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Road Test : Honda Insight VTi

Review by Anthony Ziella - 19 September 2012

For the rest of the world the ‘green car market’ is huge and here in Australia we are just starting to realise that, maybe that’s why the last three cars I’ve reviewed have all been green machines.

The 2012 Honda Insight has undergone a series of improvements. From greater noise absorption for a quieter ride to a massive increase in aerodynamics, the Honda design team have looked at every square inch of the Insight in an effort to reduce emission levels and improve fuel consumption, and they’ve done it.

Honda Insight VTi

Make: Honda
Model: Insight VTi
Price: $29,990*
Transmission: CVT
Engine: SOHC + Integrated Motor Assist, Inline 4-Cylinder
 Max Power: 72Kw @ 5800rpm
Max Torque: 167Nm @ 1000-1700rpm
Fuel consumption: 4.3L* per 100kms
CO2 Emissions: 103 g per hour
Safety: 5 Star ANCAP
Car Supplier: Honda Australia



Drive: 3.5/5

The ‘start-stop’ engine and an ‘eco’ mode, that when employed minimises fuel consumption by altering the shifting patterns of the CVT gearbox means that this car goes out of its way to try and reduce the power coming from the engine, but if it's torque and power you’re looking for may I suggest, not this or any other eco car.

It is on the longer roads and hill climbs where the Insight can be exposed. The design does its best to reduce resistance and the electric integrated motor assist tries hard to support, but when the engine is only putting out 72Kw of power, when going uphill or accelerating onto a freeway the Insight has to work really hard, and as it requires high revs to do so, the engine likes to let you know how hard it’s working.

On the plus side the Insight is super comfortable and the steering is light and tight so this little green machine zips in and out of corners easier than Toad from Mario Kart.

The breaking is responsive and reliable even though Honda surprisingly employs rear drum brakes.

Honda Insight VTi

Engine: 4/5

Eco cars are all about the numbers and Honda have thoroughly gone over the Insight to pick up anything that will reduce CO2 emissions and decrease the fuel consumption levels.

The Insight is powered by a 1.3 litre petrol engine that is supported by an integrated electric motor that will shut itself off when at a complete stop. This ‘start-stop’ system is much better in the Insight than it is in Honda’s CR-Z in that it restarts seamlessly and at times is barely noticeable.

As the Insight uses a combination of motors, power and torque figures can be difficult to determine but the spec sheet states that the Insight can pump out 72kW@5800rpm of power and 167Nm@1000-1700rpm, far from impressive numbers but power and torque come in really low on the list of priorities for the designers of eco cars.

The gearbox is a constantly-variable transmission (CVT) and the air conditioning system includes a new cold storage system that helps lower fuel consumption. Speaking of, the Honda team have managed to get the fuel consumption numbers to 4.3L/100km, down from 4.6/100km of the last model and the all important CO2 emission level down to 103g/km, and that’s impressive.

Exterior: 3.5/5

Honda says the Insight has had a ‘face lift.’ But the adjustments from the previous model are minor so this face lift is more Megan Fox than Joan Rivers, which is a good thing as there wasn’t much wrong with the old model, just like there wasn’t much wrong with Megan Fox’s face.

The front of the Insight has a new bumper design and new front grille, the easiest way to distinguish between the 2012 and the older model. The new 2012 model also has LED daytime running lights, low rolling resistance tyres for improved fuel consumption and indicator lights have been mounted to the side mirrors.

Moving toward the rear you notice that almost the entire chassis has been re designed to allow for increased aerodynamics, again in an attempt to improve fuel consumption. At the back the tailgate spoiler has been thinned and the roof lining enlarged for a wider glass area and better visibility, but for me the rear window is still inconveniently divided, much like Honda’s other eco car, the CR-Z.

Honda Insight VTi

Safety: 5/5

Safety is important for small cars and particularly those that would like to represent as family cars.

The Insight receives a 5-star ANCAP safety rating on the back of six airbags, ABS, electronic brakeforce assist, traction control, vehicle stability assist and seat belt pretensioners.

Interior: 4/5

Due to the new, more aerodynamic design those in the back seats will have to give up some head room. Even though Honda say they’ve bumped up the headroom by 20mm, if you are taking anyone over six foot two on a long ride they might need a chiropractor upon arrival. The design also affects the amount of boot space, having said that it is still fairly decent with 408 litres available with the seats up and 584 litres with the 60/40 split seats down.

I really loved the dash in the Insight. The layout is concise and the steering wheel is intelligently designed in that you are able to adjust or monitor just about anything without having to take your hands off the wheel and the neon blue that illuminates the cabin is pretty special too.

The Insight comes with Bluetooth integration, iPhone/iPod dock, USB connectivity, keyless entry, cruise control, steering wheel mounted controls, an adjustable steering wheel and a six speaker CD/MP3 sound system. Or if you’re into the upgraded VTi L model and want to spend the extra $4000 you get a satellite navigation system with SUNA live traffic updates, a reverse camera, bigger wheels, automatic wipers and headlights and fog lights.

Honda Insight VTi

Overall: 3.5/5

Overall the Insight is a flexible, tidy, little package. Ideal for those who live within and rarely venture too far from the city limits and equally compatible whether you have kids or not. Aesthetically appealing, comfortable on the inside and stacks up nicely in terms of price when compared to its competitors.

The Honda Insight is cheaper, and some cases considerably so, than the Toyota Prius, the VW BlueMotion and the Civic Hybrid. So if you don’t mind the lack of power and are looking to get in on the increasingly popular green car market, the Honda Insight just might be your go.

* Prices are manufacturer list prices only, for the drive away price please contact your local authorised Honda dealer.



  • Fuel Efficiency

  • Comfort

  • Power

  • Torque

Comments on the review? The Car? Your Car? Email us.

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