| Week at the Wheel | Honda Insight |
Model tested: Honda Insight 1.3 IMA EX
Engine: 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol with electric motor
Transmission: CVT, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
Rivals: Toyota Prius
, Lexus CT 200h
, Nissan LEAF
Combined economy: 61.4mpg
Top speed: 12.5 seconds
Power: 87bhp at 5,800rpm
Torque: 89lb.ft at 4,500rpm
Inside & Out:
The Insight's profile closely resembles that of the Toyota Prius but that's not so much a case of copycatting, as it is creating the most aerodynamically efficient exterior there is, which means a sloping roofline and brick-like rear end. It's not beautiful, but it is functional.
Inside, the Honda trails behind rivals with the quality of its dash, which consists of old-fashioned, scratchy plastics. The dials and neon lights are quite space-aged and the low-slung driving position is pleasant enough, but it's not enough to detract from the low-grade materials.
Ride & Handling:
Ride and refinement are far from the Insight's strong points. Loud thuds can be heard every time you travel over a less than smooth surface, and the vibrations are quite noticeable. A roar from the tyres and the racket of the engine are always obvious, too.
The steering is reasonably accurate but as far as feedback is concerned, there isn't any. Pile into a corner and the communication from the chassis and suspension just isn't enough, and it's very hard to tell what's going on at tarmac level. At low speed, it's fine - there's no engine noise and the light steering makes manoeuvres easy. Out of town stuff isn't the Insight's thing, though.
Engine & Transmission:
Honda reckons the Insight produces 97bhp when the electric motor and the four-cylinder engine are working in tandem. It's good for 0-62mph in 12.5 seconds and 113mph flat out, which is fine for the market it's aimed at. It's the same story for the engine as it is for the handling - no problem at all at low speed but not great further up.
Quiet, smooth and easygoing when it's riding on the electric motor or just dipping in to petrol power, the Insight lives for town driving. It's not much cop on A-roads, though, and struggles desperately on motorways due to a lack of power and refinement. The CVT transmission isn't the smoothest when it's being worked, either.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money:
Emissions of 105g/km and a claimed 61.4mpg certainly work in the Honda's favour and our top-spec EX model came with a lot of kit for just over £20,000, so it's definitely cheap and cheerful enough to shame the altogether more expensive Prius.
figure is no longer enough to get the Insight off the hook in the Congestion Charge stakes, though, nor does it qualify for free road tax. Actually reaching the fuel economy figure is very difficult if the electric motor isn't involved to a significant degree, too.