Honda Insight 1.3

IMA EX

Honda Insight, action

HONDA has put all its experience of hybrid technology to good effect in the new Insight.

The Japanese car maker was one of the pioneers of petrol-electric powertrains and bowing to that innovation it has resurrected the Insight name given to the original hybrid in its newest family model.

Over the years it has introduced a Civic hybrid and currently sells the CR-Z sports coupe along with the new Insight.

The Insight is pitched into the ultra competitive five-door family sector and provides seating for five with a good sized boot but a comparatively narrow five-model range priced from £16,675 to £20,645.

The common-to-all powertrain is managed by a very sophisticated computer, although it can be over-ridden by the driver if desired.

The technology determines when the batteries power the car, run in conjunction with the comparatively small petrol engine or are disengaged.

The driver can select an economy mode, normal or sport settings using a facia button or the gear-lever.

The hybrid system uses regenerative braking to recharge the battery when slowing and it cuts off fuel when not needed producing remarkable economy without really trying.

If you want to stretch it further the comprehensive display panel shows how economically you are driving at any time, over a period, and also how you might get even more out of the Insight.

The powertrain really is a masterpiece of engineering with immediate starting, instant smooth acceleration and there is a noticeable surge as the electric motor cuts in when pressing on or it all settles down to a muted note on the motorway.

The gear-ratios give a continuous flow with their CVT technology and you are never left wondering if it will respond and on top of that the operation is all very quiet.

Underfoot the brakes give good feel, are very progressive and slow it quickly and quietly without any drama while the power steering is smooth, has a good turning circle and is well weighted to give feedback at high speed.

Secondary controls are generally grouped close to the driver and all work well but some are partly hidden by the wheel-spokes or not in direct line of sight.

Instruments are straightforward, simple and clear and the central display performs different functions depending on selected mode. Personally I would prefer if this was a larger display and slightly raised in the binnacle as it is sometimes obscured by the central boss of the wheel.

Heating and ventilation controls are simple and the system works very well.

Oddments room is fairly good but not exceptional for a family car, and the boot floor is high to cover the battery pack which compromises on available space. Neveertheless it's still adequate and can be easily increased when the back seat bench is folded down, rising from 408 to 584 litres.

Access to the cabin is easy and once inside the room is good for four, slightly tighter for five, and the seats are extremely comfortable, well shaped and supporting.

Ride quality is slightly firm and the suspension feels edgy, even hard over some bumps, but it does not wallow and there is little body roll on bends.

You can hear the suspension working away underneath and this is probably the loudest and most consistent noise, so quiet is the Insight as far as mechanical and wind noise is concerned.

Grip tends to be light at the front on tight turns and there is a tendency towards running wide as a result, but lifting off immediately brings it back on line in a very composed and safe manner.

On some windy days the Insight was not put off course and it was stable through bumpy bends as well.

In performance terms the Insight is good but not class leading so far as acceleration or speed are concerned.

It can hold its own in fast flowing traffic and the boost from the electric motor is very welcome and useful for overtaking on rural roads.

The Honda Insight feels very well put together without any squeaks or rattles, there is good visibility except when reversing and it returns good economy easily making it not only a vey good technological achievement but a good family car as well.

FAST FACTS

Honda Insight 1.3 IMA EX

Price: £20,645

Mechanical: 88ps 1,339cc, 4cyl hybrid engine driving front wheels via automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 113mph

0-62mph: 12.5 seconds

Combined MPG: 51

Insurance Group: 6

C02 emissions: 105g/km

Bik rating: 15%

Warranty: 3yrs/ 90,000 miles

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