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Review: Honda Insight Facelift – Hits and Misses

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Front fascia update needs trained eyes to spot the difference.

Did you know the Honda Insight underwent a facelift, after just a little over a year in the market? You see, Toyota gate-crashed the cheapest hybrid party, which was long held by the Honda Insight, with the Prius C, to take advantage of the government’s tax break on hybrid cars.

Honda responded with the Jazz Hybrid (which we will review soon) and at the same time, gave us the facelifted Insight. Let’s start of with what are the changes. The most obvious one is the front fascia of the car, which featured new bumper, grille and lights combo. The lesser obvious one is, the Insight has revised (lower) rear hip points and reshaped the roof to make way for 15mm increment, so that anyone who is taller than average Asian height will not make an indentation on the roof lining of the car. The rear beam that runs across the tailgate had been made thinner so that it is less obstructive on the rear view mirror and the NVH material has been enhanced.

Honda’s take on the hybrid – the IMA, or Integrated Motor Assist. As the name suggests, it is not a full hybrid.

The least obvious one is the engine and CVT control unit has been remapped so that it is more fuel efficient. However, engine statistics has not changed from before, i.e. 87 hp and 121 Nm 1.3 petrol engine aided by 13 hp and 78 Nm electric motor.

Andrew had earlier drove the Honda Insight for an over night at Port Dickson earlier this year, and found it to be a “safe and practical point A to B” car. As he had done quite an in depth review of it, what I am going to do is to tell you how livable the car is in our infamous traffic jam in the KL city – the place that the car most likely is going to spend most time in. I drove the Insight for 200 km commuting between KL city centre and the suburbs like Bandar Utama and Subang Jaya, on a Wednesday, the week before Ramadhan starts.

Boot space is definitely Ikea friendly. Fold-down seats boosts boot volume further.

Let’s start with the not-so-good stuff. I personally dislike CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) as it gives me a feeling of a slipping clutch. It may be good to save fuel, but I prefer to have a manual cog swapping anytime over CVT. Having said that, you’d need to endure the exercise of swapping gears during peak hours. The interior plastic quality of the Insight is quite a letdown, despite all the buttons provide good tactility. You can actually feel the sharp, unshaven plastic joints at the driver door card compartment area. The car that I drove, even had something rattling behind the dash area, despite the car only having about 9,000 km mileage.

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Drawbacks aside, I clocked average fuel consumption of 17.5 km / litre during the 200 km drive, which consists largely of getting stuck in traffic jam. The Insight is equipped with start-stop system (which is loathed by Vernon) that cuts off the engine when you are in the jam. There were some reports about air condition not functioning when the engine is cut off, however, I think Honda had made some adjustments with this facelift Insight. The engine now starts in tandem with the raise of cabin temperature. It is as though that the engineers had wired the thermostat to the start-stop system. You might lose out a few dribbles of petrol for the air con, but with our climate condition, you will be ok with that.

Interior cabin is comfortable. Major changes to the rear passenger space.

I have counted no less than 6 cubby holes at the front side, excluding the cup holders, which means you could basically fit in things nicely. Creature comfort wise, you get a pretty decent sound system which supports USB and AUX-in. Dual airbags, ABS, EBD, BA and traction control come as standard although I don’t think traction control system is really necessary for a hybrid. You get 400 litres of boot space and with the 60/40 rear seats accessible, it is Ikea flat pack furniture loadable-friendly. Outside noise is well insulated from the cabin and stays so until about 140 km/h on highways.

Naturally, the Insight is compared with the Prius. The RM 40k price difference between the Toyota and Honda lies largely in the drive train (Toyota’s a real hybrid car and thus is technologically more advance) and to a certain extent, it shows also in the interior plastics. But, RM 40k can buy you about 21,000 litres (at RM 1.90 / litre) worth of petrol and at 17.5 km/l fuel consumption, it can cover you for a good 368,000 km.

So, if you are a young professional or you have a young family, and want a car which gets you point A to B with no fuss, drives at national speed limit, wants an alternative to “normal” car and at the same time doing the environment a little bit a favour, then the Honda Insight is for you. The retail price of the Honda Insight is RM 99,800 (including insurance) and comes with 3 years or 100,000 km warranty (whichever comes first) with the exception of the IMA battery, which is warranted for 5 years or 140,000 km (whichever comes first).

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About Jack Lee

Jack Lee is an unqualified petrol head (some say, to be one, you have to own an Alfa Romeo) who is disappointed with cars which are getting more and more electronics and the lack of interest in cars shown by today's youths in general. He owns an almost 20 year car from Germany, which has almost 50:50 weight distribution, 3 pedals (manual, FTW!) and believes that everyone should spin at the last corner of Sepang circuit at least once in their life. He also holds the distinction in TCG as the person with the lightest right foot, of course, when compared with his colleagues' mutated cast iron right foot.

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  • Carl WongTW

    Hi This will be my new car for 2013, I love my 2013 Honda Insight Hybrid Facelift :)…!!!

    • Awesome! What’s your score, out of 10, for the Insight?

  • Carl WongTW

    Hi This will be my new car for 2013, I love my 2013 Honda Insight Hybrid Facelift :)…!!!