing any of its AutoStop or safety restart functions. The Clutch switch prevents automatic restarting of the engine when the clutch is released while in FAS. The Brake switch actuates the brake lights and originally functioned as a simple manual Regeneration control. The MIMA switch activates the external controller.
When I found out that after 7 years Honda was discontinuing production of this car, I accidentally found a brand-new one available (they're very rare and normally had to be special-ordered) and gave Kathy a birthday present to supplement her 22-year-old Toyota wagon. Her red car will remain factory-stock.
About all I can say is that zipping around in this car has put the fun back into driving! Next project (whenever we stop cruising) - convert one of the SAABs to full-electric...