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THE Honda Insight is a car for the moment with UK sales since its launch six months ago nudging the best 12-months figure for its smaller Civic Hybrid stablemate.

Developed from the Civic Hybrid technology and carrying the name of a smaller Insight coupe launched in 1999, the new medium sized Honda hybrid has become an unqualified success.

Despite being one of the most desirable and economical to run modern hatchbacks, deliveries are virtually immediate and you can start saving money right away. It costs less to tax, run and insure and company car users will appreciate its low benifit in kind rating as well.

The new Honda Insight range comprises three models from about £16,000 to £19,000 with a five-door body and three trim levels which share the same powertrain. This model was the top spec ES-T automatic, which uses a continuously variable transmission that seems particularly suited to the advanced petrol-electric power source.

The seemingly modest 1.3-litre engine in fact delivers reasonable acceleration with a noticeable punch coming as the electric motor kicks in to boost output. Driven on a light 'throttle' the engine note is very low, but it does become noiser as revs increase and at high speed it is on a par with a conventional petrol-only model.

You are often unaware which power source is working away unless you call up the on-board computer graphics and these are a useful way of monitoring your power use and economy as well as a host of other things. Used intelligently, the on-board computer can really help extend your economy and make smaller environmental footprints. With over 60mpg possible it is a very economical car.

With the endless CVT whirring away you have almost instant acceleration from rest or on the move but you can hear it working and this combined with road noise from the wheels, tyres and suspension mean it is not as refined as the engine management system.

I liked the Insight's brakes and around town the steering was good but it gave less feedback on open roads.

Secondary switches were all conveniently laid out around the wheel and column but you need to learn the intricacies of the computer to correctly set the display. Instruments are fairly large and clearly display settings infront of the driver.

Climate control is standard on the ES-T as are powered windows all round but there is no sunroof option. Temperature was easily set, well maintained and had good output.

The room for odds and ends was good throughout the cabin and it is an ideal family car in this respect while the boot capacity rises from around 400 litres to over 580 litres with a high floor and deep rear sill over which to lift items.

Access for users is good with big door openings and once inside the room is very good for four, slightly squashed for three in the back, but those infront have a lot of room. Seat adjustment is good infront and all the seats have good shape to help locate occupants.

Ride quality is generally smooth even if you can hear the suspension working away underneath but not letting the bumps shake up the interior too much. Low speed ride can sometimes be worse than at speed over the same road.

I would have liked more steering feedback but the handling is safe and surefooted for most users. Its tendency to run wide on tight turns is quickly corrected and there is no drama if you lift off mid-corner.

The shape of the Insight is generally good for visibility but you lose some sight through the shallow back window and high tail and over £800 for an optional rear parking sensor seems to be taking advantage of the poor design in this respect. Lights and wipers are good.

In conclusion, the new Honda Insight is a good modern family car with the promise of low ownership costs, an easy-driving and practical nature. It has few rivals, for now.

Time is on its side.


Honda Insight 1.3 IMA ES-T Hybrid 5dr

Price: £18,890

Mechanical: 87bhp, 1,300cc, 4cyl hybrid engine driving front wheels via CVT gearbox

Max speed: 113mph

0-62mph: 12.5 seconds

Combined mpg: 61

Insurance group: 6

C02 emissions: 105g/km

BIK rating: 7%

Warranty: 3yrs/ 90,000 miles

source: ayrshirepost.net

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