Even in an industry as ruthless as the car-making, it’s hard not to feel a bit for Honda. Despite developing the first production hybrid car with the truly innovative first-generation Insight in the late 1990s, and before that pioneering clean and efficient petrol engines, the environmental limelight has been well and truly hogged by arch rival Toyota.

When the Insight was launched in 2009, sales of the Prius had sailed past the one million mark, whereas sales of Honda hybrids of any description languished well behind at just 275,000 units.

Although arguably the first-generation Insight’s hybrid powertrain and unique styling made it ahead of its time, the rebirth of the Insight with this second-generation model is designed for much greater global appeal. Not least because the latest Insight is the first stand-alone hybrid in Honda’s range since the original, with its other previous hybrids having been hidden in the Civic range.

Although not as ground-breaking as either the original Insight or the current Prius, the Insight boasts a simpler approach to hybrid technology in a familiar five-door bodystyle and a much lower price.

The Insight is offered with just the one powertrain option – a 1.3-litre petrol engine mated to an electric motor and battery pack – although buyers can choose from five different trim options, spanning roughly £4500 in price

When launched, the Insight was the cheapest hybrid on the market. And although smaller hybrids, including Honda’s own Jazz Hybrid and Toyota's Auris hybrid, have arrived, the Insight is still the cheapest hybrid next to its similarly sized rivals.

Honda’s thinking is that by eroding the premium, more buyers will migrate from conventional family cars. Will they? Only if the Insight’s talents extend further than this value proposition.

Top 5 Family hatchbacks

  • Seventh generation Volkswagen Golf
    More than 29 million Golfs have been sold since 1974

    Volkswagen Golf

    1
  • The popular Ford Focus in 1.5 TDCi Zetec form
    The standout component of the Ford Focus has always been its handling

    Ford Focus

    2
  • Seat Leon
    Seat offers five engines for the Leon, ranging from a 104bhp 1.2 petrol to a 181bhp 2.0 diesel

    Seat Leon

    3
  • Mazda 3
    The SkyActiv platform used in the 3 features more high and ultra-high-strength steel, offering greater strength and less weight

    Mazda 3

    4
  • Peugeot 308
    The 308 marks the first time a carry-over name has been applied to an all-new Peugeot

    Peugeot 308

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    4 May 2016
    The new Edge SUV is looking to steal sales from BMW and Audi, but has it got enough of an edge to make that happen?
  • First Drive
    3 May 2016
    New entry-level 1.8 TFSI engine takes over from Audi's 2.0 TFSI as the cheapest way into a TT Roadster, but is it necessarily the best choice?
  • First Drive
    3 May 2016
    Audi's SQ7 is silly fast, and makes a silly noise, at a silly price – but contains tech that will prove incredibly influential
  • First Drive
    2 May 2016
    There's lots of work yet to be done, but the Aston Martin DB11's hardware has been signed-off. To experience it, we've driven a prototype
  • First Drive
    1 May 2016
    If you like Minis, going quickly and basking in the sun, then you're in luck; we've driven Mini's new John Cooper Works Convertible on foreign roads