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Honda Insight in the test: Compact mild hybrid at a low price

Achim Hartmann
Honda Insight in the first individual test
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E in good hands with the hybrid technology can't exactly be said about Honda. The first Insight generation, presented in 1999, was only delivered to German dealers as a showpiece, but not to customers. They called the first hybrid available for purchase in the Civic IMA (integrated motor assist), so that potential customers did not even recognize it as a hybrid.

Honda Insight cheaper than Toyota Prius

With the Honda Insight number two, Honda now wants to get serious and is offering it for 19,550 euros. For the test, however, the better equipped Elegance version for 22,200 euros entered. Nevertheless, its direct competitor, the Toyota Prius II, which is about to change, costs 3,650 euros more with comparable equipment. How is that possible? The Honda Insight is not smaller, it moves the Toyota Prius in all dimensions down to a few centimeters. However, under the 4.40-meter-long compact car shell, there is a lot of technology from the closely related small car Honda Jazz, with which it shares large areas of the platform and chassis. This brings the development and unit costs to a bearable level.

With the Honda Insight, customers get a hybrid that initially astonishes experienced users of this two-engine technology. Silent maneuvering or electric starting at traffic lights are not possible, and yet you can move the Insight like an electric car. However, it has to roll for that, and it is better not to get in the way of a slope. If you take off the accelerator under 50 km /h, the drive switches to push mode and the 1.3-liter four-cylinder is switched off, the electric motor begins to charge the battery. With gentle operation of the accelerator pedal, the speed can be maintained and even increased slowly with the electric motor alone - but really only very slowly.

Start-stop system in the light version

The electric motor in the Honda Insight is only three and a half centimeters thick and acts like a disc of itself. Nevertheless, it supports the small combustion engine effectively , although not for too long. After all, the battery capacity is low and exhausted after a short time on long motorway inclines. If you have to complete an overtaking maneuver, they workThe petrol engine's 88 hp is pretty puny. The small battery also ensures aha-effects at the traffic lights. As is typical of a hybrid, the Honda Insight also has a start-stop function that switches off the petrol engine when the vehicle is stationary. However, if the air conditioning and electrical consumers are running like the lights, the four-cylinder is restarted shortly after being switched off - the Honda Insight apparently only has a light version of the start-stop system.

Honda Insight is a teacher when it comes to saving fuel

If you want to extend the stops, you should press the green Econ button (Econ=Effective Control). Then the power and torque output are cut by four percent, the accelerator pedal characteristic is set more gently, the CVT gearbox shifts later, the braking energy recovery is increased, and the air conditioning system allows greater temperature fluctuations before it starts. All measures designed to help reduce the fuel consumption of the Honda Insight and also to extend the stopping phases.

At least the latter was not found in the test. After all, you don't have to be in Econ mode for the Honda Insight to become a teacher when it comes to saving fuel. After all, a whole series of visual displays try to signal the driver that driving is economical or fuel-intensive.

This means that the current consumption can be shown on the display; you are traveling economically. Or you can choose to display the energy flows from the battery to the drive or vice versa. Another possibility is to display a bar that should show the smallest possible deflections when accelerating or braking. However, the most impressive visual aspect is the color-changing field behind the digital speedometer. The drivers with a heavy foot on the accelerator are shown cold blue light, while the environmentally conscious handlebars are illuminated in deep green. Anyone who is out and about with deep green light, lots of leafy plants and a bar that has been slimmed down to the line has to refill just 4.9 liters of super at the petrol pump after 100 kilometers. An absolute top value that brings the Insight close to very economical diesel and which in the compact gasoline segment is only undercut by the Toyota Prius.

Honda Insight consumption is 6.1 L /100 km

But because we don't live in an ideal world and occasionally we have to brake harder and accelerate sharply, the test consumption of the Honda Insight averages 6.1 L /100 km, which corresponds to 142 g /CO2. The real sensation is, of course, that it undercuts the Toyota Prius with its much more complex drive system by more than half a liter. There is currently no more economical petrol engine and only a few diesels; that of auto motor und sport among all current compact cars as the king of savings, the Volvo C30 1.6 D DrIVe is hardly below that with 5.7 L /100 km in the test average. With 150 g /CO2 it even surpasses the Honda Insight, because burning one liter of diesel releases more carbon dioxide than burning the same amount of petrol.

The cheaper price can be seen on the Honda Insight

But now the most economical one is useful Little drive if the car around it does not represent a coherent overall package. What is the status of the automotive qualities of the Honda Insight? You can see and feel its low price in the interior. The materials used here give an idea of ​​where costs have been saved. However, there is little to criticize about the hard plastic workmanship. Quite a few eco-cars have also disappointed in the past with braking distances that were too long because they were only equipped with narrow, economy tires. The Honda Insight, however, brakes very well mannered.

Good space for driver and front passenger

The space economy hardly suffers from the aerodynamically shaped body - at least not in the front row. Even tall people can find space here and sit comfortably. The ergonomics for the driver are right, and the unusual-looking dashboard is easy to operate after a short period of familiarization. An exception is the infotainment system, which has a whole range of other functions ready in addition to the music system and navigation. The system shows weaknesses, of all things, when it comes to radio reception.

Honda Insight with 408 liter trunk volume

In the rear you sit less relaxed if your body length exceeds 180 centimeters. Then there is a lack of leg and headroom, which has been sacrificed to the pronounced sloping roof line. On the other hand, the trunk with its basic volume of 408 liters is impressive in the compact class. After folding the asymmetrically split rear seat back, the storage space increases to a maximum of 1,017 liters. It becomes problematic if voluminous child seats have to be installed in the rear because the seat belts are very short. Looking back at an angle also reveals the disadvantages of the streamlined rear end, invented by Wunibald Kamm in the 1930s. The massive C-pillar conceals large areas, while thick A-pillars make it difficult to see diagonally forward.

And how does the Honda Insight drive now? Like a bigger Honda Jazz, which is no surprise. Here as there, there are noticeable weaknesses in comfort on short bumps, the Honda Insight rolls loudly and rumbles over bad roads. Long waves, on the other hand, are dignified. The very synthetic steering is atforgivable to an eco-vehicle. It is positive that the chassis lacks every problem. Load changes remain without unpleasant reactions, corners approached too quickly are measured with good understeer. ESP is standard on board anyway.

Honda Insight still shows potential for improvement

The strong sway in alternating curves shows Once again that this model is made for cruising. Fast stages also become uncomfortable because the engine, which is trimmed for low friction, blares obtrusively loudly over 5,000 rpm. Better sound insulation would be desirable. If you take it easy, however, the four-cylinder remains acoustically inconspicuous. In detail, the cheap Honda Insight II still shows room for improvement, but no one is fooling it when it comes to saving fuel. It fits in better with the times than few new automobiles in recent months.


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