TR's remit for car tests is necessarily pretty narrow. Infotainment is our main concern. However, given that the Insight trades extensively on its high-efficiency credentials, there would be a very large elephant left pacing the room if we did not at least touch upon our test car's fuel economy.
During our time with the Insight we did our best to minimise throttle and brake inputs and therefore fuel consumption. Over the better part of a week of extremely careful A-road driving we achieved 52mpg. A solid result but hardly spectacular given the sheer weight of supposedly fuel-saving technology the Insight packs including an electric motor, brake energy regeneration and a continuously-variable gearbox.
We also found the large green "ECON" button on the dash had little effect on either the subjective driving or the reported fuel economy. That despite the fact that Honda claims it, "optimises engine management, transmission and climate control system settings for maximum fuel economy and also engages the auto-idle function sooner and increases battery charging during regenerative braking." ECON on or off, the Insight is a relatively glacial performer.
Without question, the Insight is an interesting package and at a starting price under £16,000 looks like conspicuously good value next to the conceptually extremely similar Toyota Prius. It also makes for an intriguing alternative to a conventional five-door hatchback, even if the steeply sloping rear roof line does somewhat compromise both practicality and rearward visibility.
As for the Insight's in-car technology, once you get past the funky instrument lighting and digital readouts, you're left with a decent but hardly remarkable infotainment solution that does the basics but with little flair or innovation. The sat-nav deserves plaudits for its clear and accurate guidance as well as support for full seven-digit postcode. In terms of support for iPods and USB storage devices, the Insight also has most of the bases covered.
It's a bit of a shame, therefore, that buyers are forced to stretch to £18,890 to secure an Insight model with all the right goodies in terms of in-car kit, namely satellite navigation, Bluetooth telephony and a USB port. Because at nearly £20,000 the Insight finds itself in more rarefied territory. And that's when the low rent interior plastics and weedy performance stop looking like quirks and start feeling like significant shortcomings.