Honda Insight

Digital dashboard trees – with leaves that fall off – let the new, eco-friendly Honda show you how green your driving is

'Ecolution," enunciated the Honda Europe spokesman with Germanic elocution. "Think of evolution and revolution. But not pollution, please." He was talking about Honda's new eco-friendly hybrid, the car that looks like a Toyota Prius but will cost less.

The new, high-tailed Honda Insight, named after the ultra-light hybrid coupé of a decade ago, would seem radical had not Toyota already defined the genre, but even as it is we should be glad that this Honda hybrid doesn't look as forgettable as the former Civic Hybridsaloon. Instead, it's visually a smaller version of the hydrogen-powered Honda FCX Clarity. The idea is to make hybrids more affordable than they have been, so more buyers will make the leap into the technology of the future. The Civic Hybrid bowed out in the mid-£16,000s and a Prius is more than £17,000, so we can expect the Insight to cost around £15,000 when prices are announced in early March.

Technology always gets cheaper with time, but how has it happened here? Mainly by making the hybrid parts simpler, lighter and smaller. More costs were saved by basing the suspension, steering and part of the structure on those of the new Jazz supermini, although the Insight is a bigger car.

It's also one compromised by the need to appeal to diverse world markets. The Americans would have preferred a saloon with a separate boot, but to emphasise the futurism and suit most European buyers' needs, Honda opted for a five-door hatchback body. Thanks to that high tail, the battery and control unit can be placed under the boot floor and still leave room for a decent boot and fold-down seats.

Sit inside the Insight and it's clear where more cost was cut. Nearly every non-upholstered surface is formed from hard, unyielding plastic. Americans accept this but Europeans will flinch.

If you're driving economically, the background to the digital speedometer in the upper display is green. Be profligate with the fuel or brake too hard and the background turns through turquoise to blue.

There's more. This is the car as Tamagotchi: five tree trunks occupy a lower display, and within 100 yards of setting off it will place leaves on these trees according to your light-footedness. If you're gentle, all five trees will get two leaves each, which may drop off if your right foot gets heavier. If you screech off in scorched-earth fashion, you might get just one leaf until you calm down. Continue driving in eco-mindset, and you'll be rewarded with new rows of leaves. Thrash the Insight to death, and the leaves fall off. Below the forest is a graphic in which a flag-like symbol extends to left (braking) or right (acceleration); to be an eco-driver you need to keep the flag out of hatched areas.

Fine. So what is the Insight like to drive? It can move off on electricity alone, during which time the engine's valves are shut and it is passively rotated almost without resistance. Then the engine smoothly joins in, the combined output sent through a continuously variable transmission which lets the engine speed soar noisily more often than it should. Or you can use paddles on the steering wheel to perform rather ill-defined "manual" shifts through seven virtual gear ratios.

And there's an Econ button, which smoothes the surges caused by an overactive accelerator foot. In practice, you feel little difference unless you are an innately abrupt driver. The Insight steers anaesthetically but adequately, is a touch choppy over bumps, and brakes firmly and naturally even though up to 60 per cent of braking effort comes from the regenerative braking which uses the absorption of kinetic energy to recharge the battery via the motor. And once the Insight stops, the engine stops too.

Honda says the Insight gives genuine fuel economy. My brisk drive resulted in 42mpg which a turbodiesel could have matched. The Insight, at 101g/km CO2 is a good answer to the CO2-reduction issue. But it's not the only one.

News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

    £40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor