Honda Insight

THE drive to expand the hybrid power market is gearing up and Honda is at the forefront of technology with its Insight model, launched in its current form as an affordable petrol-electric.

It is extremely popular in its home country of Japan, attaining some enviable sales figures when compared to conventional cars. The company was the first to introduce hybrid power onto the UK roads with the first generation Insight which appeared at the start of 2000.

It was something of a shock at the time because its styling was far from conventional. With rear wheels covered by spats and a strange jelly-mould shape it was something that was more suited to Lady Penelope out of Thunderbirds than your average British driveway.

But the company soldiered on with hybrid technology and the current Insight is much more suited to everyday driving. Honda's aim was to make petrol-electric motoring available to more people by developing a more affordable family hybrid car.

And pricewise it does stack up well against conventionally powered competitors with the lead-in model starting at £16,338.

The Insight is a five-door hatchback featuring Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA ) petrol-electric hybrid system. It offers low-emission, fuel-efficient motoring in a practical, no-compromise package - at a lower price than any other hybrid on the market.

And this is the secret of Honda's strategy - by making it more affordable the company expects to make it more appealing to more people. Cleaner car technology is all very well but if it many cannot afford it then there is not much point

Honda set out to reduce the size, complexity and price of components and systems on a type of car that to some was offputting because of of its complicated nature. Massive leaps in technology may be praiseworthy, but if it all goes wrong out of warranty then someone has to pay.

In simplifying the system, Honda wanted those people who have never considered buying a hybrid car to try one for size.

So how does it measure up against a mainstream five-door hatch?

The answer is that as far as driving is concerned there is little difference except that the Insight has much lower emissions and the fuel economy you would associate with a modern diesel.

The one thing that you do notice is that the car is extremely silent. It can just ghost along, sometimes on electric power only and is very relaxing.

The only note of caution I would sound is that in some circumstances pedestrians cannot hear it approach and the driver has to be extra alert in case someone steps into the car's path.

But you cannot help being aware that with the Insight you are driving the future. It is hard to imagine, but the current car is the culmination of over 20 years of hybrid development and more than 35 years of lower impact petrol engine development and now the prices are coming down to what you would pay for a straight petrol or diesel.

The fuel economy (combined) is 64.2mpg with CO emissions as low as 101g/km on SE models. ES models achieve 61.4mpg combined and 105g/km respectively.

This car was fitted with a CVT transmission, an automatic system  in which you cannot feel the jolt of ratio changes and it was very smooth.

FAST FACTS

Honda Insight

Price: £17,668

Mechanical:88bhp1,339cc, 4cyl hybrid engine driving front wheels via automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 113mph

0-62mph: 12.5 seconds

Combined MPG: 61.4

Insurance Group: 6

C02 emissions: 105g/km

Bik rating:10%

Warranty: 3yrs/ 90,000 miles

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