Honda Insight 1.3 ES-T Hybrid - Infotainment

By Jeremy Laird


Review Price free/subscription

Thanks to its competitive pricing and hybrid gubbins alone, the Insight makes for an intriguing alternative to the usual hatchback suspects. If Honda has also given it a top notch infotainment system, this car will surely be a huge hit with the hip Generation X brigade.

At first glance, Honda appears to have done just that. Admittedly, the full infotainment rig as found in our test car only comes with the top spec ES-T model which is yours for £18,890, rather more than the £15,990 of the basic Insight. But then drawing customers into firing range with an attractive base price and then hosing out their wallets with pricey trim packages and options is not a tactic unique to Honda. It's a routine motor industry ruse.

In any case, what you get is a fully integrated infotainment solution complete with navigation, hands-free telephony and an audio system that supports both the all-important Apple iPod and generic USB devices. The control interface takes the form of a central touch-screen LCD panel along with voice control for certain elements of the system.

The core hardware actually slots into a standard double-DIN aperture in the centre of the dash. It's not clear whether upgrades are possible. However, given the extent to which the system integrates with the broader functionality of the car, replacing it with an aftermarket double-DIN alternative would probably be ill advised.

More to the point, replacing it would not solve its greatest ergonomic weakness. Fitted flat and flush in the centre of the dash, the view from the driver's seat is at a pretty oblique angle. That makes for irritating and distracting reflections, so you often find yourself leaning over slightly for a better view. That's a pretty clear usability fail in our book.

While we're talking about the system as a whole, it's also worth noting that the voice recognition system is pretty awful. Apart from making a reasonable fist of saving you from manually drilling in phone numbers via the touch-screen, it's inaccurate to the point of near futility. Forget navigating your way around the interface via voice control, it's simply not up to the job.

Finally, further demerits are due for the slightly shoddy overall execution of the infotainment user interface. There's no overarching logic or hierarchy to the menu system, just a rather messy and confusing jumble of shortcut keys the function of which isn't always clear. The main "Menu" button, for instance, only gives access to the options menu for the sat-nav system. Likewise, the phone functionality is buried inexplicably in the "Info" section.

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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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