Our cars: Honda Insight 1.3 IMA SE - May part 2
That wasn’t the car’s only ergonomic foible. The steering wheel adjusted for reach and height, but I’m a tall driver and I wanted it to move higher so it cleared my legs, while shorter colleagues wished it went lower because it got in the way of the speedo.
Meanwhile, the dashboard was easy enough to use, but the view behind wasn’t clear, due to the bar that splits the two-part rear window and a wiper that covers only a tiny area of the top section.
Most people who borrowed the Insight commented on its interior – and not in a positive way. The hard, grey plastics and velour-style seat fabric looked pretty cheap. Looks were deceptive, though, because the Insight’s cabin was incredibly durable: there was never so much as a squeak or rattle.
The Insight was practical, too. There was plenty of space in the front, and rear-seat passengers had lots of legroom, if not headroom. The boot, while shallow, was roomy, and the under-floor cubby was ideal for stopping bags sliding around.
Folding down the rear seats gave a sizeable space – with some determined juggling I managed to squeeze in a full drum kit, two guitars, two amps and other boxes and bags to take a friend to his band practice.
One thing you expect from a Honda is good reliability and here the Insight more than lived up to its billing. Over the course of 13,000 miles it never missed a beat and barely used any oil. It didn’t need a service during its time with us, either.
The only worry I had was the jerky gearbox pick-up: it became even jerkier than normal during the cold snap, and on a couple of occasions it nearly caused me to have a bump when trying to edge out of tight parking spots. Fortunately it became a little less abrupt with the onset of warmer weather.
Faultless reliability is appealing, but would I choose the Insight again? No. There are other cars that are similarly priced, almost as (or more) green and a lot better to spend time in. Our long-term Mazda 3 1.6D, for example, is averaging around 46mpg and I’d much rather have that.
There’s a new Honda hybrid model that I’d be interested in, too. The CR-Z is classier and a lot more fun than the Insight, yet it costs only a fraction more to buy. It proves that Honda can create a hybrid that’s green and pleasant after all, but that isn’t something you can say about the Insight.