The Insight on greener motoring - Today's cheapest hybrid reviewed

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Dinesh

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Dinesh

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The future is green and while cars are still light years away from completely ditching dinosaur remains as their main source of motivation, the path is slowly being laid and the transition is already in full swing with hybrids popping out left, right and center.

Honda is no stranger to hybrid technology, having first dabbled in it back in 1999 with the first generation of the Honda Insight that is now back in its second iteration with a price tag and fuel consumption that is going to see it be a hit.



Right from the get-go, the second generation Insight has plenty going for it. With a sub-RM100k price tag on it, the Insight is already the cheapest CBU passenger car from Japan in Malaysia and with a sticker like that, it's capable of expanding the reach of green motoring to the masses like no other car has here yet.



With the government abolishing import duty for hybrid cars this year, Honda Malaysia has been able to offer the Insight here for RM98,000 (OTR), making it an option in the subRM100k passenger car segment that buyers simply cannot afford to overlook.



From the onset, the Insight was designed to be an affordable hybrid car for the masses and it has definitely achieved that target. Exterior wise, it adopts the traditional wedge shape that has become synonymous with hybrid cars and for good reason too. There is simply no other design that is as aerodynamic as that and allows the Insight to cut through the air easier than ever.



Even with such a common shape to work with, Honda have, in trademark style, given the exterior of the Insight some much needed spark to ensure it appears exciting and appeals to the younger market that Honda targets.



The front is quite the looker with the grille and headlights blending well into each other to be further complemented by the fog lights and lower-bumper turn indicators. Even though Insight was designed to be affordable, it's nice to see that simple things like side view mirror indicators weren't negated, adding a pinch of premium feel to it.



It can't be helped that the side profile of the Insight doesn't stand out, it's just plain and its only highlight would be the 16-inch rims. The roofline does adopt a steep rake towards the rear and flows into the rear hatch seamlessly. There's a drawback to this design though as the tailgate now has a beam running right across it that is smack in the middle of your rear view mirror. Nonetheless, it's vital to getting the Insight all slippery through the air and is not that much of a handicap as well.



At the rear, LED tail lights and an integrated third brake light into the ducktail spoilerare all the highlights there is shed some attention on. Once again, the word 'plain' would spring to mind but Honda have somehow managed to make the most of it and create an exterior that is still very dashing even though the silhouette is par-for-course for most hybrid cars.



On the inside, things are once again kept to the bare minimum with nothing fancy on the cards. However, just like the exterior, Honda have managed to add some spice to the interior with a catchy dashboard layout that highlights the integrated head unit and air-conditioning controls.



The head unit sits centrally with the controls for the air-conditioning located next to it, closer to the driver. Both are slightly driver-oriented, facing ever-so-slightly towards the driver. Though the plastic quality is not soft touch it does still have a very premium look to it, adding a more premium feel to the interior. Connectivity for iPods and audio devices are simple with the AUX jack and USB slot that are standard.



For the driver, the meter cluster is double-tiered just like the Civic, with the speed positioned above the standard cluster and further forward for convenience. The steering wheel comes equipped with controls for not only the audio unit but for the cruise control as well.



Rear occupants, especially those that are vertically-gifted, should keep an eye out for head clearance due to the sweeping wedge shape but it really doesn't pop up all that much. Further back, the rear cargo space is very impressive at 400-litres, especially when you consider that the Integrated Power Unit (IPU) that houses the battery pack, cooling system and control unit for the entire package is located under the rear seat.



The boffins at Honda have reduced the size and weight of the IPU, allowing it to be positioned further forward and under the rear seat for better weight distribution and interior space. While the Civic Hybrid couldn't fold its rear seats down, the Insight is able to courtesy of the smaller and lighter IPU. With the 60:40 split rear seats folded down, the cargo space rises to over 580-liters, enough for three [strike]gold[/strike] golf bags and quite possible the back nine as well.



The real cherry on the Insight's cake would be the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) powertrain that allows it such astounding consumption figures. This third generation IMA also calls the engine bay of the CR-Z home, which itself could find its way to our shores soon.



A 1.3-liter SOHC i-VTEC petrol engine is mated to a CVT transmission with brushless electric motor situated between the two. Power from the petrol engine is 87hp with the electric motor chipping in with an additional 13hp when needed.



