$26,990 – $30,490
Good: The Insight looks futuristic, is comfortable, spacious and encourages economical driving to complement the impressive real-world fuel economy. It is a safe car.
Not so Good: The interior is smaller than many similar priced economical small cars and it suffers from a fidgety ride over rough surfaces. The Insight is neither that quick, nor that cheap.
Design and Engineering
Good : The second generation Insight arrived in Australia in December 2010; roughly seven years after the super niche first generation left our shores. The distinctive teardrop styling features an impressively slippery .28Cd drag coefficient. It actually looks attractive in an aero kind of way, and very different to the Jazz hatch and City sedan, though all three share the same light car platform.
As the looks suggest, the Insight is a hybrid model with the petrol and electric motor working together to drive the car and charge the battery.
Not so good : Some of us wish it had a stronger stance as the wheels don’t exactly jump out of the bodywork, but yes, this would be a disadvantage to the drag coefficient.
Unlike the competing Toyota Prius, which has two separate motors that can work independently of each other, the Honda is more of a mild hybrid. This equates to very low rather than amazingly low fuel economy.
Rear drum brakes are old school technology in such a technology focused vehicle, but they still do the job for a car of this size.
Interior and Styling
Good : The dash styling is funky and futuristic, but still with comfortable and supportive seats. Head and legroom up front and plenty of rear legroom as well make the Honda Insight a spacious car with first rate vision.
The large front door pockets with bottle holders are convenient and the 60:40 split/folding rear seatbacks extend the versatility of the wide but shallow boot, which is a decent 400 odd litres, with a temporary spare wheel sitting under the floor and sharing space with the batteries. The rear hatch opens nice and high.
Not so good : There are lots of hard plastics on the dash that don’t feel at all special to touch and the floor carpets look cheap, but then it is based off the Honda light car platform. The rear bench seat delivers little support and the middle position is not remotely adult friendly.
Rear visibility is limited when it rains as the lower section of the rear window fast gets dirty and keyless entry would benefit such a future laden car over the conventional ignition key. Although it is good on space, the boot really is just too shallow.
Good : The Insight combines a petrol engine (a naturally aspirated 1.3-litre four cylinder motor) with an electric motor to produce 72kW of power and 167Nm of torque.
With a speedometer that changes colour depending on how gentle you are with the accelerator pedal, the Insight is the kind of car you want to drive economically – deep blue when fuel slurping changes to a bright green when fuel sipping, not that the Insight can really drink fuel at a fast rate. Furthermore, the ECO button on the dash limits engine oomph and increases the regenerative braking which provides charge to the cars’ power providing batteries. Finally, the little four cylinder petrol engine can also deactivate its cylinders to run as frugally as possible.
The electric motor ensures that the Insight feels quicker than your typical 1.3-litre powered vehicle. The performance should be more than adequate for most city based drivers.
Somehow the Insight encourages you to drive economically, and it’s strangely enjoyable to do so.
Not so good : Like the Toyota Prius, the Insight is noisy at high revs and tends to deliver more noise than acceleration when flooring the throttle. The CVT Gearbox is passable in this kind of car. The Insight needs more oomph.
Ride and Handling
Good : Ride is slightly firm, not unlike a sports car and this makes for a surprisingly decent car to drive.
The electric steering is well weighted, with more accuracy and positive road feedback than a number of competitors (Prius included). It’s light but offers enough feel for cornering adjustment.
The luxury grade wears 16 inch wheels and 185mm wide tyres, wider than the entry level grade which sits on 15 inch wheels and 175mm wide tyres, so for maximum handling grip the former is the pick of the two.
Not so good : Ride quality is overly firm on poor road surfaces, and whilst the light bodyweight contributes to impressive fuel economy, you can feel the effect of heavy side winds more than with most similar priced competitors.
Buying and Owning
Good : The Insight features high levels of standard equipment and ticks the safety box with six airbags, stability control, ABS brakes and EBD as standard.
The official combined fuel economy is a low 4.6 litres per 100kms. On one 35km trip averaging 55km/h (highway and urban driving) we averaged a remarkable 3.8 litres per 100kms and that’s driving at the same speed as other road users! Urban fuel economy is the Insight’s key strength – especially as it features clever stop-start technology.
The Insight is a good deal roomier than a number of far smaller superminis, and the Insight’s nickel-metal hydride battery pack is warranted for eight years/unlimited kms and can be replaced for under $2,000. Most estimates predict a battery lifespan of fifteen years.
Not so good : Fuel economy can’t match the larger, more expensive Toyota Prius. It also faces tough competition against frugal turbo diesels such as the Volkswagen Golf or even the Hyundai i30.
In ECO mode the excellent stop-start technology saves fuel by turning off the petrol engine at the lights but this can also mean the air-conditioning turns off as well which doesn’t sound like fun on a 40 degree day.
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