Honda Insight 1.3 IMA Hybrid14 | 08 | 2010Scotcars rating

    Will Honda's Insight turn your neighbours green with envy, or will they wonder why all the fuss?


    Don’t get me wrong, I want to help save the planet as much as anyone. What bothers me is that the Honda Insight isn’t the machine to let me do it. This super-eco hybrid’s whole purpose is to be low on carbon emissions and return great economy. Yet, in the week I had the test car with a combination of country driving and fighting for survival in the streets of Glasgow, I averaged just 48 mpg. My own regular transport – a four-year-old VW Passat estate with a 1.9 diesel engine – easily achieves 50+mpg, and with some light footwork often nudges 57mpg. CO2 on the Insight is low, but there are others available which are lower so the whole point becomes….well, a bit pointless.

    At the heart of the Insight is a 1.3-litre 8-valve VTEC petrol engine, supplemented by a 13bhp electric motor, which automatically clicks in instead of the gas guzzler when there’s less demand for power. The idea is great but the cost of this technology, including the battery packs, is considerable; so to keep the overall price down, it feels as if economies have been made elsewhere. Unlike every other Honda I’ve driven, the steel feels thin and weak, the fittings are only adequate and the overall experience is utilitarian, which is not what you’d expect from a car costing almost £19,000.

    This super-eco hybrid’s whole purpose is to be low on carbon emissions

    On the road

    It doesn’t get any better when you get on the road. There are plenty of dials and lights to tell you how economically you are driving but that’s about the most exciting thing about the car. Ahead of you at the top of the dashboard is a disco light effect which glows from green (efficient) to dark blue (bad); there’s an economy bar chart for your consumption and if you want to be really anorakish, there’s another display which shows where the power’s coming from – the petrol engine, the electric motor or whether the car’s momentum is charging the batteries.

    There’s even an Eco button – which of course is green with a wee tree on it which grows extra leaves the more efficiently you drive. These are the positives which should give you the environmental feel good feeling. Unfortunately, the performance is dull, dull, dull, not least because of the CVT automatic gearbox which is smooth but restricts the car’s potential get-up-and-go. On the positive side, all of this environmental effort means your annual road tax is only £20.

    Comfort & Safety

    It’s undoubtedly safe, as every modern car is, but comfort’s not the word which springs to mind. It’s OK in that everything works but there’s no sense of fun or excitement. Many of the instruments and dials appear to have been borrowed from others in the Honda range such as the Civic and the Jazz. If I’m going to save the planet, I want to have a good time doing it, not wearing the automotive equivalent of a hair shirt. It’s all very worthy and it’s good to see Honda giving Toyota’s Prius a bit of a challenge but I couldn’t help thinking that if you really did want to do your bit for the planet, surely you should do without the car altogether and get on your bike – or better still just walk.

    Should I buy one?

    If you are concerned about the environment and want to tell the world you’re doing your bit to save it, then the Insight may be for you.

    Alan Douglas

    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £18,890
    Engine / Power: 1298cc / 87bhp
    How fast?: 0-62mph 12.5secs Max 113mph
    How big/heavy?: H1425mm  W1695mm  L4396mm / 1240kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: Combined 61.4mpg / CO2 105g/km
    InsGP/Road tax: 6E / Band B, £20
    Alternatives: Toyota Prius; Lexus GS450h; Honda Civic hybrid

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