Insight into battle
HONDA'S new hybrid, Insight, went on sale here on Monday. It is a sign of the times that a car of such prominent technological and ecological accomplishments should also be heralded as the most affordable hybrid on the market.
Yes, the mix of 'green' and cash is a powerful cocktail. So much so that Honda expect hybrids (It has an excellent Civic version) to account for one in every six sales this year.
Furthermore, it predicts that will increase exponentially as new hybrids come along (there is one for the Jazz pencilled in for next year and for the sports coupe CR-Z later this summer).
It looks like there is going to be quite a battle for buyers between the currently kingpin diesels and the increasing number of hybrids.
There are two Insight versions: the 1.4i-VTEC SE 5dr at €22,378 ex-works and the ES at €23,274. Now, these prices do include the Government's €2,500 VRT refund.
You should be aware that where you trade in under scrappage against a hybrid, that €2,500 VRT has already been refunded. If there is €1,500 or more left, then you will get that. But if it is only €700, that's all you'll get. So be sure to check.
On a brief drive, the Insight -- a five-door crouching coupe -- was in its element, mixing use of battery, engine and regenerative braking to minimise fuel consumption.
There's great encouragement from icons on the dash to keep your right foot light. But when I ignored those, it had a swift enough turn of foot too.
It costs less than the Prius (€25,900) but the Toyota's cabin is much larger. The Insight is sized for a small family, whereas the Prius has copious quantities of space in its cabin. So direct comparisons between the two, just because they are both hybrids, are not strictly like with like.
Other key non-hybrid rivals include the likes of the Ford Focus diesel, Toyota Corolla diesel etc . . . and that's where a lot of the action is likely to take place.
Road tax on the Insight is €104, with emissions of 101g/km and fuel consumption of 4.4litres/100km for the entry level model. Its maximum power is 98bhp -- not bad at all.
There is an eight-year warranty for the IMA system, while the hybrid system itself is maintenance-free, Honda says.
Transmission is continuously variable -- no gear shifting -- and is smooth and quiet.
The rear seats fold down, there's a full five-star NCAP rating for pedestrians and children and a decent level of standard equipment.
Let battle commence.