The Insight is powered by a system called IMA - which stands for Integrated Motor Assist. This is simply an electric motor that sits alongside the petrol engine. It's based on the same system used in the Civic Hybrid, but the 1.3-litre engine is new and the electric motor is smaller and lighter - helping to save even more fuel. The 1.3-litre i-VTEC unit delivers 88bhp on its own, but the electric motor adds a further 14bhp along with plenty of extra pulling power from a standstill.
0-62mph takes a reasonable 12.5 seconds - although this is slower than the Civic Hybrid. However, fuel economy is impressive with an average of 64mpg. The Insight is good enough around town, but the engine doesn't respond well to demands for power. The CVT gearbox is the main problem. While it offers seamless changes, it holds the engine at high revs when accelerating, creating excessive noise and seeing economy drop rapidly.
However, there is a super economy mode that's activated by an ECON switch on the dashboard. This limits engine power, smoothes out gear shifts and captures more regenerative energy from braking.
Light steering and a stepless CVT gearbox make the Insight easy and relaxing to drive in town or at gentle speeds. There's not much feel through the steering wheel, but it's nicely weighted and feels stable on the motorway. However on more twisting roads the Insight is soft with quite a lot of body roll. Ironically, despite the emphasis on economy, the Honda does actually come with a 'sport' setting on the gearbox along with steering-wheel mounted gear shift paddles on ES models.
Visibility is general good, although the rear windscreen is similar to that on the Civic hatchback and features split level glass. Unlike the Civic, the top half does have a wiper, but the lower section still gets dirty, hampering the view of cars behind.