When it was launched in 2009 the Insight revived an old model name but the philosophy was very different to the original. The brief was to make a practical family hatch with low CO2 and low regulated emissions, but crucially it had to be affordable. Honda fulfilled the brief by cutting corners, with material quality below class standards, but overall it was a good package because it undercut diesel rivals as well as being comfortably cheaper than other hybrids.
The latest version aims to take the Insight upmarket with higher quality materials and CO2 emissions under 100 g/km. The interior does look a bit better than before and it will still transport four adults in comfort, it has a big boot (408 litres), it’s a hatchback with folding rear seats, it’s well specified, and it can achieve low CO2 emissions and regulated emissions. The problem is that this small gain in efficiency and quality has been accompanied by a big jump in the price.
The Insight handles well and is generally refined apart from under hard acceleration when the engine revs rise disproportionately thanks to the CVT gearbox. Thankfully higher specifications get 7 ratios programmed into the CVT which gives you a semi-automatic option, which is great news if you don’t like full automatics.
We were fans of the second generation Honda Insight because it offered low CO2 emissions, practicality and could even be entertaining to drive whilst undercutting hybrid and diesel rivals. Honda's decision to significantly increase the price can't be justified by the marginal gains in efficiency or improvements in material quality so we have to conclude that the Insight's USP has gone. It now has to compete head on with rivals and it comes up short.