From £19,765
Reduction in CO2 gives the tax-saving status Honda’s Insight always should have had, but the competition has moved on and the price has crept up.

Our Verdict

Honda Insight

The Honda Insight is more affordable, but no better than other hybrids such as the Toyota Prius

  • First Drive

    Honda Insight 1.3 IMA HS

    Reduction in CO2 gives the tax-saving status Honda’s Insight always should have had, but the competition has moved on and the price has crept up.
  • First Drive

    Honda Insight 1.3

    Upgrades make the Insight easier to recommend than before; good value, too
24 May 2012

What is it?

The 2009 Mk2 Honda Insight was a good idea imperfectly executed. Yes, it was the world’s cheapest hybrid at launch, undercutting the world’s best-selling hybrid Toyota Prius by several thousand pounds...but it showed. Honda is a company famous for bringing engineering brilliance to the masses. This could have been a landmark. It wasn’t. 

Since launch, Honda’s been catching up. This 2012 model is the second revision for the Insight, bringing mild changes to suspension and interior and, most significantly, rectifying another glaring oversight: CO2 emissions now dip below 100g/km, so the Insight at last qualifies for free road fund licence.

What's it like?

It’s hard to tell new from old. At the front, the odd blue-tint headlights are joined by a blue-tint grille, with LED running lights adding to the fresh look. The rear has a thinner crossbar to the split-level tailgate spoiler, plus a smaller rear wiper motor, both aimed at improving rear visibility. The headlights and indicators of following cars at night are still blocked, though. 

It keeps the same 1.3-litre engine with 13hp electric motor directly connected between it and the CVT gearbox. The latter is inevitably woeful, not helped by the whining engine’s screech at high revs. The IMA mild hybrid system doesn’t allow full electric-only running but does supply a useful low-speed torque boost, helping it feel quite sprightly in town. In eco mode, it turns the engine off as you roll to a halt and the motorless restart is satisfyingly instant.   

Despite further revisions to the suspension, the Insight still rides stiffly and can wander at speed. It’s better damped in town though, and the taut suspension does make it quite fun, despite the steering itself being over assisted. A neatly dished Civic-style wheel is also good to grip.

The roomy interior remains plasticky but it’s solid and beautifully built, with better perceived quality than before. Alas, seats are too flat, and it’s noisy at speed. It feels like a supermini-derived car rather than a more grown up family hatchback-sector model.

Should I buy one?

Honda hybrid sales are making progress: earlier this year they hit the 800,000 mark. A quarter were sold last year alone. But Toyota is way ahead with more than 3 million sold – and, with this summer’s new Yaris Hybrid set to cost from under £15,000, it remains the eco thorn in Honda’s side. The Insight is better, but still not good enough.

Richard Aucock

Honda Insight 1.3 IMA HS

Price: £20,335; 0-62mph: 12.5sec; Top speed: 113mph; Economy: 65.7mpg; CO2: 99g/km; Kerb weight: 1240kg; Engine: 4cyls 1339cc, petrol, plus electric motor; Power: 87bhp at 5800rpm (petrol) plus 13bhp (electric); Torque: 89lb ft at 4500rpm (petrol) plus 53lb ft (electric); Gearbox: CVT

 

Join the debate

Comments
5

24 May 2012

It's about flipping time! But like the review said, the competition has moved on now anyway!

Why can't this thing be as good as the original Insight? That was cooler, much more efficient and yet it was put on sale over a decade ago.

24 May 2012

Problem with the original Insight was that it cost as much as a Legend to build (low volume, all aluminium construction, unique powertrain etc). And people were not prepared to pay £17k (here in the UK at least) for what was seen as a rather ugly, non sporting two-seater.  But it was still a great car with terrific fuel economy. 

Agreed though that the current Insight shows too little improvement and too late. Let's hope that the next one is better because I am a fan of Honda's simple, relatively light and effective "mild hybrid" system.

24 May 2012

I love fast cars, but after a string of RenaultSports and Cooper S's, I've changed employment and now travel 3,000 miles a month.  I whittled my driving choice down to a BMW123d or a Honda CRZ.  Now I know the review is all about the Insight, but the CRZ replaced the original Insight in my eyes, whilst also replacing one of my favourtie 80s cars the CRX.

I was definitely buying a 123d coupe, but after test driving a three month old fully loaded CRZ and having a lot of slightly slower but just as much (if not more accessible) fun, I opted for the CRZ.  I have to say it is to date the best car I have owned.  It has no German niggles (and all the Mini's and BMW's I've had, have had), no French Electrical problems, tyres are cheap, it's really comfy (accepted that it's completely useless at coping with more than two people) and it's fast enough to lose your licence.  It also corners, pretty woman style, like it's on rails (whilst having a slightly cheeky back end if you really push).  It's a car that is way more than the sum of it's parts.

The new Insight just however doesn't do it.  I do think the engine and IMA system from the CRZ would be a better match - most people will pay £20 RFT and not blink an eye.  I get genuine economy of 44mpg when normally driving and 52mpg when keeping it at 70 and driving carefully in town.

The Insight is a weak link in Honda's armoury, it looks a little bland, especially compared with the Civic and as the correspondent suggests, it just doesn't quite do the business inside.  

Padding and Purring around the Globe!

25 May 2012

Why is every single picture taken from Honda's PR folder? You could have at least take your own pictures if you drove the car...

6 June 2012

Lotus F1 - most car mags use the official press shots for the brief First Drive articles, (as they only get about half a day with the car at launch days)  to get the review to the mag / website as quickly as possible, then spend some proper time with the car taking photos over a few days once they run a full UK road test.

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