Auto review by Veeno Dewan

Two years after its introduction the Honda Insight hybrid hatchback sedan has some changes to it. But first a little background I remember driving the original Insight back in 2000 or was it 1999? Rather than the current hatchback configuration it is now the original Insight was a swoopy, radical-looking two seater coupe with its new and novel hybrid power plant. It was a fun, amazingly fuel efficient, but compromised car.

Fast forward to 2010 and the second generation Honda Insight was released as a more practical, four-door four- seater hatchback. It had a bit of a battle trying to compete with the Toyota Prius which although $4000 more expensive had the advantage of being a full hybrid as opposed to an Insights mild hybrid designation. The Insight’s IMA (integrated motor assist) technology aids the gas engine, but you cannot cruise along on electric mode only like a true hybrid.

For 2012 The Insight has some changes, of note is a price drop of around two grand to $21,990. Model wise, the LX model is now equipped with Bluetooth and electronic stability control. Meanwhile the front and rear fascia has been revised and the interior is also revamped with better quality materials. The previously cheap looking plastic has been replaced and looks more high end.

The Insight is still a mild hybrid, however, although more engineering in the form of new aerodynamics, energy efficient tires and new engine technology mean the 2012 Insight is even more fuel efficient with a fuel economy figure of .7 L/100 km city and 4.4 highway compared to 4.8 and 4.5. compared to the previous version.

The Insight features a generous front cabin with decent enough head, leg and shoulder room. As mentioned before the materials and plastics are improved with comfortable easy to enter seats. Honda’s two-tiered, asymmetrical design dash is a cool feature and is easy on the eye and ergonomically works very well with large, easy to read displays and controls. The digital speedo readout in the upper display glows either a soothing green, aqua, or dark blue, depending on your driving style. There are also lots of handy storage nooks and cubby holes- a strong point in the Insight.

There is also an adequate rear compartment with rear seats that fold flat, opening up a big cargo space and allowing for 450 litre of cargo with the seats up.

The Insight uses an 88-hp 1.3L four-cylinder engine in tandem, with a 13-hp electric motor/generator situated between the engine and transmission. Maximum output is 98 hp at 5,800 rpm and 123 lb-ft of torque from 1,000 to 1,500 rpm. The nickel-metal-hydride battery pack is located between the rear wheels out of mind.

Like most hybrids, the Insight’s brakes capture regenerative energy while braking and the Insight’s gas engine shuts down when you come to a stop, automatically starting up again when the brake pedal is released. The Insight however cannot drive in electric mode only for extended periods and will switch in and out of EV (Electric Vehicle) mode at very slow crawl speeds in traffic. Most true hybrids below a certain speed revert to electric power alone, but not the Insight.

The driver does however have some input; the ECO button to the left of the steering wheel reduces power by about four percent, reduces throttle sensitivity, and puts the power sapping HVAC in a more efficient mode for further fuel savings.

Most people who drive hybrid aim to save as much as possible on gas and to that end aids such as the MID (Multi-Information Display) system help by showing parameters such as a real-time ECO guide, current drive cycle’s economy compared to the previous three trips, average and real time fuel economy. A graphic display shows IMA power flow between engine, motor and battery and battery status. At the end of a drive when the ignition is turned off, your green score on how you have driven is displayed and you are awarded one to five leafy icons showing your “green score”.
Drive at you most fuel efficient and you are awarded coveted “Trophy icons.”

Not really a lot to complain about with the Honda Insight. It may not be a true hybrid but offers decent enough fuel economy you can’t ignore at a bargain price. As we know argument about the merits of the high cost of hybrid vehicles versus the time it takes to recoup savings is ongoing. However with the excellent price and value for money the Honda Insight delivers it is one hybrid car that wins that argument. Highly recommended.