Since their introduction, we’ve become accustomed to hybrid cars – Lexus models aside – not riding that well. It’s disappointing to report that the Honda Insight continues this theme, being notably worse in back-to-back driving than even a previous-generation Toyota Prius, let alone a current model.
Both of the model's facelifts have seen improvements in ride and handling, so that the Insight is still jarring over most surfaces is something of a surprise. The Insight is a development of the platform that underpins the current Honda Jazz, including the same suspension modules, namely the basic and inexpensive layout of MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear.
But this isn’t unusual in this segment and other manufacturers manage to endow their cars with superior suspension control.
The problem isn’t so much the general softness of the ride but the fidget and crash that sometimes accompanies it. The Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, for example, are no firmer riding than the Honda, yet body movements are better controlled, combined with a suppleness that allows them to brush off minor surface imperfections and potholes without the shakes to which the Insight subjects its occupants.
It’s not quite as bad as before the 2010 changes, when the car could be described as uncomfortable over the worst surfaces. Given that the Insight runs on tall, 65-profile tyres, it’s even more surprising that it’s less comfortable than it ought to be. That said, Honda listened to the initial complaints and addressed the ride faults.
If there is a pay-off, it’s that the Insight turns out to be surprisingly agile for a car of this kind. It turns in crisply and has accurate steering (although light and devoid of feel), and although its overall grip levels are low, it feels nimble and, dare we say, even mildly responsive. As enthusiasts, we appreciate that, even if we’re not so sure the target audience will.