In-depth reviews

Honda Insight (2009-2014) review

Has Honda’s Insight got what it takes to tackle the all-conquering Toyota Prius hybrid?

Overall Auto Express Rating

2.0 out of 5

  • Low emissions, quiet around town, good reliability
  • Noisy petrol engine, cheap interior plastics, firm ride

Launched back in 1999, the first-generation Honda Insight was one of the first hybrid cars to go on sale in the UK. The latest version aims to take Honda’s hybrid tech to a mainstream audience.

The original Honda Insight was launched as a two-door coupe and is now regarded as a modern classic thanks to its quirky looks and incredible fuel efficiency. It was never the most practical car though and the latest generation Honda Insight is totally different, aiming for a more mass market appeal. The Insight is now a five-door hatchback aimed at the Toyota Prius.

Despite being practical and reliable, the key selling point of the Honda Insight, is efficiency and Honda claims its 1.3-litre petrol/electric drivetrain will return a combined mpg of 67mpg with CO2 emissions hovering at the 97g/km mark.

While the Honda Insight can still boast green credentials, it doesn't feature in our best green cars. It's now outclassed by its arch rival, the Toyota Prius, as well as 'regular' diesel family cars like the Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion and Ford Focus ECOnetic – both of which match and exceed the Honda Insight in terms of figures.

The Honda Insight is also pretty expensive and while it undercuts the price of the Prius and comes with plenty of standard kit, it doesn't exactly represent good value. At least, prospective buyers may be swayed by the strong reputation Honda has for reliability.

Engines, performance and drive

The Honda Insight is powered by a petrol/electric hybrid drivetrain - a 1.3-litre petrol engine assisted by an electric motor. The petrol engine produces 87bhp and 121Nm of torque, plus the electric motor recharges the battery under braking and deceleration.

The performance of the Honda Insight is adequate, with Honda claiming a 0-62mph time of 12.5 seconds and a top speed of 113mph. In order to maximise economy, the Honda Insight also gets an Eco button, which limits the response of the engine. However, this just serves to make the Insight woefully slow.

Honda Insight

While earlier versions of the Honda Insight suffered from a hard ride, revisions in the past few years have improved things considerably, and the suspension now does a decent job of soaking up bumps and lumps in the road.

However, Honda hasn’t been able to address criticism of the CVT automatic gearbox that features on all Insight models. This gearbox helps the Honda Insight achieve the lowest possible fuel consumption, but does nothing for the driving experience, causing the engine to whine noisily when you put your foot down. What's more, wind and road noise is also excessive in the Insight at motorway speeds.

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

On lower spec HE and HE-T models, the Honda Insight averages 68.9mpg for combined economy, as well as 96g/km of CO2. On higher-end Honda Insight models, efficiency just isn’t quite so strong, with HS, HS-T and HX models claiming fuel consumption of 65.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km.

However, the Toyota Prius again trumps the Honda Insight thanks to a better fuel economy of 70.6mpg, and a CO2 output of 92g/km. The latest advanced diesels also better the Honda - for example, the Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion returning 88.3mpg, as well as 85g/km of CO2.

All Honda Insight models sit in either insurance group 15 or 16, and while service intervals stand at 12,500 miles, Honda offers free servicing packages to customers buying an Insight on finance.

Interior, design and technology

The coupe-shape of the old Honda Insight has been replaced by a Prius-esque silhouette on the newest version but the car still retains the old truncated rear in the name of aerodynamic efficiency. The Honda Insight also gets blue-tinted headlamps to underline its eco-credentials, as well as an attractive grille.

Honda gives the Insight a futuristic interior, and one of our favourite parts is the glowing speedometer, which turns green when you drive economically and dark blue when you don't. What's more, Honda has been generous with kit across the Insight range, with entry level HE and HE-T models getting 15-inch alloy wheels, climate control, all-round electric windows and MP3 compatibility as standard.

The mid-range HS and HS-T Honda Insight models get slightly more equipment with 16-inch alloys, automatic wipers and lights as standard, as well as rear parking sensors, front fog lights and a USB socket. The range topping HX cars get Bluetooth connectivity, as well as a sat-nav system with traffic updates and voice recognition.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

The Honda Insight is a more practical alternative to other eco-friendly options, such as the Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion and range-extending Vauxhall Ampera, thanks to its 408-litre boot, which extends to 1,017-litre with the rear seats folded. However, it still lags the roomy Toyota Prius in this area.

As a result of clever design, the battery pack in the Honda Insight doesn't encroach into the cabin space, and ensures that the car makes the most of its dimensions with maxium cabin space. The Honda Insight is also comfortable enough, and there's plenty of legroom in the front and rear. However, taller passengers in the back may find their head scraping the roof due to its coupe-like roofline.

The interior of the Honda Insight also features plenty of smart storage solutions, which include a large cubby below the stereo in which owners can store personal items.

Reliability and Safety

The Honda Insight is impressively safe, with Euro NCAP awarding it the maximum five-stars in its crash test ratings. In terms of scores per category, the Honda Insight scored an excellent 90 per cent for adult occupant protection and 86 per cent for its safety assist features.

All versions of the Honda Insight come fitted with ABS and ESP, as well as driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags. Furthermore, given Honda's reputation for reliability, customers can be assured that problems are likely to be few and far between, and the hybrid system was developed in the Civic Hybrid, so it comes tried and tested.

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