Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Serene, green machine

IF dignity were a car then it might be called the Honda Insight. This unassuming hybrid has an air of calm about it that I find attractive and welcome in today’s cut-and-thrust atmosphere on Britain’s roads

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IF dignity were a car then it might be called the Honda Insight. This unassuming hybrid has an air of calm about it that I find attractive and welcome in today’s cut-and-thrust atmosphere on Britain’s roads.

The Insight was initially launched in 1999, re-launched in 2009 and improved again in 2012, when Honda continued to harness its mellow mood and up its “green” credentials.

There had been criticism that the car has been too laid-back for its own good but I think this misses the point.

It is no accident that the Insight is chilled out because the car is a high point along the way of Honda’s consistent drive for more than 40 years to create more environmentally acceptable vehicles.

This intention, believe it or not, stretches back in real terms as far as 1972.

That was the year the Japanese carmaker developed the CVCC engine a low-emission petrol power unit to comply with strict US regulations.

Honda’s “green” endeavour grew from there. (Interestingly, even further back in 1956, Honda’s founder Soichiro Honda said: “After materials are carried into the factory, nothing but products should be carried out.” The result is zero waste to landfill at Honda’s manufacturing plants.)

By the end of the 1990s, Honda had begun its Insight campaign.

It was a car that while many carmakers (and politicians) were paying lip service or playing catch up on the need to get a grip on environmental issues sported a petrol-electric power source capable of 83mpg on the combined cycle, with emissions of just 80g/km.

The big question for motorists posed by hybrids is what do you want out of a car today?

No one appreciates a throaty V8 engine more than I do or the zinging power of a gas-gulping V12 Aston Martin Vantage.

But the plain fact is that on all fronts economic, environmental and what is now socially acceptable the new hybrids and even more advanced cars driven by more sophisticated power sources such as hydrogen cell, are the way of all future car production.

Every carmaker now is committed to demonstrating its green credentials somehow, from prestige motors to the smallest of city cars and to my mind the Insight is one of those cars that has modestly shown the way.

Its hybrid system has been used successfully in not only the Insight but also the Civic IMA and its successor, the Civic Hybrid.

Over the years the system has evolved and become smaller, more lightweight and cheaper to produce, and Honda says “the latest version in the new Insight is the most advanced IMA technology introduced by Honda to date”.

There is a technique to driving the Insight: by definition the car encourages the driver to drive economically.

So this is not the car for those motorists with big egos to feed. While motorway motoring on inclines in particular may require a certain dexterity of driving, that is, with a 1.3 engine you have to know the car’s capabilities, urban and city driving is easily achieved.

In a world of motoring in which 70 per cent of motorists in a recent survey said they wished other road users were more polite, isn’t it time for a bit of calm?

That catchphrase borrowed from a wartime poster, “Keep Calm and Carry On”, has been used many times since recently. I think my favourite is “Keep Calm and Wordsearch On”. So I’m sure no one will mind if I borrow it once again and urge you to “Keep Calm and Drive a Hybrid.”



Honda Insight1.3 i-VTEC HS IMA Hybrid CVT

Price (on the road): £20,785 Insight range starts from £19,535

Key features:

l 5-door family hatchback with Honda’s petrol-electric IMA system

l Low emissions and impressive fuel economy

l Unique Eco Assist system to help any driver maximise fuel economy

l Practical interior to accommodate five passengers

l Flexible and class-leading load space of 408-litres

l Value for money specification

062 mph: 11.8 secs

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