HONDA LOWERS THE COST OF HYBRIDS.
HONDA will have a significant price advantage over rivals with its new Insight hybrid after the manufacturer acknowledged that the perceived high price of the petrol/electric technology was putting off many potential buyers.
The Insight will start at £15,490 which gives it a useful lead of a couple of thousand pounds over the rival Toyota Prius and even undercuts less technically advanced eco-cars such as the Ford Focus ECOnetic.
The hybrid system is probably now fairly familiar to you. The Insight has a 1.3 litre petrol engine and also an electric motor powered by a battery pack under the boot. Improvements from the previous system means the electric pack is now much smaller, for better packaging, and the weight of the battery has dropped from 53 to 38 kgs. The entire hybrid element is warranted for 200,000 miles.
It’s a stylish looking car, with an aerodynamically efficient teardrop shape, is roomy and comfortable.
The insight is simplicity itself to drive, with an automatic gearbox but it is unusually interactive and invites you to make the best use of its fuel-saving technology through some clever dashboard displays.
Honda discovered that there is around 20 per cent variation in fuel economy from different drives in the same car on the same stretch of road, according to how they drive.
So the Insight uses a display that turn from blue to green according to how efficiently you drive and you can measure your fuel consumption on the same trip over different days, such as a commute. It’s quite a challenge to get your mpg readout as high as possible and on my short test 60 mpg was achievable.
Using the energy it recaptures during braking, the electric motor can add its torque when you need extra power such as when overtaking or accelerating uphill, and when the engine is on low-load the clever valvetrain on the petrol engine effectively shuts that down so you can go in zero-fuel/zero-emission mode for a while.
It is a good system but as always when considering hybrids, bear in mind that a good turbodiesel will probably give you similar, if not better, mpg and on some journeys, motorways for example, are probably a more sensible option.
That said, there is absolutely no question that Honda has moved its game on considerably with this car.
If price has been a barrier before it is less so now and the wonders of hybrids might indeed be open to a wider audience.
0 to 62 mph 13 seconds
Top speed 113 mph
Average mpg 64
CO2 101 g/km