In 2002 Melissa & I bought our first new car, a Honda Insight. The little two-seater hatchback has a hybrid 3-cylinder gas/electric engine. The funny aerodynamic shape has the lowest coefficient of drag of any production car available in the U.S. (at least at the time of its introduction, and possibly still). It also has the lowest emissions and best fuel economy of any car, then or now. This thing is great. I would say that it was ahead of its time, but I think it would be more accurate to say all other cars are behind their time.
Melissa named her car Iris, after her favorite flower. It was originally our second car, so the lack of a back seat wasn't a problem. When we moved to Nicaragua we got rid of my Civic and since we've been back in the U.S. we have only the Insight.
There have been a couple of times were it would have been nice to have a back seat (e.g. picking up people from the airport), but we've always managed to get by.
As you may or may not already know, Melissa & I are expecting a baby Ragfield this summer, so the lack of a back seat in our only car isn't going to work for much longer. That's why we've decided to sell our beloved Iris and replace her (probably with a much more luxurious, yet fuel-economy-inferior Toyota Prius). We test drove a Prius on Valentine's Day... it was very nice.
So I've decided to pay tribute to Iris, who has been like a member of the family the past seven years...
That's a pretty accurate range of the real world fuel economy we saw with Iris. In the summer it would regularly be in the high 50's to low 60's. In the winter it would regularly be in the mid-40's. The seven year average is just over 50 miles per gallon. In the summer of 2004, when I was bicycling nearly everywhere and Melissa was in Nicaragua, I spent around $20 on gas the entire summer.
One of the great things about this car is the instantaneous fuel economy gauge (the Prius has this too) that shows you exactly how good the gas mileage is at any given time. This has helped me learn how to drive to best conserve fuel. Surprise, surprise, the most important thing to do is slow down. But it's a little more complicated than that. It takes a light touch to get it just right. You have to connect with the car and feel how it reacts to the slightest changes.
Even with all the things we love about this car, she's not perfect. I found her lack of cruise control frustrating at times, but I made due. How does a car produced in this millennium not have cruise control? Also, the gas tank is on the wrong (right) side of the car (now I'm just nitpicking, but seriously, all gas tanks should be on the left/driver side of the car). Fortunately, the Prius remedies both of these shortcomings.
We'd love for Iris to go to a good home, so if any of you are even the slightest bit interested in buying her, let us know soon.