Honda Insight review
The petrol-electric Honda Insight offers low emissions and strong reliability to rival the Toyota Prius
The original Honda Insight launched in the UK in 1999 and is now something of a modern classic, thanks to its quirky looks and incredible fuel efficiency. While the original model was a two-door coupe, the current Insight is a completely different car. It's now a five-door hatchback, which is spacious and practical, but isn't as fuel efficient or clean. Honda has scarified the headline figures in order to make the Insight more affordable, but it's now overshadowed by the Toyota Prius and even the VW Golf BlueMotion is more fuel efficient. All cars come with a decent haul of kit, a five-star safety rating and the piece of mind provided by Honda's strong reputation for reliability.
Our choice: Honda Insight 1.3 IMA HS
The Honda Insight is a bit smaller than its rival the Toyota Prius, but they do share a very similar coupe-like silhouette. There are blue-tinted headlamps, a smart grille and an odd-shaped rear, which is designed in the pursuit of aerodynamics. The interior is futuristic, with highlights including a glowing speedometer, which turns green when you drive economically and then dark blue when you don't. Entry-level cars come fitted with 15-inch alloy wheels, climate control, all-round electric windows and MP3 compatibility. Mid-spec cars get 16-inch alloys, automatic wipers and lights, rear parking sensors, front fog lights and a USB socket. Range-topping HX cars get Bluetooth and a sat-nav system with traffic updates and vice recognition.
All Insights are powered by a 1.3-litre petrol engine, producing 87bhp and 121 Nm of torque, and an electric motor. This motor acts like a generator to recharge the battery when you're braking or decelerating. It's good for a 0-62mph time of 12.5 seconds and a top speed of 113mph. There'ss an Econ button, which limits the response of the engine to maximise economy, but it just serves to make the Insight painfully slow. The suspension does a good job of soaking up bumps and lumps and the standard-fit CVT automatic gearbox is good for economy, but it does cause the engine to whine noisily when you put your foot down. Wind and road noise is also quite load at motorway speeds.
The Insight has five star Euro NCAP crash test rating, with an impressive 90 per cent for adult occupant protection and 86 per cent in the safety assist category. It comes fitted as standard with ABS, ESP and driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags. Honda has a very strong reputation for reliability, and it finished sixth out of 30 in the 2012 Driver Power reliability survey. The hybrid system was developed in the Civic Hybrid so is tried and tested.
The Insight has a 408-litre boot, which expands to 1,017 litres with the rear seats folded. This is more than the Vauxhall Ampera and VW Golf, but just less than the Toyota Prius. Unlike with most hybrids, the battery pack doesn't encroach into the cabin space. The seats are comfortable enough and there's plenty of legroom front and back. That said, taller rear passengers may find their head scraping the roof lining due to the coupe-like roofline. There is plenty of neat storage, though, including one below the stereo for your your MP3 player.
The Honda Insight is capable of average fuel economy of 68.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 96g/km. Top-spec cars manage 61.4mpg and 105g/km. This is enough for free or low cost road tax, but can't compete with the Toyota Prius, which returns 74.2mpg and 86g/km of CO2. Even the VW Golf BlueMotion is good for 74.0mpg and emits 99g/km of CO2. Free servicing deals are available if you take out finance, which includes a three-year, 37,000 mile scheme.