Honda Insight Almost Meets Impressive Economy Claim
Green Coloured Gizmos, “Tree” Prizes, Almost Force Submission
But To Match Claims, Driving Style Must Be Meek, Submissive
*** out of 5
“The Insight is packed with gimmicks to shame you into submission and make you drive much slower than perhaps you might”
I’ve been driving the new Honda Insight hybrid, the Japanese company’s answer to its Toyota compatriot’s Prius, to see if its extravagant fuel economy claims are backed up by its performance in the real world, after measuring the actual fuel you put in, rather than relying on the car’s computer measurement.
The answer is that indeed the claim of 61.4 mpg-4.6 l/km is more or less met by the new car. This is much better than the old Honda Civic hybrid, which claimed an average of 58 mpg but actually produced 41.5 mpg for me. I managed 50.3 mpg with the latest Insight, after driving about 250 miles including about 25 per cent motorway, 50 per cent poodling along country lanes between 45 mph and 60 mph, and the rest in town. The air conditioning was on all the time, and very cool it kept the interior too.
But if you disregard one maybe errant measurement of 41.1 mpg, and include two perhaps more reliable ones of 53.3 and 56.4 – you get an average of almost 55 mpg. Close enough, wouldn’t you say? And that included a first for me. My measurement of 53.3 exactly mirrored the reading of the car’s computer for that trip.
But the economy came at a price. The Insight is packed with little gimmicks to shame you into submission and make you drive much slower than perhaps you might. There’s a little green button which you push for maximum efficiency. Who’s not going to push the button? Of course, if you’ve spent your hard-earned on a car boasting fuel efficiency that’s what you’re going to do
When you press the green ECO button, this is what happens:
- ·Power and torque are limited by 4 per cent, except when the accelerator is floored.
- ·The constantly variable automatic gearbox changes its shift pattern to economy.
- ·The throttle control maximises economy by refusing to accept a command which exceeds economy mode, accept when the accelerator is floored.
- ·The system expands the amount of energy captured by regenerative braking (regenerative braking has nothing to with the brakes. This captures excess energy when the car is coasting down gradients).
- ·Air conditioning and fan blower switches to economy.
- ·The Stop-Start system turns off the air conditioning
The Insight also includes a gimmicky device which uses a dial which turns green to help you improve your motoring economy, as if you wouldn’t know in the first place that by driving with care and restraint, you would squeeze out more miles to the gallon. But the possibility of lighting up the dials in green makes you drive slower and keep your foot off the gas pedal.
There is also the possibility of producing five trees on the dashboard, the reward for maximum green driving. I managed to attain “five trees” status briefly, but wandering over 45 mph up hill put paid to that.
The new Insight has five-doors and room for five. Its styling resembles the futuristic-looking fuel-cell-powered FCX Clarity concept car. It feels a bit cheap when you grasp the door handles and open the door, and sounds a bit less than tough when you shut the doors. But that impression evaporates when you are inside. The dashboard and dials look the business and are clustered closely so you can see them through the steering wheel. There’s not much head-room in the back. The interior is practical, almost frugal, which should please the sandal-wearers who will be buying the car.
“The Insight will be significantly lower in price to any other hybrid on the market, making petrol-electric technology accessible to more people,” Honda said.
Mild versus strong
The Insight’s starting price is £15,490 for the SE, way under the competing Toyota Prius’s £17,870.
The Insight uses a “mild” hybrid system to enhance the 1.3 litre petrol engine, as used in the Civic. “Strong” hybrids used by the Prius allow a limited amount of separate, battery-only powered driving.
The Insight, and hybrids like the Prius, offer big cost savings, with load road tax (£15), lower company car tax, and no London congestion charge. The latter could save up to £2,000 for London commuters.
The SE has 15-inch wheels, climate control air conditioning, electric folding door mirrors, front and rear electric windows, and steering wheel audio controls. This is the version I drove. The ES, priced at £16,790, includes 16-inch alloy wheels, auto lights and wipers, cruise control, front fog lights, heated front seats, leather steering wheel and gear knob. The ES-T has DVD Sat Nav and hands free-phone system.
So the cutting-edge technology offered by Honda seems at last to do the business. One minor thing Honda might change if it wants to claim perfection. For the week that I was driving the car, I never did figure out how to turn the radio off. The only way it could be silenced was with the volume control.
Neil Winton – August 5, 2009
|Honda Insight ES|
|Engine:||1,339 cc petrol, 4-cylinders Electric motor
|Power:||87 bhp @ 5,800 14 bhp
|Torque:||121 Nm @ 4,500 78 Nm
|Gearbox:||constantly variable automatic
|Acceleration:||0-62 mph-100 km/h 12.5 seconds
|Top Speed:||113 mph-181 km/h
|Fuel Consumption:||claimed combined – 61.4 mpg-4.6 l/km
|Warranty:||3 year/90,000 miles
|Boot capacity:||408 litres/584
|Price:||£16,790-(more or less the same in euros)
|For:||frugal, handsome, practical
|Against:||diesel equivalents offer more power, similar economy