Honda Insight 1.3 ES-T Hybrid Review - Infotainment Review

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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