The key to extracting the most out of the IMA is to learn how to drive it properly. There are a number of specific situations that would allow the petrol engine to shut off and for the Insight to run solely on the electric motor. Low speed cruising at speeds under 40km/h on a flat surface would see the petrol engine shut down and the electric take complete control.



As is the norm, the nickel hydride battery is charged on braking. The reason a nickel battery was used and not a more efficient lithium unit is simple, nickel batteries are cheaper and this is in line with keeping the Insight affordable.



Stop-start tech is standard and it cuts the power off when the car is stopped and the brake completely depressed. It only lasts for 90-seconds though before the engine kicks back in even if the car is still stationery due to the compressor being off and turning the cabin into a Turkish bath.



As we mentioned, the key to extracting the maximum potential from a hybrid powertrain is to learn how to drive it efficiently. This is where the Insight is miles ahead of its peers. There are a number of driving performance indicators that help you maintain optimal driving. The speedometer background changes colour to indicate your driving style.



A green background is the sign of optimal driving while a greenish-blue hue signals moderate driving. If it turns blue however, you're driving too aggressively and need to ease off the throttle a little.



It doesn't stop there though as the multifunction display (MFD) also has a myriad of different indicators to supposedly help you achieve a fuel-efficient driving style. One has a split bar and you should maintain the indicator in the middle for the best consumption. If the bar slides too much to either side, you're doing it wrong.



Furthermore, there is a reward system in place that honors your efficient driving style by awarding you 'leaves' on the MFD. If you continue to drive in an efficient manner, you will be rewarded with more leaves that eventually turn into a trophy. If there was ever any influence from the PlayStation generation, this would be it.



We feel that there are just too many different indicators trying to help you get the right driving style. While the more is always merrier, this time around it might actually distract you from the road.



Lastly, there is an ECON button located on the dash to the right of the steering wheel. As the green colour and leaf would have you guess, pushing this switches the entire powertrain into a fuel-efficient mode. It adjusts engine output, limits the revs for shifting, extends the duration of the idle stop, increases the braking regenerative charging and optimises the air-conditioning unit. Just like the brochure explains, it may seems like overly complex stuff but all you need to do is just push a button.



So being a Honda, you would expect it to possess a little handling prowess. If you can continuously keep in mind that it's a hybrid, you would actually be surprised with the way it feels.



Even with a battery pack being lugged out back, the Insight doesn't feel twitchy at the rear or laden down. By no means is it a corner-carver but it can be pushed into a bend rather spiritedly. Steering feedback is almost non-existent but that's to be expected.



If you're looking for a bit more handling, the CR-Z should have you covered, provided it comes in. For the Honda purists that still hark back to the days of B-series engines loaded in Civics, don't be too alarmed, Honda hasn't forgotten its sporty past. Exhibit 'A' would be the revival of the HSV-10 project, the successor to the legendary NSX. A fine example of the sporty and tree-hugging sides of Honda coming together would be the hot hatch CR-Z.



To keep the focus on the Insight, Honda will be discontinuing sales of the Civic Hybrid soon. One of the chief concerns with hybrids is the lifespan of the battery packs. Honda Malaysia assures us that the IPU should last the lifespan of the car but in the occasion that a replacement unit is needed, they quote a price of less than RM10,000 inclusive of labour.



The Insight is better viewed as a general car to the market as its appeal is such. While the Toyota Prius is its only likely competitor, the gist of it is that the Prius is in another segment altogether. Priced almost RM40,000 above it and with more features, the Prius is more of an upmarket hybrid offering here.



With its sub-RM100k price and pros list that clearly outweighs any of the cons. While the Prius would appeal to those that are leaning towards a hybrid, the Insight could be taken into consideration for any buyer looking at a mid-range Japanese sedan and it being a CBU offering just makes it all that harder to ignore.



If you're looking to get Insight-ful, you better hurry as Honda will only bring in 4,250 units this year.

 

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rockstarteddy

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rockstarteddy

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"enough for three gold bags" -- u mean golf bags eh bro?
so many bags of gold for u to carry? :P

btw..good write up!!
im keen on getting this baby but some sacrifices needs to be made, but the limitations of only 4250 units aint helping :(
 

nafiiio

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nafiiio

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where's the photoshot being taken ? MITC melaka ? muzium automotive ?
 

artworkz

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artworkz

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tis car is real "smart guy get it"!!!

