Review: Honda Insight Proves Green is Good


I’m a horrible eco-driver.

At least that’s the impression I got while driving the Honda Insight.

Equipped with what Honda calls Eco Assist – a system that minimizes the compact hybrid’s energy use to save on fuel – the car rewards the driver with “leaves” based on efficiency and changes the background colour of the speedometer from blue to green to indicate economical driving.

Well, I put considerable effort to maximize the “leaf count” after each journey and to keep the dashboard brighter than the best golf greens.

This experiment didn’t last long.
After continually failing to gain more leaves – with slow accelerating, gentle breaking and basically driving like a newbie scared of riding the curb – I quickly abandoned my desire for foliage and started driving the Insight as vigorously as any other test model. The results were amicable.

Of course, this being a hybrid, the matter of first (and perhaps only?) importance is fuel efficiency. My weeklong test with the EX model (it starts at $27,500; LX trim begins at $23,900) yielded a rating of 4.9 L/100km.

Honda reports it achieves a combined highway/city economy of 4.8 L/100km. Compare this to Honda’s non-hybrid fuel sipper, the Fit, which gets 6.3 L/100km combined. I was impressed, to say the least.

However, the Toyota Prius – Insight’s main competitor – reportedly gets 3.8 L/100km. But the Prius starts at $27,500, making the Insight the least expensive hybrid currently available in Canada.

2009InsightEX038.jpgWhile the Insight’s exterior is strikingly similar to the Prius (and, I really do wish more time was spent to differentiate it from its closest competitor), the interior layout cleverly uses limited space to house all needed controls. A simple circular panel next to the steering wheels takes care of climate options and the audio console is not too far out of reach when driving.

Speaking of driving, this is a fun machine to command. Yes, it’s slow out of the gate like any other hybrid, but acceleration is better than expected with 88 HP from the engine and an additional 13 HP from the electric motor. I didn’t enjoy the “split view” looking back with the rearview mirror, due to its hatchback, but I learned to get used to it. And having to spend a fraction at the pump quickly made me forget the small qualms I had with the design.

And don’t worry about staying in the “blue,” I still managed very impressive fuel ratings while pushing it around the city.
The Insight is the hybrid customers have been looking for – a green machine priced to sell.

–Travis Persaud