When the Honda Insight hybrid came out in 1999, its main focus was on delivering good fuel economy. The tires offered low rolling resistance, the bodywork minimized drag, and the gas-sipping engine made a paltry 67 horsepower. But this 2000 Insight for sale on eBay right now has a different mission than cranking up MPGs—namely, cranking the front tires into a plume of smoke.
Back in May of 2017, my coworker Raphael Orlove wrote about how sad he was to hear from YouTuber Regular Car Reviews that the beloved first-generation Honda Insight hybrid is actually pretty bad to drive. After voicing his crushing disappointment, Raph finished with: “Oh well, I guess I can cross one of these off my dream car list. At least, until I find one with a K20 swap for sale.”
A Jalopnik fan named Raj apparently read Raphael’s post, and recent sent an email with an eBay link to his K20-swapped, 220,760-mile Insight. And my is it lovely.
What’s great about it is that, aside from the black five-spoke wheels, the drilled and slotted rotors, and the red calipers, this thing looks like a pretty standard, high-MPG Honda Insight hybrid. But then you open the hood:
Oh yes, that’s a K20A3 motor, which made a healthy 160 horsepower in the base 2002 to 2006 Acura RSX and in the “EP3" seventh-generation Honda Civic Si sold in the U.S. between model years 2002 and 2005.
Per his “for sale” listing, Raj swapped in the K20A3 engine, which apparently came out of a Civic Si with an estimated 120,000 miles on the clock, into the Insight after the hybrid had driven 217,000 miles. That’s a lot of miles on that chassis, but the seller says he’s got dealer service records that go all the way back to an odometer reading of 400 miles, for what it’s worth.
The motor isn’t stock, though, as Raj states in the description that the cams and rockers have been swapped for those out of an Acura TSX in what is known as a Vtec Killer setup. There’s also a custom exhaust, injectors out of a TSX, and a specially tuned ECU.
As for output, the seller—who says the car can do 31 MPG on average—guesses that the engine makes 220 ponies. That is a lot for a car that original weighed under 2,000 pounds, and thatnow—even with the mods—tips the scales at around 2,200 pounds according to the seller. From the listing:
As far as power and torque, I estimated the car’s weight to be about 2200lbs with me in the car, a gross overestimation, so the virtual dyno output a estimated of 182 Wheel Horsepower with a stock RSX/CRV airbox (Before the K&N short ram was added). So it’s easily more, and the butt dyno estimates an easy 220hp to the crank. The car could be tuned again since the addition of the 6speed trans and K&N short ram with magnaflow exhaust, for any and all tuning needs, the Hondata USB cable can be conveniently found via the glove box on the passenger side.
Managing all that power is a largely stock suspension setup, but with some cut coilover springs from aftermarket company D2 up front (with stock dampers), and “Adjustible GAZ struts” out back controlling the chopped Chevy Aveo coil springs. Yes, Chevy Aveo springs.
How does this setup handle? Well, you’ll need to drive the car to really find out, but here’s what the seller has to say about the dynamics, which unsurprisingly involve some torquesteer and understeer:
The steering is still light thanks to the stock front dampers but will give u visually noticeable torque-steer and roast the passenger front tire if you’re not careful. Driven normally, the car has very forgiving understeer and plenty of spring to hunker down during its teleportation-like acceleration.
Also worth mentioning is that the car received a number of other mostly-tastful mods, including led headlights, a backup camera, heated seats, and a bunch more.
Of course, this torque steer monster in hybrid clothes isn’t perfect. It’s got a fairly high Buy It Now price of 11 grand despite having a bad third gear synchronizer in its six-speed manual transmission, which came out of an Acura RSX. Apparently this “K-Sight” also needs new tires, and has a few little blemishes like a small rip in a seat, oxidation on the bottom of a door, and some scratches in the paint. Plus, the ABS system has been deleted, if you care about that sort of thing.
I sure don’t. All I really care about is ~200 horsepower in an extremely aerodynamic car that weighs about the same as a Miata, because—even though the handling might leave some to be desired—a hybrid ripping front-drive burnouts while still scoring decent fuel economy just seems glorious.
Correction July 1, 2019 2:58 P.M. ET: This story said this K-Sight showed “rust” on the bottom of the door. This isn’t possible, since the doors are aluminum. Thus the term has been changed to “oxidation,” as that’s how the seller described the blemish.