Motoring Trailblazers - Honda Insight

Tue 18th Sep 2018

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Honda Insight
Whilst the Toyota Prius has taken all the plaudits and glory for being the pioneer of the hybrid car market, it may be a little known fact that it was beaten to PHEV punch by a local rival.

The Honda Insight is regarded by many motoring historians as the world’s first hybrid available on the general market. Based on the Honda J-VX concept which was unveiled to the public at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show, the Insight was available to market a full seven months prior to the Toyota Prius’ debut.

Honda’s hybrid was based on the company’s Integrated Motor Assist technology, a system that quickly made the car the most fuel efficient car on the market, achieving a fuel economy estimate of 70mpg. Such was the distances achieved by the Insight on one fuel load, the term ‘hypermilers’ was spawned as a reference to those who sought to achieve the maximum travel distance. Honda even challenged automotive journalists to a competition to see who could obtain the best fuel efficiency on the 195-mile drive from Columbus, Ohio to Detroit. The guys at Car and Driver magazine, won the competition with an excellent fuel consumption of 121.7 miles per gallon, though that was with the Insight driving within the confines of a box pulled by a Ford Excursion to reduce wind resistance.

Those same journalists were full of praise, even going so far to favour the Insight over the rival Prius saying: .”the Insight proved more visceral, connected, and agile than the Prius. The Insight represents a lot of engineering bang for the buck, and the majority of its dynamics are more satisfying than the Prius’s.”

Despite its early acclaim, the Insight did not see British roads until 2009, by which time Top Gear’s top critics were saying that its technology had been surpassed by diesel cars.

Though the car had been forerunner for many more hybrids, and was at one point the top selling car in Japan, the Honda company announced in 2013 that it was pulling the car from production due to a ‘slow death’ of sales.