Honda Insight Test Drive

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Middle of last week, I received an email asking me if I’d like to take a Honda Hybrid car for a test drive with a group of bloggers to Malacca, and deep within me, I felt something skipped a beat thinking that I get to test drive the CR-Z that was launched in 2011… but lo and behold, that’s not it but the 2010 Honda Insight that made it’s first appearance during the KLIM’2010. I figured, heck, why not? right?

The above video is the highlights of the test drive that the bunch of us was invited to, just 3 blokes sharing their opinion about the car (sorry, no pretty ladies in the video). We started off by meeting up with the Honda team at The Bee in Jaya One where the Management of Honda gave us a short briefing on what to expect and what we will experience over the next two days. After that, we formed a team of 3 and get bundled into 5 Insights that was eagerly waiting for us. The people riding with me for the trip was Isaac and Ken and so, away we go! Just a warning, this is a long long post!

You might be wondering, how much can we experience in an hour’s drive to Malacca? Well, it took us a good 5 hours to get to Malacca as we took the rural routes with a stop at Port Dickson for lunch before continuing on towards Malacca. Quite an interesting selection of route to take allowing us to experience the various aspects of the car along the way.  Before we proceed on with what I think about the car, here’s some infographs for you to understand further about the History behind the Hybrid technology that is employed in the car. (click on the images to enlarge)

Yup, you read it right, this is the 2nd generation of the Insight that first made it’s appearance back in 1999. There is a facelift version of the Insight in 2012 but I doubt that it’ll come into Malaysia that fast.  The next infograph is on how the hybrid system works. The sportier bodykit for this car isn’t cheap too as there’s not much demand in the Hybrid market.

What is considered a Hybrid vehicle? Engine + Motor = Hybrid. Simple right? The 1.3L i-VTEC engine with Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) Honda Insight also employs a technology that it developed in it’s Formula 1 days. The KERS system used in the Formula 1 car is migrated into the Insight where the braking of the vehicle contributes to charging up the IMA battery.

The last infograph shows us the features and benefits of the Honda Insight, one notable aspect of the vehicle is the ECON MODE. What it does is basically gets the ECU of the Insight to go into the most fuel efficient mode where the engine cuts off automatically when idle and the balance of power output for the car directed towards better mileage for every litre of fuel used. There’s an interesting guidance function on the display too where it shows you the color green for the most economical drive to blue-green for an average and blue for the more aggressive drive. The IMA Battery also comes with a 5 year warranty, Honda insight is the only one that gives such a long warranty for battery!

Now for my driving experience in the Insight. Hopefully, this will be an insightful read for you. Over the few hundred kilometers I’ve driven this Insight in, I would say if we aren’t heavy footed, it is quite an economical ride.

With the ECON MODE on, the car barely loses much fuel over the distance covered. We were averaging about 20km/liter! No, I’m not joking on the mileage. That was what we were getting when driving conservatively getting from Jaya One to Avilion in Port Dickson!

From Port Dickson to Malacca though, we decide to give the car a go at the power end of things. The 98hp pony took some time to get up to 6,000rpm but that’s about it. It wouldn’t exceed the 6,000rpm once it hit that threshold. The 3 of us was quite disappointed at that, and we could only get it up to 150km/h and the 1.3L engine sound like it was having difficulty maintaining that speed over a long distance. Like I said in the video above, if you’re a petrol head like me. This isn’t the right car for you. If you’re a lady, or someone with a family that wants a ride that sits 4 people (including the driver) comfortably and save money on petrol, this is definitely the right car for you. It’s also running on an automatic gearbox so there is just that much we can do.

Now, let’s talk about the driving position, I must say that inside the Insight, the dashboard looks beautiful where the instrument panels are placed. It looks like a spaceship’s console that is ready to take you on an adventure! So far one of the more pleasant looking console compared to it’s rivals.

Especially at night, when you turn on the lights inside the car, it looks like something out of TRON or AUTOMAN (for those of you born after the 1990s, you’d have no idea what I’m talking about). The steering position is quite comfortable and the feedback from the car is quite good too. There is several buttons on the steering wheel that allows you to control the radio as well as the flick through the various Eco Guide function to give you data such as the mileage you gain out of the vehicle as well as the Scoring Function especially for those of you who like to make it a game.

The ride is designed for comfort, so you will expect a bit of body roll when taking corner at higher speed but no worries about losing control of the car as long as you kept the traction control on (we turned it off at one point but the car’s power band is slow enough that we can’t get it to drift at the turns). The E-brake is essentially drum so don’t expect it to give you a quick response/rear wheel lock up when pulling it hard. All you’ll hear is a sharp tone and a flashing HandBrake is Engaged sign on the driver’s console.

One thing I didn’t like about the dashboard is the design at the passenger side, it has a deep glove compartment but the external edges isn’t rounded but rather quite uncomfortably sharp. Maybe the Japanese who designed this car is a tad short and has no problem with it but when I was sitting on the passenger side, even when the seat was moved back, I kept knocking into it whenever the brake was applied aggressively. It sure is a painful experience riding in the passenger seat.

The other aspect of the car’s design I didn’t quite fancy is the rear windscreen area. It’s quite similar in design to the old 1988 CR-X where 30% of the view towards the rear is blocked off by a beam running across, so when we look towards the rear using the rear-view mirror, we can’t see too much. It isn’t too much of an issue when you are driving forward but it does make me feel insecure when I’m reversing.

Lastly, the seats, the driver and passenger seat is quite comfortable, well designed to give us both a comfortable ride and with it’s slightly contoured shape also provides a cushioning that won’t slide off when we are taking a corner. Some cars I’ve sat in basically make us slide off when the vehicle is going into a corner and we need to rely on the door handle to keep us in our seat. The rear seat that provides a 60:40 seat split gives it an odd middle section that is quite uncomfortable for kids that wants to lay down to sleep on long distance drives. The 3 of us tried (whenever we sit at the back seat) and end up can only sleep sitting upright.

The booth space is quite spacious that we can put one person in and still have space for our luggage. We joked that if we really want to sleep, we could put all the luggage into the back seat and sleep in the booth as it was much more comfortable to sleep on our back.

Overall, the car is wonderful, great for city driving where you can’t really go “MORE POWERRRRRR” and give us an overall comfortable ride (as long as we are sitting upright).  Driving around Malacca town during the Friday evening traffic, with it’s automatic gearbox, it’s one of those hassle-free ride. Turn the ECON MODE on, put the gearbox in D and just let it do it’s work in getting you from Point A to Point B.  At below RM100K, it is also the cheapest Hybrid car in our Market too!

I have an Insight…. have you?

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