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Motoring: Second generation Honda Insight reconsidered

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | September 21st, 2009

Believe it or not, hybrids have been on sale in Canada for 10 years now, with the first hybrid ever to hit our market, of course being, the original Honda Insight. While at the time of its launch, its technology was considered groundbreaking in the automobile world it certainly wasn't without its flaws from both a consumer and practicality point of view. For starters, it was only available as a two-seater, and saying its trunk space was limited is a generous overstatement. With the added ride quality of a skateboard (and a slow one, at that), its high-end ticket price seemed seriously flawed. Plus which, just a few short months later, Toyota took the initiative to launch its first Prius model, and in effect demonstrated to us all what a hybrid can (and should) really be like.

Despite this, the original Insight remained on sale (and accrued quite the following, I might add) up until 2006. On Earth day of this year (April 22nd), Honda resurrected its eco-friendly ideas in an innovative twist. Perhaps taking lead from the popular recycled paper towel brand, Seventh Generation, Honda launched its Second Generation Insight, and I must admit I was curious as to whether it was really an improved model.

While the new Insight's increased size and hence improved practicality are definitely attributes that work in its favour, I was immediately disappointed to see that its so-called aerodynamic design is a virtual carbon copy of the most recent Prius. The two cars look shamefully similar, and I'm not buying Honda's excuse that it was simply a matter of streamlining the car in order to obtain its best performance. However, if one is able to get past its unoriginal exterior, the new Honda's insides prove to be comfy, in almost all respects, and its instrumentation, in my view, is superb.

With touch-screen navigation, you get even more gadgets to play with now, but the main thing I'm sure you're all wondering — the main reason as to why I decided to give the Insight another chance — is how does she drive?

It might only have a 1.3-litre engine that's capable of producing a mere 98hp (that is, with both gas and electric combined), but thanks to its low curb weight (2723 lbs), the new Insight accelerates decently, and maintains highway speeds with ease. The front wheels get their power fed through a CVT automatic gearbox, and if you're looking for some manual fun, it comes with paddle shifters that just might do the trick.

Typically, in my experience, hybrids have been sloppy in taking corners, but the new Insight's chassis allows you to toss this car through turns much better than you might expect; kudos to Honda's developers on that much-desired innovation.

I'd also like to show my esteem to Honda for getting the price right this time around. With the base Insight at just $19,800 (US), and the loaded model available for $23,100 (US), Honda is now in the position to give Toyota and its much more expensive Prius a run for their money.

Granted, the new Insight is not as fuel-economical as the Prius (I averaged 5.5-litres/100km with the Insight, while the Prius managed 4.8-litres), I'd argue it more than makes up for this downfall in its technological advancement. Though without a doubt, the new Insight is a tremendous improvement over her predecessor, I must be honest in saying that I'm still not entirely sold.
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