The Honda Insight utilises a DOHC 1.3-litre petrol engine and an electric engine in combination. Priced $10,000 less than its chief rival, the Toyota Prius, the entry-level Insight VTi comes laden with technology, and is, as it turns out, an excellent drive.
- Quality: Black is the only colour available in the VTi's cloth-upholstered cabin, but the quality of cabin plastics and switchgear is quite ok. It's not luxurious, but is well put together and a match for conventional-engined competitors.
- Comfort: The front seat cushions are firm, but supportive. Rear legroom can be tight for taller passengers, and rear headroom is in even shorter supply.
- Equipment: As standard, the Insight VTi gets rear parking sensors, climate control, cruise control, paddle shifters, a trip-computer, USB music player input and Bluetooth connectivity.
- Storage: The boot area measures 408 litres with the 60/40 split rear seats up, and 584 litres with the rear seats down.
ON THE ROAD:
- Driveability: With peak torque available just off idle the Insight has no issue moving away from rest, although the accelerator needs a hefty prod for a quick getaway. It is less-responsive and less-suited to highway driving - overtaking requires a little planning and hills can blunt progress.
That said, the CVT (continuously variable) gearbox always has the right ratio for the job, and the electric power steering is very light. All-round visibility is good, although the raked A-pillars can obscure vision along curving roads.
- Refinement: The Insight's chassis feels very solid, and there were no cabin creaks to be heard during our drive. However, there was some wind noise from the wing mirrors and noticeable tyre roar on coarse-chip surfaces at speed.
- Suspension: The MacPherson strut/torsion beam suspension setup isn't the most sophisticated, but refinements to the Insight's suspension have created a supple, well-damped ride that feels secure at high speed yet nicely compliant on rough roads.
- Braking: Drivers will quickly get used to the Insight's disc and drum brake set-up, that also operates with a regenerative braking system (which assists in recharging) providing additional braking force. The pedal is a touch soft, but unlike some regenerative systems the Insight's brakes feel more natural.
- ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
- Safety features: Front, side and curtain airbags are standard and all five seats are fitted with three-point seatbelts. ABS, EBD, stability control and traction control are also standard.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
- Warranty: 3-year/100,000km new car warranty, plus 8 year/unlimited kilometre battery warranty.
- Service costs: Service intervals are every 10,000km/12 months, with service costs averaging between $230-$240 for the first 50,000km.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
- Toyota Prius - $39,990: The Prius may have a dedicated EV-only mode, marginally more interior room and a better on-paper fuel economy figure (3.9 l/100km), but its sticker price is $10,000 more than the Insight. The Insight also provides a more engaging drive than the Toyota.
- Honda Civic Hybrid – $34,490: The Civic Hybrid may be priced uncomfortably close to the top-spec Insight VTi-L, but its sedan body and improved rear cabin room gives some additional appeal. The Civic is at the end of its lifespan though, and the Insight is - on the whole - a better car.
- Toyota Camry Hybrid – $36,990: A size bigger than the Insight, the Camry Hybrid is better trimmed and more spacious inside - but is also more expensive.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Honda's new Insight deserves to succeed, particularly with city buyers. It's not just for people specifically wanting a hybrid, but also those looking for a genuinely competent – and thrifty – technologically interesting small car.
But be sure to test the rear seat accommodation if it will be getting regular use.