California Autos Examiner

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Automotive disappointment of the year: Honda Insight

Honda Insight (Courtesy: Honda)
Over the past couple of days, many automotive scribes have begun making their lists of who was naughty and who was nice in 2009.  One consistent member of the "naughty" column has been the Honda Insight.

Gain some Insight into the Honda Insight in the gallery of images in this linked slideshow.

Honda is normally the critical darling, with each model of its Accord and Civic lineup achieving enough praise to make any automaker blush.  However, its new hybrid Insight model failed to impress the critics.  For example, the usually Honda friendly Consumer Reports shredded the Insight,
The Insight is the most disappointing Honda Consumer Reports has tested in a long time.  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.
Ouch.  That had to leave a mark.  Critics are not the only one left disappointed, so are some Honda dealers.  The Chicago Tribune quoted  Don Marino, general manager of Honda of Santa Monica, California, who said of the Insight,
 We're all pretty disappointed. We thought we had the next hit on our hands.
Holiday cheer is doing nothing to improve the mood of the Insight's critics.  Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press writes of the Honda Insight in his "2009 Hits & Misses" column,
The original Insight was America's first hybrid in 1999. Honda revived the name this year, but the new car's Prius-lite styling and unspectacular fuel economy left buyers cold. You can't out-Prius Toyota, but Honda tried and failed.
Automotive News mentions the Insight in its "Blunders of the Year" (subscription required), making fun of the Insight's advertising campaign in the process,
The Honda Insight. Supposed to be the "hybrid for everyone," it sells to virtually no one.
Can't the little Insight catch a break?  Well, not according to Business Week's David Welch who wrote earlier this month,
It's not clear that the Insight will ever seriously challenge the Prius because Honda has overlooked a lesson Toyota learned years ago: Hybrids aren't a budget purchase.
The Insight is a rare miss for Honda.  The company continues to try and find way to gain traction in the hybrid market, but as of yet seemingly cannot get a handle on things.  The performance-minded Accord hybrid model was "One of the most spectacular marketing failures of the last five years" and Honda recently settled a lawsuit over its hybrid Civic's mileage claims.

The next duck in Honda's hybrid effort will be the CR-Z.  Honda has high hopes for the car, with Erik Berkman, vice president of Automobile Corporate Planning and Logistics for American Honda Motor Company touting,
The Honda CR-Z will expand our lineup of hybrid vehicles and reinforce the fun-to-drive values associated with the Honda brand.  Beyond great styling and features, CR-Z will bring new levels of engagement and fun to customers interested a small car or a hybrid vehicle.
For both Erik's and Honda's sake, let's hope he's right!
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Anonymous said...

Now it is becoming fashion to bash the Insight. I doubt some of these reviewers actually drove the car. What a bunch of sheep!

Jim J. Donaldson said...

As an Insight OWNER, I can say the Insight is a safe, reliable and fun to drive compact car with usable storage space. For a value minded consumer it was an easy decision to buy.

Michael Sheena said...

I totally understand owning a car that has with met with critical derision. My Jaguar X-Type wagon suffered under generalizations made about the X-Type sedan. My wagon is a great handling, well screwed together gem of a car. But to read some reviews, the X-Type was a complete blunder with no redeeming qualities.

Now, when it comes to the Insight. I think the exterior design is just fine, but I am disappointed with the interior plastics and dash layout. I am looking forward to the CR-Z. I will be at the Detroit show for the reveal and I will report all about it here at ACATT. I hope that you'll drop by to check out my coverage.

Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

I just bought the Insight 2 and have owned an Insight 1 for 8 years. I am quite pleased with my Insight 2 and plan to own it just as long my Insight 1 (which I am keeping, has 215,5000 miles, and average of 70 mpg).