HONDA INSIGHT REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Family hatch, hybrid
Price: $33,490 (as tested)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 4.6 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 5.4 l/100km
Honda’s flagship hybrid, the Insight VTi-L, is an attractive package and the latest in Honda’s ongoing commitment to the burgeoning green car market. Globally this market is huge, and rapidly gaining momentum in Australia.
While the VTi-L can’t exactly be described as “a driver’s car”, it’s a competent, nicely styled and agreeable city car with ample around-town performance and ample room for the modern small family.
In both style and substance, the Insight is the future of motoring.
Quality: The Insight shares many components with the Honda Civic and shares a similar level of quality. It is built ‘light’, but interior plastics feel of good quality and all buttons and switch-gear are solid.
Comfort: Seats up front are nicely supportive, rear seats are also very comfortable. Unfortunately, rear passengers sacrifice headroom to the aerodynamic styling and the raised rear squab (but kids will appreciate it).
Equipment: The standard equipment list on the VTi-L is extensive and includes satellite navigation with SUNA live traffic updates, Bluetooth integration, iPhone dock, USB connectivity, keyless entry, cruise control with steering wheel mounted controls, height and reach adjustable steering wheel, auto headlights and a six-speaker CD/MP3 sound system.
Storage: The aerodynamic shape of the rear of the car reduces the available height of storage in the rear of the Insight, however there is still a generous 584 litres of storage space in the back with the rear 60/40 seats folded flat (408 with them up).
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: For running around town the Insight is very capable. When stopped at traffic lights there is a petrol saving ‘engine cut-off’ function.
There is a little adjustment necessary for the driver here; but you soon become familiar with a very minor jerkiness on take-off.
There is also an ‘Eco’ mode that alters the shifting patterns of the CVT gearbox to minimise fuel consumption. This takes some power away from the already somewhat limited engine, but power isn’t the purpose of the Insight.
A nice addition to the Insight’s eco-credentials is a range of driving aids allowing the driver to instantly see fuel consumption, battery-assistance status, charge status, etc.
Refinement: On longer drives or any freeway driving, the 1.3 litre SOHC engine’s shortcomings are apparent. While the aerodynamic design reduces resistance and the electric Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) helps the car along, the 72kW engine can feel like it’s working hard at highway speeds. Hills, and overtaking, can expose it a little.
No issues with the CVT gearbox; coupled with paddle shift “gear” changers (actually preset settings on the CVT system) it’s a smooth unit.
Suspension: While not flashy, the Insight rides comfortably on MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam in the back. On road, it’s quite good; cornering is precise and controlled although the extra weight of the battery is apparent.
Braking: The braking is responsive and stops the Insight with no difficulty. Compared to other new cars on the market however, the brakes can feel rather soft due to the regenerative drum brakes fitted on the rear as part of the kinetic energy capture system.
ANCAP rating: 5 Star Rating
Safety features: 6 airbags, ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Reversing Camera, Seatbelt Pretensioner, Vehicle Stability Assist, Traction Control System.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years / 100,000km Warranty
Service costs: Servicing costs vary, consult your local Honda dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Toyota Prius ($38,399) - The car that has become synonymous with hybrids in the minds of most, the Prius has more power, lower emissions and lower fuel consumptions, but is more expensive and less featured than the Insight. (see Prius reviews)
VW Golf BlueMotion ($33,550) - While not a hybrid, the Golf BlueMotion flaunts its green credentials. Its small diesel engine has a lower reported fuel consumption than the Insight’s but produces even less power.
It also emits marginally lower CO2 than the Insight. (see Golf reviews)
Honda Civic Hybrid ($37,989) - Using the same hybrid technologies, having identical fuel consumption and CO2 emissions as the Insight.
The Civic Hybrid is a more conventional option than the Insight, but has a higher price tag. (see Civic reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Insight is an attractive package in the green segment of the market. It is reasonably priced - without being a bargain - appealingly styled and a good option for the young ‘city family’ buyer.
While it’s no performance machine, it cements Honda’s green credentials and provides more than acceptable competition to the market-leading Prius.