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Honda Insight 1.3 ES-T Hybrid - Features & Quality

By Jeremy Laird


Review Price free/subscription

Step inside Honda's cut-price Prius rival and you'll discover a cabin suitably infused with a techno vibe. There's no mistaking you're on board something a little different thanks to the bold layout of the dash and the in-your-face instruments.

Highlights include a digital speedo that glows green when you are driving with optimal efficiency and ever darker blue if you give in to impatience and wring the little 1.3-litre motor out. For some, the overall aesthetic will be a little too reminiscent of a Japanese budget Hi-Fi systems jostling for attention on a superstore shelf. Whatever you think about it, subtle it ain't.

Nor does it give a particularly convincing impression of quality. For the most part, the cabin plastics are joyless, hard and unyielding to the touch. To achieve the competitive pricing, something surely had to give. Soft touch plastics were among the most obvious casualties.

Still, what the Insight isn't short on is features. There's a full function infotainment and navigation system, the details of which we'll come to shortly, a multi-function steering wheel incorporating cruise control, a CVT gearbox completely with the increasingly obligatory flappy-paddle-operated manual mode, all manner of stability control systems including electronic brake force distribution and of course that petrol-electric drivetrain. On paper, it's a lot of car and technology for the money.

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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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