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

  • Volkswagen Golf

    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 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

    Peugeot 308

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Honda range

Driven this week

  • Lamborghini Aventador S
    First Drive
    21 January 2017
    Is an upgrade to 730bhp and the addition of four-wheel steering enough to realise the Aventador's potential?
  • Ford Focus RS Mountune FPM375
    First Drive
    20 January 2017
    Does an official Mountune upgrade of 25bhp and 30lb ft, improve the already rampant and rather magnificent Ford Focus RS?
  • Audi S5 Sportback
    First Drive
    19 January 2017
    The Audi S5 Sportback is more bruising GT than practical sports car, but it makes sense for those wanting a fast executive saloon in coupé get-up
  • First Drive
    18 January 2017
    Despite receiving a cosmetic and mechanical refresh, Lexus's compact executive saloon still fails to provide much driving involvement
  • 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 5h review
    First Drive
    18 January 2017
    Big-selling plug-in SUV gets a light refresh in the face of new challengers to offer decent economy but only average driving dynamics