Honda Insight 1.3 ES-T Hybrid - Conclusion

By Jeremy Laird



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.

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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