Honda Insight (1999 – 2003) Review

Honda Insight (1999 – 2003) At A Glance


+Extremely low CO2 emissions of 80g/km. Surprisingly nippy and good to drive. More than 80mpg is possible in real-world driving.

-Only two seats and very limited luggage space. Expensive to insure because it's costly to repair.

The Honda Insight is based on the Honda J-VX hybrid sports car concept vehicle, which was unveiled at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show. The car took a while to get off the drawing board and on to the road, however, with the first of the Japanese carmaker's hybrid sports cars going on sale in Japan in 1999. The car eventually made it to the UK in 2000.

Power comes from a three-cylinder 1.0-litre VTEC engine which produces 67hp. Despite the low power output, the car is nippy and still fun to drive, although the most exciting thing about it is the technology on show. The lightweight Integrated Motor Assist hybrid tech adds another 13hp to the power output. But - and here's the really clever it - it acts as a generator during deccelration and braking, recharing the Insight's batteries.

It's this, plus the Insights low drag design and use of weight-saving plastics that help the car return 64mpg. Never a huge seller, the Mk1 Insight is an interesting curio and an instant classic. Find a good one and you'll pay around £3k for it.

Ask Honest John

Is a first generation Honda Insight a good buy?

"What are your views on a 2001 Honda Insight? I am very keen on them for aesthetics and economy, cheap tax. Are there things I should ask the owner about? Could I attach a tow bar to it? It's up for £4000."
Along with the Prius, the first-generation Insight was a critical stepping stone towards the mainstream acceptance of electric vehicles. As such they're regarded as classics - although have a slightly smaller following than mainstream tradition models such as the Jaguar E-type. I don't think you need to pay £4000+ to get a good first gen car ... unless it's low-mileage or you're after a show winner. These Insights recharge their batteries via energy recovered from braking and offer the 1.0-litre petrol a performance boost when required - there's no plugging in to worry about. The small engine means they're not really suitable for towing, I'm afraid. And yes, you'll need to check the car over as you would any secondhand car (check the condition of the brakes, that the engine doesn't overheat). Like any old car, the suspensions can get a bit creaky and you may find it needs TLC in this area. It's crucial that all the electrics work, though. Ideally, you want to find a loving owner who's looked after the car - they're at an age when bodges are common now. It can also be hard to track down certain parts for the car (ie expensive).
Answered by Keith Moody
More Questions