Let’s play an automotive word association game. If I say ‘EV’ what car comes to mind? You probably said Tesla or Leaf. Alright next one, what if I said ‘sports car’? A Porsche 911 perhaps, Mazda MX-5? Easy enough. Right, last one. What about ‘hybrid’? I’m sure 9/10 of you would’ve said Prius and for good reason. Ever since the Prius debuted in 1997 it changed the world.
It was the first mass-produced hybrid and despite the Honda Insight beating it to the North American market by a few months, the Prius became synonymous with hybrid vehicles leaving the Insight in its shadows. The Honda Insight has gone through a couple of transformations since its original three-door body style.
The second-generation was a Prius-esque design chasing the runaway success of Toyota’s pride and joy. After a five-year hiatus from the market, the third-generation appeared in 2019 with a more original and conventional design. Taking inspiration from contemporary Civic and Accord sedans, the third-generation Insight took a more premium approach than the equivalent Prius which had polarised many with its quirky looks.
After spending a week with the new Honda Insight (that’s not available in New Zealand yet) here are five things I like and didn’t like.
It’s economical alright
I mean, that is the point of this car. Luckily it lives up to the economical expectations with its 37L fuel tank stretching out to around 630km. With economy like gone are the days of having to spend your weekends at petrol stations.
Better looking than Prius
The more conventional design (it literally looks like a Civic sedan) compared to the polarising design of the Prius won me over. It’s a hybrid without shouting about it. Certainly, I can see some buyers jumping ship to the Insight.
Using the same platform as the new Civic, which is as good of a base as any, the Insight has a well-balanced chassis. It sits low and has that typical Honda sporty feel about it. Take it around some twists and turns and it’ll respond with a balance that the Prius could only dream of having.
Interior and driving position
The driving position of the Insight is surprisingly sporty. You sit low in the cabin as if it were a sporty cockpit. There’s a lot of alcantara trim around which adds to the sporty feel. The design of the centre console is reminiscent of Honda’s flagship hybrid – the NSX. That’s as high praise as I could give.
Smooth hybrid transition
Like most modern hybrids, the Insight can switch between running on its electric motors alone or a combination of electric and petrol power. However, unlike most hybrids the transition is seamless. In normal everyday driving no noticeable jerk or interruption as the petrol engine kicks in. It’s only when you ask a lot of the right pedal does the system show some lag.
Nothing out of the ordinary here, this happens to every car with a CVT. Push the car hard and after a while the CVT starts producing a smell that’s a bit like burning plastic. It’s not the most reassuring smell in the world.
It’s an eco-hybrid with a CVT yet it has paddle shifters. I never used them when I had the Insight and I can’t imagine why anyone would use them.
Rear door hard to get in and out
The shape of the sloping roof at the rear for aerodynamic/design means getting in and out of the back of the Insight is tricky. That’s a down point of the sleek design compared to the chunkier body of the Prius which doesn’t have the same issue. Still, I’d rather get in and out of an Insight than a Prius.
Not big EV range or plug in
Where the Insight falls behind is its limited range in pure electric mode. There’s also no plug-in variant for extended electric range. In fact, I don’t think Honda offer a plug-in hybrid model at all. It’s interesting to observe Honda today as the world is electrifying and they’re readying their first full EV in the shape of the Honda e. If the Insight is anything to go by it’ll be a smooth and solid operator.
Towel rack rear spoiler
I get why it’s there but it looks like a towel rack. It does make a good handle to open and close the bootlid though.