Sunday, February 7, 2010

2010 Honda Insight EX Review

It's been a while since I saddled up the old cow poke and strode through a dealership to test drive cars. Maybe due to lack of time or even interest, I haven't been around car dealerships much lately. Out of sheer boredom I decided to try the Honda dealership. My gut told me not to go there, because I had been told before not to come by "If I was just test driving". Back then they knew I ran a local web site and didn't want me wasting their time. I really wanted to jump into a V8 Hyundai Genesis, but deep down I knew those cars don't exist in DARTMOUTH. This is the land of Hyundai Accents, for fuck sakes. Instead I appeared as a buyer and was helped by a friendly salesman who told me they DID have a 2010 Honda Insight EX ready to test drive. It was an automatic and a demo car - was that OK? Certainly was for me.
After a quick photocopy of my drivers' license and a demo of the car outside, I was given the keys an the salesman left me to take the car out by myself. The 2010 Honda Insight is a hatchback with lots of promising features at first glance, but after driving it for a little while I soon discovered how awful the car is to drive. My main complaint is the lack of power and acceleration. When you steer the car, it feels heavy and moves in the direction of your steering wheel more like a truck. For such a small car, I wonder why Honda made the steering so dead and lifeless?

The brakes are good and the car is pretty silent except when you need to put the power down. Then the 1.4 liter engine begins to whine incessantly as the car tries in vain to pull it's porky body around the city streets. Check out the TINY battery below. Apparently the Hybrid system uses 100 volt dc, substantially less voltage than their rivals (600 vdc). I wonder how much current this system puts out, because that's what counts when you need the work done.

Rear visibility is horrible, I like to think of it as looking outside a F16 cockpit because the windows are so raked and narrow. This car really doesn't need to be a 4-door in my opinion. Two doors would have been enough and rear seat room is barely adequate for 5 foot 10 sized folks.
In normal city driving the Hybrid system doesn't do much except for providing electric power to the car when needed. If you press the ECO button on the left hand side, the car will make adjustments to marginally increase the fuel economy. It'll do things like turn off the HVAC system more often, turn the engine off when the car is stopped & your foot is on the brake. 
I think it's more of a gimmick than anything else. One annoying thing is when you are driving, if the car is using energy from the battery packs, the color around the speedometer goes blue. When you're recovering energy back to the batteries, the display goes green. It kept distracting me when I was driving because the colors would fade in and out continuously. 
The audio and telephone controls were nice to have on the steering wheel. I didn't care for the HVAC system pod that Honda decided to make on the dashboard. (Although the climate control was a nice feature to have in a 26,000 $ car).

And I also didn't like the tacky blue-sparkly plastic that surrounded the radio/GPS screen. It looked like a real cheap Canadian Tire 3rd party item. Something I'd never expect to see on a Honda product.
Did I mention the seats were hard & uncomfortable? It's going to be a tough sell to get this car out of Honda's lots. This is the first time I would ever say this, but If I had to choose between a Toyota Prius and this car.... I would RUN, not walk to the Prius!
The bland styling continues to the center console where the shifter and mysterious "S" for manual shifting. Why you would even consider using a manu-matic transmission, I'll never know. Maybe Honda should have stuck a CVT transmission in the car - but probably the real reason was cost and the fact you need more horsepower to drive a CVT. Regarding the eco-button and information: Do you think the consumer even cares about charging or assisting gauges? I know I don't.

Would I buy the car? Would I suggest it for anyone? No and absolutely not. You are better off buying a Volkswagon TDI diesel, or Honda Fit. There are better cars out there, and the fact that this is the first model year for the car, I would never get it. In the end I was left disappointed and discouraged, happy to get back into my Subaru Impreza for another year. Maybe next year Honda will build a better Hybrid.

No comments: