A Second Look At Honda's Hybrid Insight

Only 220 Honda Insights have been sold in the UK in part because 'a good diesel with six-speed gearbox is invariably a more sensible option'.

Published: 01-Jan-2006

AS WE stand on the brink of a new year, all that seems to matter now in the world of motoring is how we deal with the problems of greenhouse gases, global warming and somehow ending our dependence on oil, whose price seems destined for ever to reach to our increasingly toxic skies. But what is the technology of the future? And when can we get it, particularly in a world that seems to change relentlessly and restlessly?

At the moment of its unveiling, new automotive technology can seem a wondrous thing that will transform our lives. The hybrid is a fine example. When Honda took the wraps off its novel Insight hybrid in 1999 and said it could achieve the world’s lowest fuel consumption for a mass-produced petrol-engined car, the oohs and aahs of delight could be heard across the world both from environmentalists and people who were just Scrooge-like in their resistance to buying expensive fuel.

Powered by a three-cylinder, one-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, the consumption figures of the Insight were impressive: 68.9 miles to the gallon around town, an astonishing 94.2mpg on motorways and an average of 83.1mpg. Top speed was reported to be 112mph, with a zero to 60mph time of 12 seconds, and carbon dioxide emissions down to a measly 80 grams per kilometre — a really clean machine. All this in a two-seater, aerodynamic coupé that looked the bee’s knees . . . or just plain odd, depending on your aesthetic judgment. But a £17,000 price — even offset by a government grant of £1,000 on the first 200 cars to be sold — was not everyone’s idea of fun. In fact, only 220 buyers were found.

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