What's it like?
The Insight Hybrid consciously avoids polarising eco-car design cues and instead opts for sleek lines that are strongly reminiscent of the current Civic and Accord. When you compare the design with that of the no-compromise Clarity, the benefit is clear.
The theme continues inside, where there’s no Prius-style, space-age dash layout to immediately give the hybrid game away, just a discreet ‘EV mode’ button on the centre console – one of four available driving modes.
Otherwise the interior is spacious, comfortable and well appointed, especially in the range-topping Touring trim tested here. Honda’s comprehensive suite of driver-assistance systems is standard, including the LaneWatch blindspot cameras. That’s just as well because the regular door mirrors don’t have a wide enough range of adjustment.
The multi-mode drive system manages the transitions between the power sources very well, so much so that the combustion engine’s quietness at part throttle can fool you into thinking that you’re still running in EV mode. You do, however, really know about it when the motor is working hard, because the noise is loud and unpleasant.
The seemingly similar Normal and Eco drive modes are both fine around town but tend to run out of steam at motorway speeds, making Sport handy for a quick burst of acceleration if you pull out to overtake.
The Insight’s cabin is well isolated from the road surface, which keeps things nice and quiet both in EV mode around town and in the cruise. It rides comfortably, too, achieving a good compromise between body control that settles the car quickly after the humps and dips that are a feature of wide urban roads in North American cities, and a suppleness to suppress smaller inputs from potholes and manhole covers. Well-weighted steering (albeit without much feel) completes the refined, easy-to-drive picture.
Should I buy one?
Here in Canada, the Insight Hybrid is priced at C$33,771 (about £20,000) in Touring trim, which is C$4,400 (£2,600) more than a Civic Touring. We got 51mpg in a week of mostly urban driving, 6mpg below the official combined consumption figure. For comparison, the Civic officially makes 40mpg combined. But with Canadian petrol prices currently as low as 59p per litre, depending on where you live, it could be 124,000 miles before you make your money back…
It’s a familiar problem for electrified vehicles seeking to break through in North America and one that won’t be solved without higher fuel prices or legislative restrictions on combustion-engine vehicles. That said, the Insight Hybrid is a well-rounded machine whose desire to keep things as normal as possible will attract customers outside of the minority of buyers who place environmental credentials at the top of their list.