Car Review: 2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
Front-wheel drive compact hybrid sedan
Superior fuel economy, good power, proven technology, no range anxiety
Can be loud, no subsidies, this is not a crossover
WHAT TO CHANGE?
Brighten up the interior, the front seats could be more comfortable
Think of it as a reflection, not an observation. The last vestiges of resistance to electric vehicles – as automaker after automaker declare their intention to rid their fleets of internal combustion vehicles in the next 10 years – will they come from aging baby boomers? After all, we can be pretty entrenched in our ways (and yes, I’m a member of that post-war generation), although not all of us are totally stuck in our dependence on gasoline to fuel our transportation. personal.
Yet for those of any age who aren’t comfortable being early adopters or are just tech-averse – it brings to mind a memory of my mother in her 80s trying to figure out the internet, while my father would have nothing to do with it – is the regular hybrid electric powertrain (i.e. no hookup required). It’s a happy medium; a familiar and more friendly toe in the water before a full immersive dive.
These thoughts bounce in my brain as I make a concerted attempt to use as little gas as possible on a 130-kilometer drive behind the wheel of the Insight Touring, Honda’s compact and compact hybrid sedan. Now, the beauty of any standard hybrid – the Toyota Prius being the best-known example of the breed – is that you can get on and drive just like you would any regular gasoline vehicle. After all, there’s a small internal combustion engine, a 1.5-liter four-cylinder in the Insight’s case, which does most of the work most of the time, along with the electric motor – a 129-horsepower unit. in the Honda. – participate to help or, in some cases, do most of the work.
The best thing is the complete absence of range anxiety. You will never be stuck on the side of the road like in an electric vehicle, if you completely deplete the battery. And while there is a sophisticated interaction between the two disparate powertrains, you can remain oblivious. Just press the Drive button and off you go, even if the silence of battery cranking is disconcerting the first few times. Will you be able to get optimum fuel efficiency from the car? No, but it will always be more than acceptable.
Still, I was making the effort to outperform NRCan’s official figures of 4.6 L / 100 km in the city and 5.3 L / 100 km on the highway – without being stupid about it. Stupid would mean leaving the A / C off when it’s 26C and sunny. Instead, that would mean getting stuck behind a dump truck and gravel-spitting trailer rather than hitting the Sport button and going around the slower obstacle. It would travel 10 km / h under the limit on a four-lane highway, even staying in the right lane.
However, I made maximum use of the “deceleration selectors” mounted on the Insight’s steering wheel. Resembling paddle shifters, the shifters switch between three different levels of regenerative braking performance. Press the left selector to increase regenerative braking, while the right to reduce it. Not only does this increase the battery charge via regeneration, it also reduces brake wear, but not to the point of single-pedal braking. And, once on the adjacent streets near my house, I switched to battery power to quietly roll down the driveway.
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The experiment worked, with the center console reading showing a parsimonious 3.9 L / 100 km for my effort… until I was less than half a mile from home. Then a road crew was digging one of the side streets and a worker came out with his stop sign. The 20 seconds or so that I waited saw the reading click up to 4.0. So close, but still impressive, especially with the regular price at local pumps at $ 1.30.
The test trying to get excellent fuel economy (for me) ended – and keeping in mind that much of the test took place on four-lane and secondary highways where vehicles Hybrids aren’t the most efficient – I’ve reverted to a regular commute mindset, taking into account the almost complete banality of the car. Yes, despite the obvious weirdness of the first-gen Insight, the late 1999-2006 Jetsons-type coupe produced, which also became the first hybrid sold in North America, the third-generation model – awarded with green car of the year in 2019 – is bland. If it weren’t for a few hybrid badges, it would be nearly indistinguishable from most of the other four-door family cars on the road. Depending on your need to be viewed as environmentally conscious, this can be positive or negative.
The Insight’s two-engine hybrid transmission consists of a 107-horsepower 1.5L Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine mated to an electric propulsion motor that produces 197 lb-ft of torque. The total power of the system is 151 hp, which will not win it many grand prizes at traffic lights, but is quite lively for a hybrid, especially when Sport mode is selected. (The Prius sedan, which is close in price and size, but sells much stronger, only has 120 net horsepower, which makes it about 1.5 seconds slower at 100 km / h.) the button causes a pronounced change in character as both gasoline and electric motor. the engine starts. However, with the added verve comes a sharp increase in noise.
Driving and handling are quite acceptable, if not particularly remarkable. The car sits low, however, which together with the low and flat seats makes it a bit more difficult for the driver or taller passenger to get in and out with ease.
Insight comes in two different trim levels: Hybrid ($ 28,490) and Hybrid Touring ($ 32,190), the tester being the latter, which means a few extra niceties such as leather seats, a power sunroof, a passenger seat with four electric adjustments and a navigation system. Naturally, being a hybrid, the instrumentation includes additional mode reminders like a power flow meter in the center display.
The Insight’s lithium-ion battery is housed in a compact smart power pack mounted under the rear seats, allowing the car to offer a reasonable trunk volume of 428 liters.
Despite this radical shift towards electric vehicles, DesRosiers Automotive Consultants notes that in 2020, zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) represented only 3.5% of new light vehicle registrations in Canada, “the overwhelming majority of new light vehicles. sold being still ICE Vehicles. In other words, while there is growing interest, the vast majority of consumers have yet to open their wallets. And even with discounts, electric vehicles can be an expensive proposition, while hybrids, despite the lack of government support, are significantly cheaper.
Although it has three hybrid sedans in its Canadian lineup – the other two being the Plug-in Clarity and the Accord Hybrid – Honda does little to promote them, which at least partly explains their low sales, as well as the listlessness of the general public towards automobiles, now increasingly replaced by crossovers.
Too bad, really. The Insight, while far from perfect, is affordable, comfortable, very fuel efficient, and an extremely user-friendly compromise for those unsure of fully committing to a greener future.