Honda is marketing its new Insight as the first truly affordable hybrid to reach the market, and with prices starting at just over £15,000, some £3000 less than the cheapest Toyota Prius, you can see why. That buys you a car with similar emissions and fuel consumption to the Prius, a very similar shape and only slightly inferior performance. It’s also better to drive than a Prius, though not by much.
So far so good. Its problems start when you consider that the Prius is about to be replaced by a third-generation car with power, emissions and fuel consumption figures beyond the reach of this Insight.
If you conclude that price means these two are not really rivals and compare the Insight instead to the conventional cars against which it has to compete, then the picture is no more rosy. A diesel-powered Ford Focus uses no more fuel, offers similar performance, sits in the same Band B emissions class and costs only an extra £500. But instead of feeling like a technology testbed adapted to the open market, the Focus is a simply outstanding car. Yes the Insight’s tax disc will cost £20 less and you’ll be able to drive it into London free of charge, but you’re going to want to wear your green credentials on your sleeves, front and back, to put up with its limitations.