All of the doors close easily, and after 600+ miles of driving, nothing rattled or squeaked abnormally. The interior designers did spruce up the interior plastics by embossing some of the trim pieces to simulate carbon fiber which adds to the futuristic look. Body panels and interior pieces are assembled in standard Honda excellence with no ill-fitting pieces. Even the gaps around the dash switches were uniform! With the small engine comes a small engine compartment, but even so, access to all vital fluids is easy and the oil filter is located on the lower front of the engine block making oil changes a breeze.
Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
The Insight’s instrument panel is perhaps one of the most well laid out and easy to read of all the cars I’ve tested. A large tach in the center is flanked on the left and right by a charge/assist gauge and a fuel gauge, respectively. Above the main instrument panel is a speedometer readout in digits that is easy to see regardless of the lighting due to its shroud. I particularly liked the way the odometer/temp/multifunction gauge (in front of the tach) floated in the panel due to the graduated backlighting. Very cool.
You could switch to Ecological Drive Assist System (“Eco Assist”) and enable a more efficient engine/throttle parameter as well as providing an icon-based scoring system for rating your driving efficiency. It can easily become a game to “score” more green leafs in the historical driving rating the more efficiently you drive.
As with most cars now, the steering wheel is fully adjustable. However, for the position I preferred, the top of the steering wheel obscured the speedometer so I had to lower the wheel or raise the seat height for a clear view of everything. The seat has limited adjustments: a push/pull lever to adjust seat height, fore/aft, and seat back angle. Even with these limited options, I was able to find a comfortable driving position for 3+ hour driving stints. Rear leg room is minimal and adults should not be subjected to stints in the back.
The audio and HVAC controls are large and easy to use with all button functions clearly labeled. I knew there was a USB interface (for iPods and other devices) so just before the trip I copied a bunch of albums from my PC to a USB flash drive. Upon starting our road trip, I plugged in the USB flash drive and selected the AUX input. Immediately, songs could be played and details about the albums, artists, and songs copied to the flash drive could be accessed via the audio controls. How simple and cool is that!
I do have some complaints about the ergonomics. The location of the 12 Volt outlet was too low and if I had a tall drink in the driver’s cupholder, the 12 Volt outlet was useless. Furthermore, the location of the cupholders in front of the shift lever was too low and too far to reach easily.
The thickly padded futuristic steering wheel had cruise control buttons (Honda: the “Cruise” button is a little too far inset from the edge of the wheel making it harder than it should be to reach) as well as several buttons (which were a bit confusing at first) controlling the multi-function display. I did miss having audio controls on the steering wheel and you’d have to opt for the navigation package to get them.
When driving near Bradley, CA, the temps were hovering around 102-degrees Fahrenheit and the A/C seemed to struggle to keep up in the blazing sun. It wasn’t overly hot inside the cabin, just not very comfortable.
With 111-hp, don’t expect too much. It would take the horsepower of almost four-Insight engines to equal the horsepower of the Charger SRT-8 engine. Flooring it causes the engine to wail as the rev’s climb and stays loud until the speed increases and the CVT settles in. The acceleration is smooth, but nothing stellar. Equipped with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), slamming the brakes brought impending lockup before the ABS kicked in. There’s a fair amount of dive (and adrenaline) during hard-braking probably due to the small tires and braking system (discs in front/drums out back): it stops in a straight-line but does not inspire confidence.
Since the design of the Insight is similar to the Fit, it reminded me of the sporty nature of the 2009 Fit that I drove a few months ago. The steering is taught and responsive to inputs with very little lash. Surprisingly, the Insight lacked good “on-center” feel and quickly drifted to the right or left when driven on the highway. Suspension is definitely on the firm side (compared to the Prius) and adds to the sporty driving characteristics of the car.
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