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Honda Insight 2009 road test report

2009

Honda is taking on the Toyota Prius with the latest version of the Insight, which is a huge advance on the original two-seater launched in 1999. The major selling point of the Insight is its hybrid powerplant, a petrol-electric unit that reduces CO2 emissions and provides a cleaner, greener way of motoring. And unlike the original two-seat Insight, the new version is very much a family car, with five seats and bootspace that is a match for the leading competitors in the segment. The Insight is also competitively priced, starting at £15,490, which undercuts the Prius by nearly £3,000.

Road Test Reports Says3 star rating
A front-facing image of the Honda Insight

Image number 2 of the Honda InsightImage number 3 of the Honda InsightImage number 4 of the Honda Insight

Performance Performance - 3 stars

The Insight comes powered by just one engine variant, a 1.3-litre IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) petrol-electric unit that generates 87bhp and 89lb-ft of torque from the standard internal combustion part, plus 14bhp and 58lb-ft from the electric motor. As these figures suggest, there’s not an awful lot of shove from the engine: 0-62mph comes up in 12.5 seconds and the top speed is 113mph, so you’re not exactly going to be leaving many cars in your wake at the lights. Around town, the engine just about works: however, on a dual carriageway or motorway, there’s not much fun to be had, as overtaking can be a painfully slow process. No, the only fun to be had in an Insight is trying to stay in the electric mode for as long as possible in urban situations, for which you’re rewarded with leaves on a tree in the instrument panel’s eco display.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 2 stars

Considering the Insight has been designed and built as a family car, and when compared with the rest of Honda’s model range, the ride is surprisingly poor. When faced with potholes and cracked road surfaces, the front suspension is crashy, which is communicated right through the seats to the passengers. The car responds to the challenge of speed humps in much the same way, the rear bucking about uncomfortably. The sooner Honda does something about the Insight’s ride the better, as it will make for a very unsettling driving experience for UK owners. The further bad news is that the handling isn’t a great deal better. The car does respond pretty sharply to small steering inputs, but the downside to this is that the steering itself is pretty numb, with next to no feedback, so you get no real idea of how much grip there is, especially in the corners and sharp bends.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 3 stars

Honda has a good reputation for the quality of its vehicles and the Insight, built at the company’s factory in Suzuka, Japan, should uphold these standards.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 4 stars

The Insight hasn’t yet been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, so we don’t know how well it will protect you in an accident. However, the latest Honda models have achieved five-star results in recent tests, so we don’t anticipate that the Insight will be that different. There’s all the usual safety kit fitted onboard, including six airbags (front, side and curtain ‘bags), anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) and emergency brake assist, side impact protection beams, front seat belt pre-tensioners, three-point seat belts for all five seats, active head restraints, Isofix mounting points and Honda’s Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), which is fitted as standard on all models. Security comes in the form of deadlocks, central locking, remote keyless entry, locking wheelnuts and a perimeter security alarm.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 3 stars

The Insight has a decent-sized cabin for what is, essentially, a small family car. There’s plenty of legroom in both the front and back, and the flat floor means that rear-seat passengers have lots of room for their feet. One downside is that the aerodynamic shape of the Insight – one of the major factors in the styling of the car’s exterior – means that headroom is a bit limited, especially in the back: anyone over six foot or so will find themselves banging their head against the roof. Bootspace is less than it could be, largely the result of the positioning of the fuel tank and the batteries for the electric motor. However, at 408 litres it’s still decent, beating competitors such as the Ford Focus (385) and Volkswagen Golf (350). If you want more, though, the rear seats do fold down to give a maximum of 584 litres.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 4 stars

The Insight will be cheap to run, but you’ll find that economy diesel versions of mainstream models such as the Golf (Bluemotion), Focus (Econetic) and Volvo C30 (1.6DRIVe) are a match. The CO2 emissions are, as you’d expect for a hybrid, very low: the base SE trim level emits 101g/km, while the ES and ES-T models (which come fitted with bigger wheels and various electronics as standard) emit 105g/km. All models therefore fall into road tax Band B, meaning owners pay just £35 per year. In terms of fuel economy, the SE version returns 64.2mpg, while ES and ES-T versions return 61.4mpg (around 50-55mpg in real-life driving). Although excellent for a petrol-powered vehicle, it’s still less than the 65.7mpg of the Focus Econetic, which might be worth considering if you’re a high-mileage driver. Insurance should also be pretty reasonable for the Insight, as it’s rated as Group 6.

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