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Car review: Honda Insight

Honda’s new hybrid car might be more environmentally friendly than many other motors, but is it any good? Motoring writer Tim Barnes-Clay finds out.

What exactly is the Honda Insight? After all it’s not the most common car on Britain’s roads.

Well, it’s another one of those environmentally friendly motors and it’s been around a few years now.

There’s always the question of who will buy this kind of car though.

After all, we’re not all vegetarian sandal-wearers who care passionately about climate change.

But, interestingly, Honda has its finger on the pulse here.

A more affordable family hybrid

The Japanese automaker’s aim in producing the model is to make petrol-electric technology available to more people by developing this more affordable family hybrid car.

The five-door hatchback comes with Honda’s IMA hybrid system and offers excellent value for money.

IMA stands for Integrated Motor Assist, which means that an electric motor sits alongside the petrol engine it supports and in front of the transmission.

Over the years the system has evolved and has become smaller, more lightweight and cheaper to produce.

And the latest version in the new Insight is the most advanced IMA technology introduced by Honda to date.

Uninspiring looks but a well-kitted out interior

The engine itself is new, but is based heavily on the 1.3-litre petrol unit from the Civic Hybrid.

While the car has decidedly uninspiring looks, the Insight has a generously kitted out interior.

The 1.3 i-VTEC IMA Hybrid CVT HS model I test drove costs £20,925 on the road.

It includes 16-inch alloy wheels, auto lights and wipers, cruise control, front fog lights, heated front seats, leather steering wheel and gear knob, paddle shift, privacy glass and a USB port.

Well-stocked cabin aside, you can tell Honda has concentrated on developing a car that delivers decent real world fuel efficiency when you get on the move.

Honda Insight delivers 65.7mpg

The figures speak for themselves: fuel economy (combined) is up to 65.7mpg, while CO2 emissions are only 99 g/km.

Behind the wheel, the electric motor and engine together produce performance ideal for urban environments.

Good throttle response and acceleration times rival many conventional 1.6-litre petrol cars with automatic gearboxes.

Don’t expect any thrills away from town though.

The Insight reaches 62mph from a standing start in a dawdling 12.5 seconds, and has a top speed of 113mph.

Key parts of the hybrid system

During driving, there are two main elements to keep you on your “green” toes.

These include an "Eco drive bar" indicator within the black and white Multi Info Display, and an ambient meter behind the digital speedometer display.

Both instruments are synchronised, to give real-time information on the consumption of fuel and provide guidance on how you should alter your driving style.

Honda’s been building production hybrids for over a decade.

In that time, the company’s learnt a lot about the making of electric motors and other key parts of the hybrid system.

Lower price point

This understanding has led to improved production techniques, which undoubtedly reduce production costs.

For that reason, the Insight’s lower price point means it should appear on the lists of more companies for user choosers and also qualify for the lowest Benefit In Kind (BIK) tax bracket.

For the companies themselves, not only will the balance sheets profit from all the savings that retail customers enjoy.

But by taking a fleet of Insights on board, they could also make a strong ecological statement about their business.

Honda Insight: Pros & cons

  • Green √
  • Cost-effective √
  • Good for business √
  • Interior kit √
  • Looks X

Honda Insight: Fast facts

  • Max speed: 113 mph
  • 0-62 mph: 12.5 secs
  • Combined mpg: 65.7
  • Engine: 1339cc 4 cylinder 8 valve petrol/electric
  • Max. power (bhp): 87 at 5800 rpm
  • Max. torque (lb/ft): 89 at 4500 rpm
  • CO2: 99 g/km
    Price: £20,925

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Tim Barnes-Clay

Leon Poultney

Tim is an experienced motoring writer with a background in radio and TV journalism. He puts his pedal to the metal each week with his must-read car reviews.

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