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Week at the wheel: Honda Insight. Image by Dave Jenkins.

Week at the wheel: Honda Insight
Increasing pressure from legislation and taxation is making hybrids more relevant. We spend time with Honda's Insight.

   



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| Week at the wheel | Honda Insight |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

Hybrids appear to be adopting a common look, with the optimum aerodynamic performance dictating the form as much as a stylist's whim. Honda's take is certainly more reminiscent of the Toyota Prius than we might have expected. The new Insight is larger than the original and is a more viable family car. Anyone familiar with the Honda Civic will find much they recognise in the cabin of the Insight, and it's none the worse for it. The myriad of complex functions and displays are all conveyed to the driver with the minimum of fuss and maximum of clarity - many of them accessed easily via the multi functional steering wheel.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

The drivetrain is the very heart of the Insight's existence, packed as it is with technology and economy boosting features. The combination of a small and efficient petrol engine with electric motors is a tried and tested formula and has improved as it has evolved to drive further improvements in fuel efficiency and the subsequent benefits in emissions.

The Insight has a number of features aimed at making the driver more conscious of their actions. A light on the dashboard changes colour depending on your driving style - in terms of both accelerating and breaking. These combine with a number of visual indicators that let you know whether you're adding energy to the battery or drawing it away, and how much demand you're placing on the drivetrain as a whole. These are then summated and fed back by another display mode that lets you know how well you're doing overall. It makes it all a bit of a game and draws you in to playing along.

Matching quoted figures always proves tricky - certainly the figures achieved on the combined cycle aren't easy to come by in any car and, even driving in the right spirit, we couldn't eke out an average over 50mpg in day-to-day use of the Insight. While that's still an impressive figure, it could be replicated by a small diesel engine without such compromises in driving style. From a technology perspective the powertrain scores a comfortable maximum, but there is room for improvement in terms of its day to day appeal - specifically in the areas of performance and refinement.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

This is perhaps where the Insight lags non-hybrid rivals most noticeably. Minimised rolling resistance means mechanical grip isn't as generous as conventionally powered family hatches, but that's to be expected given the Insight's remit. However, the helm is accurate and the handling is safe and predictable and more than up to the job of maintaining momentum through corners, in the interests of improving economy, obviously...

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

Economy aside, the real value of the Insight is relatively well hidden in terms of taxation. A UK road fund license of 15 per annum is one thing. The ability to avoid the London Congestion charge is all the more important and beneficial to certain drivers; expect to see a lot of hybrids in and around the capital and any other city that imposes such draconian measures. As an overall package, the Insight is competitively priced, well equipped and should enjoy good residuals.

Overall: star star star star star

Hybrids continue to hint at the future of motoring. They bring with them a number of unique features that conventional cars cannot match - particularly given legislative trends of late. The Honda Insight represents one of the more viable eco-biased family cars. There's room for improvement of course - driving it requires compromises that other cars don't for instance - though this is a conscious decision for the buyer, particularly as far as performance and economy are both concerned, but it's safe to assume that both will come in time.

Dave Jenkins - 24 Sep 2009



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2009 Honda Insight specifications:
Technical specifications for 2009 Honda Insight

2009 Honda Insight. Image by Dave Jenkins.2009 Honda Insight. Image by Dave Jenkins.2009 Honda Insight. Image by Dave Jenkins.2009 Honda Insight. Image by Dave Jenkins.2009 Honda Insight. Image by Dave Jenkins.

2009 Honda Insight. Image by Dave Jenkins.2009 Honda Insight. Image by Dave Jenkins.2009 Honda Insight. Image by Dave Jenkins.2009 Honda Insight. Image by Dan Pullen.2009 Honda Insight. Image by Dan Pullen.



2009 Honda Insight. Image by Dave Jenkins.
 

2009 Honda Insight. Image by Dave Jenkins.
 

2009 Honda Insight. Image by Dave Jenkins.
 

2009 Honda Insight. Image by Dave Jenkins.
 

2009 Honda Insight. Image by Dave Jenkins.
 






 

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