July 10, 2011

DRIVEN: Honda Insight 1.3 hybrid !

I'm officially not a virgin anymore *to hybrid car to be exact!* For the first time ever I got the chance to try out the new Honda Insight, which is a hybrid car powered by a 1.3litre IMA hybrid system. The petrol engine is able to produce 88bhp on its own and 14bhp by the electric motor. To compared with Civic, Civic's 1.3litre petrol engine produces 93bhp and 20bhp by the electric motor.

To optimize aerodynamics, hybrid cars like Toyota Prius and Honda Insight opted the sloping roofline design to help to increase the fuel efficiency of the car. However, some might not favour such design because it looks rear heavy. I did not find the design offensive, but rear vision was hampered greatly by the rear windscreen which is divided into 2 sections. I don't feel like using the center rear view mirror since I can only see through the bottom part of rear windscreen clearly.

If you are familiar with the cabin of the Honda Civic, you'll find that you are in the same world in the Honda Insight. Civic's steering wheel, similar dual-tier instrument panel and asymmetrical, futuristic looking dashboard. However, the dashboard was only good to see but not good to touch. Plastic was everywhere in the cabin and doesn't look or feel high quality when touched. Honda City has a better interior compared to Insight's.

Cabin space was adequate for the front passenger, but rear occupants has cramp headroom (due to the low roofline) and legroom. Rear passenger with height of more than 175cm will have trouble to find a comfortable seating position at the back seat.

Driving a hybrid is actually has the same feel as driving a fuel powered car. I found that the Insight behaves almost similar to other cars on the road (pardon me for my first experience in driving a hybrid)! Starting the engine of the Insight will send a minor vibration to the cabin, after that you won't be able to determine whether its engine is on or off. Electric motor will be the one which is used more often in city or low speed driving, but you'll still be able to hear the engine sound at low speed, not as quiet as I thought a hybrid is.

Acceleration was adequate for city driving and steering was very light, not much feedback you can get from the steering wheel. Refinement is also not a plus point for the Insight, as the noise from the engine and the road were transmitted into the cabin. Probably Insight is a car where it calls 'city' as its home.

Standard equipment provided are impressive. Auto climate control, VSA stability control, sensor activated headlamps and wipers, an MP3+WMA compatible audio player with USB and aux jack, the usual ABS, EBD, dual SRS airbags, and rear ISOFIX points. Priced at RM98,000 thanks to the exemption of tax by the government, many people can afford a hybrid at a much lower cost now. Hopefully government will continue this exemption as an effort in helping to create a cleaner motoring scene in Malaysia.

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