There are niggles behind wheel, but hybrid still adds up.
Low emissions. Respectable fuel economy. Exemption from the Congestion Charge. We all know by now where a hybrid is expected to deliver, and Honda’s Insight manages to tick these boxes in a reasonably affordable package.
And its green message is getting through if the reaction from friends and colleagues is anything to go by. Because the question I’m increasingly being asked is not: “What are the benefits?” – the Insight’s wallet-friendly credentials would appear to be a given. Instead, they’re more interested in how the hi-tech Honda performs on the road. With eco-badged versions of the Ford Focus and VW Golf now a common sight in the UK, can the Insight hope to match them in terms of power, refinement and even fun?
In a nutshell, no. Not even the car’s biggest fan could claim that it offers the sort of experience behind the wheel which would tempt drivers who demand real involvement.
A string of niggles removes any kind of feelgood factor: engine noise, poor body control and light steering are among the main culprits. The chief sinner, though, is the ride, which at times makes you feel like you’re negotiating the crater-filled surface of the moon on a space hopper. It’s truly uncomfortable.
But here’s the thing: I’ve just become a dad, and I don’t need a car that goes round corners like a Porsche Cayman and accelerates like a Ford Focus RS. My priorities at the moment are keeping bills down, safety and practicality. So although these aspects of the Insight may not be what people want to hear about, they mean this functional but hard to love car is actually doing a pretty sterling job for me.
Cost-wise, I’d be shelling out £40 a week for the Congestion Charge to take the Golf or Focus into Auto Express’s central London office. That’s £160 a month! Just think how many nappies that buys. In terms of safety, the Insight was awarded a full five stars by crash test body Euro NCAP. This gives peace of mind when you’re ferrying a newborn about. And, as I’ve found out, babies require a lot of kit – no problem for the spacious Honda.
I never thought I’d see the day when performance on the road took a back seat in my choice of car, but it’s arrived courtesy of a wailing three-week-old. So for the time being at least, the Insight’s driving experience is not a prime concern – and I’ll happily tell my friends that!
I agree with Graham. The Insight will never be the most exciting car to drive. But it impresses elsewhere; the swoopy styling and blue paintjob give it an appealing look. What a pity this smart design isn’t matched by the bland, cheap-feeling cabin.