Honda Insight

Hybrid proves a success, with real fuel-sipping ability

With narrow tyres, a slippery shape, efficient CVT gearbox and hybrid powerplant, the Insight should be perfect for this economy test. In fact, Honda expects it to return 64.2mpg on the combined cycle – a figure that’s only matched by the Hyundai i20.

There’s no doubt that the Honda looks strange. The high-set tail boosts practicality and helps the car’s aerodynamics, but combined with its narrow track, the Insight looks odd and hunch-backed.

Settle behind the wheel, and you’re greeted by a haphazard dashboard. Digital buttons and read-outs are scattered all over, and the layout takes time to get used to.

Quality also suffers when you compare it to other Hondas, and it’s not helped by the variety of plastics used throughout. It is pretty well equipped, though, boasting six airbags, climate control, an MP3 connection and even an ECON button to help boost economy.

The central rev counter can be configured to show how much battery or petrol power is being used, while the high-level digital speedometer makes it easy to keep a check on your speed. However, some of our testers found that it was obscured by the wheel rim once they had adjusted it to their perfect driving position.

With ECON mode activated, the background for the speedo shines green when you drive economically and blue when you don’t, so it’s easy to keep track of your efficiency at the wheel.

At the back there’s a 408-litre boot, and thanks to comfortable seats, the Insight is a reasonably pleasant place to while away the miles.

The petrol-electric drivetrain ensures the Honda is the quickest off the line and through the gears, although the CVT transmission holds on to revs, resulting in an annoying drone at motorway speeds.

A lack of torque only serves to emphasise this, as you need to accelerate harder and longer than in any other car here to keep up – and the lack of sound deadening amplifies the noise.

Ride comfort is also harsh in this company, and the Insight’s suspension picks up the smallest bumps. In tighter bends, it struggles to control excessive body roll.

The reward for putting up with its compromised set-up arrives at the pumps, as the Insight surprised everyone by returning 65.8mpg. Only the lightweight Peugeot 107 beat it, and when you consider that the Honda is larger, more practical and better equipped, this is no mean feat.

Achieving this figure did require lots of concentration and careful driving to make the most of the Insight’s electrical assistance – but the rewards are clear to see.


Chart position: 2

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