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.