Tuesday 18th June 2013


HONDA INSIGHT: YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO

A Honda hybrid? Yes, but one with a little bit of NSX in it


This is probably what's classed as a 'controversial' choice. You Know You Want To has recently been reserved for V8s in custom bodies, be they MG RV8s or Maserati Quattroportes, rather than fuel-sipping hybrids. With 120,000 recorded miles.

Before the Prius hybrids were interesting
Before the Prius hybrids were interesting
But look at today's criteria for a environmentally-friendly car and the 13-year-old Insight ticks all the boxes. Stop-start? Check. Lightweight, aerodynamic body? Check. Low rolling-resistance tyres? They're 165/65 R14s. Regenerative braking? Got it.

Of course, extolling the green credentials of an Insight on PH is like having the benefits of teetotalism explained in the pub; that's not what anybody is here for. So, with an extra-thick Nomex suit on, here are the reasons why the Mk1 Insight is an acceptable PH hybrid for enthusiasts.

It was manufactured at Honda's low-volume Tochigi plant alongside the NSX and S2000, which is just cool. Moreover, it comes from a time when Honda was brave enough to pursue new technology and also appeal to the enthusiast, the latter of which is only currently being previewed with the next NSX. The MY2000 Honda model range would have included the Insight, Accord Type R, S2000, Integra Type R and NSX, plus there was a BTCC campaign. Admittedly, the Insight may not be performance icon of its stablemates, but it's a far more interesting range of cars than the current Insight fights for showroom space against. The Insight reminds us of Honda being desirable. Furthermore, it was the first mainstream petrol-electric hybrid sold in Europe, making it historically significant.

850kg WITH the hybrid gubbins - Honda at its best
850kg WITH the hybrid gubbins - Honda at its best
Second point; the Insight was, and remains, an engineering marvel. The issue with hybrids is always the weight of the batteries, right? Honda made the Insight's body from aluminium so its kerb weight was just 850kg. Less weight means less power is required and greater efficiency results.

And there's more. The 1.0-litre engine not only provides an interesting noise thanks to its three-cylinder configuration, it has an aluminium head and block as well as magnesium components to again reduce weight. It provides 67hp, whilst the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) provides another 13hp and 25lb ft of torque. The IMA draws power from a 144-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack and a brushless motor just 60mm thick. A smaller battery pack means it's less expensive to replace too; reconditioned units are also available, and Insights have been known to cover 250,000 miles on their original.

Powertrain specs mean we best talk performance. With a fully-charged battery, Car&Driver in the US timed an Insight from 0-60mph in 10.6 seconds, a second faster than Autocar's time for the second-gen Insight tested in 2009. Taking times with a 50 per cent depleted battery and no IMA assist at all, the Insight's average 0-60mph time was 12 seconds. No fireball, but that's still quicker than today's crop of city cars. Top speed, no doubt thanks to its 0.25Cd, is 112mph.

Suitably sci-fi dash completes the futurist  feel
Suitably sci-fi dash completes the futurist feel
If we said the Insight's combined mpg figure was 68.9mpg, would that be impressive? Same as a new Golf GTD in fact. Well, it shouldn't be too amazing, as that's the urban figure. The claimed combined fuel economy for an Insight is 83.1 mpg.

And don't think that's unachievable. Back in 2000, an Insight drove around Britain, a journey of 3,737 miles, whilst averaging 103mpg. Apparently the 'crowded south coast route to Exeter' dropped the early average to 88mpg. Shame.

On top of this, the Insight offers one of the funkiest interiors ever seen and shouldn't be too dreadful to drive either, notwithstanding the CVT gearbox. And this wedge of record-breaking, innovative, rare, intriguing Honda history can be bought for 2,750.


Honda Insight
Price:
2,750
Why you should: It's a far more interesting (and efficient) car to commute in than a Golf diesel.
Why you shouldn't: Could maintaining the batteries be a nightmare?

See the original advert here

Author: Matt Bird
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