Honda Insight [2011] Review

Way back in 2009 we took a look at Honda’s Insight, which brought Honda into the mainstream hybrid market and promised to make hybrid motoring more affordable. Have a read of that review to get the details, but in short the Insight was a capable car and well worth a look if you’re in the market for a hybrid vehicle.

There were, however, a few niggles. The engine noise was a little distracting, with my wife declaring it was enough to put her off considering an Insight. The bodywork felt a little flimsy, despite everything being well built and solid on the inside. The support beam which splits the boot panel in two also seemed to sit exactly where I wanted to look to see any cars coming up behind me. If I were writing the Insight’s report card I’d probably put “very well done, but room for improvement” in the comments.

Well there’s a new version of the Insight out, which has apparently taken into account feedback from customers and reviewers. Changes to the suspension, soundproofing, and generally improved specifications have all been brought to the table. But have they made a difference? Let me say just now that this is not going to be a full-on review of the Insight, since the new version is essentially the same as the previously reviewed model with some upgrades. Instead, I’ll focus on how these upgrades have altered an already good car.

First up, suspension. This has been altered to improve the ride comfort and reduce NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) levels. If I’m honest, I didn’t think the ride was bad in the previous Insight. Certainly not bad enough for me to be wishing for adjusted suspension settings. So, as with the previous version, I found the latest incarnation of the Insight to be a smooth and comfortable ride – good for motorway, town, and country driving with no discomfort.

Soundproofing next. Since soundproofing isn’t a visible thing it’s easy to overlook, but as I mentioned the previous Insight had an “interesting” engine note that totally put my wife off the car. If you’re listening for it, you’ll still hear the engine revving up in the new Insight, and it still sounds and feels a little like you’re slipping the clutch, but it’s nowhere near as noticeable as it used to be. I think the key factor is that the engine is a little quieter, so while the Insight has the same characteristic as many CVT-style cars, it’s just less noticeable. The litmus test? That’s got to be my wife again who when I asked her told me she didn’t mind the sound of the engine at all now. “So, would you buy one now?” I asked… “Yes”.

Finally, there’s the uprated specification. I tested the top-of-the-line Insight EX, which comes with leather upholstery, heated front seats, built-in satellite navigation (with voice control) and bluetooth hands-free. Given that I tested the top-of-the-line car last time too, it was interesting to see these additions and how much more luxurious they made the interior feel. It still feels very high-tech too, and well put together, but is now just a nicer place to be.

So, all in all, Honda have taken a car that was already good and made it better. That support beam on the rear window is still right in my field of view, but I guess you can’t have everything. This Insight’s performance is almost identical to that of the car I tested in 2009 but it’s just, well, nicer in the several areas I’ve mentioned above.

The basic Insight is available from £16,995 OTR, and the EX starts at £20,995. Check out Honda’s website for more information, and to find your local dealer.

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