"The Insight is the most disappointing Honda Consumer Reports has tested in a long time"

2010 honda insight hybrid car photo

Photo: Honda
They Really Didn't Like It...
Consumer Reports is highly respected and used by many car buyers to decide which models to even consider. So it's a pretty big blow to the Honda Insight hybrid that CR is publishing a pretty negative review, ranking the Insight hybrid 21st out of 22 small hatchbacks and wagons. Why is the Insight getting a thumb down? Read on to find out.
honda insight hybrid car photo

Photo: Honda

So here's the money quote from the Consumer Reports press release (you need to be a CR subscriber to read the whole thing):

The new Honda Insight posted a lackluster "Good" overall road-test score in Consumer Reports' testing for the August issue. The Insight achieved an excellent 38 mpg overall in CR's tests but fell short in ride quality, handling, interior noise, acceleration, and rear seat access.

"The Insight is the most disappointing Honda Consumer Reports has tested in a long time," said David Champion, Senior Director of CR's Auto Test Center. "The Insight is a noisy stiff riding car with clumsy handling that is nothing like the Fit on which it is based. Also, Electronic Stability Control is only available on the highline EX version." [...]

At its cornering limits, the Insight plows straight ahead early on in tight turns and the tail can slide out too quickly for stability control to completely prevent it.

This is the polite way to say what Jeremy Clarkson has been saying in his review: "[The Insight is] terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It's the first car I've ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn't have to drive it any more.

honda insight red photo

Photo: Michael Graham Richard

But reviews haven't been all negative (f.ex., Autobloggreen said the Insight had "tight handling and good steering feedback" and was "shockingly fun car to drive in a spirited manner" with "the best dynamic traits of the Fit", and they got much better MPG than CR did) and the new Insight has been selling very well in Japan, outselling the Toyota Prius hybrid in February. But that was before the new redesigned 2010 Toyota Prius went on sale, and before this Consumer Reports review. How will this impact Insight sales?

But most importantly, what does this mean?
With Jeremy Clarkson's review, people could think it was a matter of taste. But Consumer Reports has a much more rigorous and objective testing methodology, so their review is harder to dismiss. Does this mean that Honda went too far in cutting costs to make the Insight the least expensive hybrid car on the market? Was Honda limited by its choice of an 'assist hybrid' powertrain? Something else?

Only time will tell if the new Insight is a success or a flop, and if Insight owners are satisfied with their hybrid cars, but two things are certain: It's a good thing that people who need to buy a car have one more fuel-efficient option, and it's a good thing that Toyota has competition (especially on price), pushing it to make the Prius better and less expensive.

Any Insight drivers reading this? Please share your impressions about the car in the comments below.

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