Honda Insight 1.3 ES-T Hybrid - Entertainment

By Jeremy Laird


Review Price free/subscription

Another reasonably successful aspect of the Insight's infotainment platform is media playback. Courtesy of a USB socket in the central armrest, support for the Apple iPod / iPhone along with generic mass storage devices is provided, the latter taking in MP3 and WMA file formats. In both cases, the system works pretty well, detecting newly connected devices without a fuss and delivering fairly intuitive access to both overall libraries, and in the case of the iPod, playlists.

Incidentally, reports suggest the Insight also supports some though not all iPhone-based Internet radio services over USB, though this isn't a feature we tested. For sure, Spotify in your Insight could be an intriguing solution.

Of course, what the Insight does lack is local storage of any kind. Exactly how much of a shortcoming that is will depend on your personal preferences. In the long run, however, local storage of music files is arguably part of a dying usage model. Being able to plug in a personal digital device or sync wirelessly to some kind of cloud-based media repository is where it's at.

For the record, the Honda has also provided a fall back in the form of a 3.5mm aux-in socket should your portable media device prove incompatible with the USB port. As for the system's optical drive, a few years ago it might have seemed disappointing to find that it only supports redbook audio CDs. But flash memory devices are now so cheap and convenient, the home-burned CD as storage device is almost history.

Given the absence of digital radio tuning or video playback of any kind, the final part of the entertainment package is a conventional analogue radio. Unfortunately, it's easily the weakest part. The problem involves the radio's inability to automatically scan the air waves and present the user with a list of currently available stations. Sure, you can execute a scan at your leisure, but it's so much more seamless and user friendly if the system is constantly updating the station list according to what's actually available.

It's also does a very poor job of tuning into the strongest available signal for those stations that operate on multiple frequencies. Moreover, it's just plain fiddly to use and reflects the fact that the infotainment system's overall feel is overly complex and clunky where it should be clear and simple. Put another way, the Insight's infotainment system is much more Sony SonicStage than it is Apple iTunes and all the worse for it.

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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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