---------- Post added at 12:14 PM ---------- 6 hour anti-bump limit - Previous post was at 12:01 PM ----------

tis car is real "smart guy get it"!!!
 

joe_mirage

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joe_mirage

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a very nice car. both exterior and interior look. driven this car for a test drive last week. just to know how it performs. btw, i'm quite shock that this 1.3 liter engine behaves like 1.6 engine. maybe because of the additional power from the electric motor and cvt transmission ratio.
 

artworkz

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artworkz

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nice car anyway, just curious this car can go up genting hill with full loading?
what a silly Q????:stupid::stupid:

---------- Post added at 04:20 PM ---------- 6 hour anti-bump limit - Previous post was at 04:14 PM ----------

how about this ~ mugen style insight?

front look like 2nd gen oddyssey. look sport n sport!!! 98k, very cheap. i saw sg reg car at jb. size like city. dunno how about the handling, ride n NVH. although i juz get myself a fiesta but still wanna test n give sum feedback.
 

har1th7

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har1th7

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Nice location......(Muzium Pengangkutan Melaka ????)

Nicer car.....
 

pumpkin76

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pumpkin76

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test drove it this afternoon..... surprisingly powerful with 3 person on-board (me, my friend and a sales girl)..... maybe just me coz i'm used to the pickup of a CRV.... that's why feel faster and lighter....

a bit out of topic.... the salesgirl told me HM still got 40 something units of civic type Rs stock.....
 

wongth7

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wongth7

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saw this car at kl motorshow few months back....the interior feels like it made out of VERY cheap plastic..not impressive at all..sit inside then u will notice it right away..but this is how honda manage to bring the price down so much
 

loose_end

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loose_end

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On the rear part , izzit considered as hatchback or wagon or ?
 

arrowhead

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arrowhead

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my ES is my daily drive! this would help me with my massive petrol bills as i travel alot during working hours... is there a test drive unit in the Honda Glenmarie showroom?
 

arturo

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arturo

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Dinesh...any reviews on the "real-world" FC? i think that is the main thing ppl will look for when getting a hybrid.
 

Dinesh

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Dinesh

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Dinesh...any reviews on the "real-world" FC? i think that is the main thing ppl will look for when getting a hybrid.
During the drive we managed to get an average of around 25km/liter with some frugal driving although we weren't overdoing it. That's a combined cycle of town driving and highway cruising. When I say frugal I mean no sudden acceleration and harsh throttle or brake inputs. On the highway me were doing around 110km/h. I guess with normal everyday driving you could net an average of around 21-22km/liter. We'll be doing a more comprehensive drive soon and I'll be able to get more solid figures from that so stay tuned :biggrin:
 

pumpkin76

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pumpkin76

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the showroom i went to yesterday was the 3s global almighty at Serdang.... well, i'm from PJ but I happened to passby Serdang on my way back from a meeting in Nilai.... that's why i pop in to have a look...

NVH was very good, even at going through the poor rood condition of serdang main road.... probably coz it's a new car.... my friend who seated beside me said he can feel the pull of the car everytime i accelerate...... it surprised him when i told him i didn't pedal to metal..... it was only 50 to 75 throttle..... i'm not used to CVT.... so can't comment much on it..... putting it in S instead of D see the RPM stays on the high rev until i lift off the accelerator....

but one thing slack about that outlet is that they only have 1 test drive unit.... i had to wait 15 minutes before the test drive coz other customer was testing it.... after my turn the sales girl immediately drove the car back into the storage yard coz there's no parking space inside and outside the showroom.... so apart from the driving feel.... i didn't manage to have a closer look at the details..... my friend who hop into the back seat after we got out from the test drive said something like he hitted his head to the ceiling at the back seat.... LOL...

I'll probably go to other outlets which have like 1 test drive unit and 1 showroom unit..... probably will try the one at jln 222 or sumber auto... or anyone know when is their road shows?
 

artworkz

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artworkz

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During the drive we managed to get an average of around 25km/liter with some frugal driving although we weren't overdoing it. That's a combined cycle of town driving and highway cruising. When I say frugal I mean no sudden acceleration and harsh throttle or brake inputs. On the highway me were doing around 110km/h. I guess with normal everyday driving you could net an average of around 21-22km/liter. We'll be doing a more comprehensive drive soon and I'll be able to get more solid figures from that so stay tuned :biggrin:
nice! thx for feedback n made more update of FC.
 

nenon

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nenon

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the back seat is cramped, even small size man hard to get in n out of the car...but stil very cheap car tho