Review: Honda Insight (2009 – 2014)
Easy to drive in town. Frugal on fuel. Plenty of space for the family.
CVT gearbox is noisy under hard acceleration. Some of the interior quality isn't up to the usual Honda standard. Toyota Prius is better.
Honda Insight (2009 – 2014): At A Glance
It might not be as smooth or as comfortable as a Toyota Prius but the Honda Insight is certainly a frugal and easy-to-drive family car. It’s a good choice for those who need more space than you find in a small hatchback, but who still want a town-friendly, smooth and fuel-efficient car. Those who travel on the motorway or on country roads may want to look elsewhere, though.
Despite being a capable hybrid, the Insight is in a tricky position – on paper it lags behind its chief rival, the Toyota Prius, in terms of fuel economy and emissions. However in real world driving, particularly around town, there is little to separate them.
All versions of the Insight are powered by the same hybrid powertrain, made up of a 1.3-litre petrol engine and an electric motor. Official economy varies depending on trim level, with the best variants managing 68.9mpg and 96g/km, which means free VED. Unfortunately there is no plug-in version, meaning no congestion charge exemption.
The space-age cabin looks the part but suffers when it comes to materials, which aren’t as plush or as well-finished as you might expect from Honda. Thankfully there is plenty of space in the back, with sufficient leg and headroom for adults, provided they aren’t too tall. Boot space is respectable too, at 408 litres, but there is a high load deck which can be tricky when loading heavy objects.
The CVT transmission and hybrid powertrain give good, smooth performance in town but things get raucous when you want to press on quickly. The Insight feels at its best in town, where the light steering and smooth power delivery make things effortless, but the suspension could be smoother over rough surfaces.
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Honda Insight (2009 – 2014): What's It Like Inside?
The Insight has a striking dashboard layout, split over two levels. The speedometer readout sits high up and is surrounded by a glow that changes colour depending on how gently you’re driving. Below that is an instrument cluster with a rev counter and monitors for the hybrid system, along with a little ‘game’ to encourage eco driving.
It looks great and really feels futuristic, but it’s let down by hard plastics – there’s no plush, soft-touch material in sight. Thankfully everything is durable and while the audio system layout and air conditioning controls look high-tech they’re fairly intuitive to use.
There’s plenty of space in the front and back rows, but passengers in the back might suffer for headroom if they’re particularly tall, care of the sloping, aerodynamically efficient roofline. This also poses problems when it comes to visibility – the split level tailgate glass obscures the view back through the rear-view mirror.
Boot space is reasonable if not fantastic – the load deck is flat and wide, but it’s high in order to make room under the floor for the battery pack, which makes loading and unloading large items a problem. Capacity is 408 litres with the seats in place, which is slightly less than the 445-litre load area on the Prius.
Standard equipment is fairly good across the board. All cars get climate control, cruise control, an audio system with USB, hill start assist, alloy wheels and all-around electric windows. Higher trim levels gain niceties like automatic lights and wipers plus navigation, while top models get leather heated seats.
HE models come with eco mode button, cruise control, 15-inch alloy wheels, climate control, CD player with Aux and USB-in, steering wheel mounted audio controls, electric windows, heated door mirrors, hill start assist and Isofix mountings.
HE-T is as HE, but gains satellite navigation and Bluetooth.
HS models gain (over HE) 16-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, front fog lights, auto lights and wipers, rear parking sensors, artificial leather/fabric upholstery and heated front seats.
HS-T is as HS, but gains satellite navigation and Bluetooth.
HX trim adds (over HS) leather upholstery, satellite navigation, Bluetooth, heated front seats and HID headlights.
Child seats that fit a Honda Insight (2009 – 2014)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Honda Insight (2009 – 2014) like to drive?
- Readers report Real MPG to be between 39–63 mpg
All versions of the Insight are powered by a 1.3-litre petrol-hybrid engine. Efficiency is the key aim of the Insight, which has an official economy figure of 68.9mpg and emissions of 96g/km on the most frugal variants. Whether or not you’ll achieve those figures in reality is very much down to the type of driving you do, but for town driving it’s hard to beat.
Being a hybrid, the Insight has an electric motor but it works differently to a Toyota system – instead of sending drive directly to the wheels and offering pure electric propulsion, it only assists the engine. The motor can provide all of the drive for the car, but it has to turn the engine too instead of directly turning the wheels in a silent, pure EV mode.
The gearbox is a CVT automatic and it takes a bit of getting used to. There’s a slight delay when you accelerate hard, so you have to be gentle with the car, but if you are then it’s very relaxing to drive - particularly in the hustle and bustle of town. Normally urban environments are frustrating, but not in the Insight – it takes all the hard work out of traffic jams.
It really feels designed for town and that’s reflected in its economy. In an urban environment it’s hard to make the Insight deliver anything less than 60mpg unless you drive with a lead-foot. However, if you do a lot of motorway miles or spend time on twisting, national speed limit B-roads, economy suffers.
The handling suffers, too – there’s a good level of grip but the steering and suspension set up don’t lend themselves to spirited driving, nor does the sometimes slow-to-react transmission. Unfortunately, even in town there is room for improvement with the suspension, though it is more comfortable and compliant on more recent models than earlier cars.
|1.3 IMA Hybrid||61–69 mpg||12.4–12.5 s||96–105 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Honda Insight (2009 – 2014)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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