Honda Insight 1.3 ES-T Hybrid - Communication

By Jeremy Laird


Review Price free/subscription

Given the increasingly piffling cost of Bluetooth kit, it ought to be standard fit on all but the most rudimentary econo-cars. Sadly, the car industry is currently addicted to ripping consumers off with overpriced options list items. If Bluetooth isn't standard on the base model, it rarely comes cheaply. It's therefore unsurprising if disappointing to find that Insight buyers have to pay thousands more than the Insight's £15,990 base price to secure an example with hands-free telephony support.

Anyway, if you do plump for the top end ES-T model, what exactly do you get in terms of Bluetooth telephony? The first thing you'll notice is the clunky set-up routine. For reasons that are far from clear, Bluetooth syncing is achieved via voice command only. The central touch-screen is not an option for setup. In practice, phone syncing is a pretty rare occurrence, but it's hard to imagine why Honda thought forcing people to battle with a slightly recalcitrant voice recognition system rather than at least offering the option to punch in the required data via the touch-screen was a good idea.

However, the voice control aside, the syncing process is actually pretty rapid and fault free. In fact, the Insight was the first car we've test to successfully not only sync with but also automatically pull a full list of contacts off our HTC Touch HD test handset. Windows Mobile phones tend to get the better of most systems. The syncing process with a Motorola mobile was similarly effective.

Once you're up and running, it all works pretty well. The voice recognition for number dialing is accurate enough and there's a programmable 50-entry list of voice-controlled contacts. That said, it's obviously not as sophisticated as systems that have a stab at automatically recognising imported contacts using a phonetic database.

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Tim Sutton

September 10, 2009, 5:32 am

Style and hype over substance, desired by people who think owning one shows them to be cool and modern.

Hybrid technology = Apple.


September 10, 2009, 10:30 am

The first car manufacturer to make a decent looking hybrid at a sensible price will clean up. This thing looks like an accident between an MPV and Halfords shop window. Same goes for the Prius, and as for the latest Lexus RX450h... pass me a bucket!

Hamish Campbell

September 10, 2009, 12:38 pm

I wish Hybrid tech does = apple.

Apple turned the mp3 market and then the smartphone market on its head and they are now probably the most talked about and exciting areas of consumer tech. If hybrid goes the same way and the consumer experience hits those levels of enjoyment then maybe we'll get some traction in moving away from fossil fuels.


September 10, 2009, 2:48 pm

I'm with needlegun on this one, why do they insist on making them ugly as possible. why not jam in all the kit into a regular civic and im sure it would sell alot more.


September 10, 2009, 3:42 pm

Yes, I think he means Hybrid technology = Apple MacBook Air... :)

J 2

September 10, 2009, 3:59 pm

Well, the reason for the awkward profile is aerodynamic efficiency. Whether the same level of aero slipperiness can be achieved with a more conventional profile, I don't know. But there is a good reason for the way the Insight looks. As it goes, I reckon Toyota has done a decent job making the new Prius look a lot more athletic and dynamic while retaining the slopping roofline.


September 10, 2009, 5:03 pm

@phat-ant: They do. It's possible to buy a Civic hybrid from your friendly Honda dealer, albeit one based on the US and Japanese market Civic saloon. The drivetrain is also a bit simplistic compared with the system employed by Toyota.


September 11, 2009, 10:55 am

This is not good enough!

Comparing it with other cars the Insight is still worse from an emissions point of view than some other non-hybrids (101g/km if I have the correct figures). Basically, it uses the wrong type of engine. The way to build a proper hybrid is to make an electric vehicle and supplement the battery with a small diesel-generator tuned to give max efficiency while charging.

PS: I've built pure electric EVs and got the equivalent of 40g/km when charged from mains electricity (using DEFRA CO2 electricity figures).


January 28, 2010, 6:51 pm

I don't understand why automakers insist in sky-pricing indispensable extras such as bluetooth and in-car navigation. They could attract a larger customer base by offering a well equipped car that responds to *today's* user's needs. When I find out that you have to pay 2,000 GBP (or 2,500 EUR) for essentials I just look elsewhere!

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