• Jun 30, 2009
2009 Honda Insight - Click above for high-res image gallery

Calling it "the most disappointing Honda Consumer Reports has tested in a long time," America's most influential product testing magazine has given extremely poor marks to the Japanese automaker's new Insight hybrid.

In a verdict that reminds us of a certain Jeremy Clarkson review (albeit more kindly worded), Consumer Reports blasted the gas-electric hatchback for its "ride quality, handling, interior noise, acceleration, rear-seat, access, and visibility," consigning the hapless Honda to a 21 out of 22 ranking among other small hatchbacks and wagons. Tallying a road test score of 54 points, it was trailed only by the widely panned Dodge Caliber, which managed just 49 points.

Despite the fact that it won't receive a much-coveted CR "Recommended" nod, the Insight still managed to post a "Good" overall road test score (largely on the strength of its 38 miles-per-gallon as-tested fuel economy). Regardless, it was comprehensively beaten by both the Volkswagen Jetta Wagon and the Hyundai Elantra Touring, which scored 80 and 79 points, respectively.

The Insight was the only vehicle in CR's test group to not to be Recommended, save Kia's Soul, which was excluded because the organization hasn't compiled any reliability data on the vehicle yet. Check out the press release after the jump and our new review of the car by clicking here.



[Source: Consumer Reports]

PRESS RELEASE:

CR's engineers say Insight's 38 mpg overall fuel economy is one of its few highs

YONKERS, N.Y., June 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- 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, rear-seat, access and visibility.

"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."

In a ratings chart of small hatchbacks and wagons, the Insight was rated 21st out of 22 vehicles, with a road test score of 54 points. It was followed by the Dodge Caliber, which scored 49.

Two new wagons, spin-offs of popular sedans -- the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen and Hyundai Elantra Touring scored within a point of each other and received Very Good ratings, 80 and 79 respectively.

The Sportwagen, a new addition to the Jetta line, combines sound driving dynamics and more cargo and versatility than the sedan. It also imparts the feeling of a much more expensive vehicle. The Elantra Touring, also an extension to its line, is an affordable and practical vehicle with good fuel economy (26 mpg in CR's own fuel economy tests.)

Consumer Reports tested a total of six wagons and hatchbacks in the August issue including the improved Chevrolet HHR and the Pontiac Vibe (the virtual twin of the Toyota Matrix.) The Vibe will be discontinued this August given GM's decision to discontinue the Pontiac brand. Both the Vibe and the HHR received Very Good ratings. The test group also included the sporty Mazda3 hatchback, freshened with a new four-cylinder engine and new styling was also rated Very Good.

Prices ranged from $19,085 for the Pontiac to $24,730 for the Chevy HHR. All vehicles in the test proved to have average of better reliability in CR.

Consumer Reports also tested the Kia Soul. The Soul shares several of the same attributes of the small, boxy Scion xB, and was also rated Very Good. This is a new model so CR does not have any reliability data and cannot Recommend the Soul.

All vehicles in the test group are Recommended by Consumer Reports except for the Insight, which scored too low in CR's tests to be Recommended and the Soul, which does not have any reliability data yet. CR only Recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR's Annual Car Reliability Survey of its more than seven million print and web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

Full tests and ratings of the test group appear in the August issue of Consumer Reports, which goes on sale June 30. The reports are also available to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org.

The Honda Insight seats five and gets excellent fuel economy, but it's a noisy car with a stiff ride and clumsy handling. 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. The Insight EX, ($21,790 Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price as tested), is powered by a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine with a 13-hp electric motor combine for 98 hp that delivers 38 mpg overall. The continuously variable transmission performs smoothly. Unlike a full hybrid, the Insight requires the gas engine to turn whenever the car is moving. Braking is Very Good. Cargo space behind the rear seats is adequate.

The wagon version of the Volkswagen Jetta combines good driving dynamics and versatility with excellent fit and finish. The Jetta SE, ($24,324, MSRP as tested), is powered by a 170-hp, 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine that delivers average performance but got only 23 mpg overall in CR's fuel economy tests. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and has a manual-override feature. Braking is Very Good. The cargo area is very spacious and you can fold down one or both sections of the rear seatbacks.

The Elantra Touring wagon is fairly roomy and versatile, with a nicely finished interior and lots of amenities for the money. The Touring's ride is noticeably stiffer than the sedan's ride, with some sharp impacts. The Elantra Touring wagon, ($19,475, MSRP as tested), is powered by a 138-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers average performance and a respectable 26-mpg overall. The four-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and responsively. Braking is Excellent. Folding down the 60/40 seatback makes for a fairly commodious load volume.

The Mazda3 has been one of CR's top-scoring small cars for several years, distinguished by agile handling and a good-quality interior that is laid out well. The Mazda3 had a firm, compliant ride that provided good isolation from everyday road bumps. The Mazda3 s Sport, ($20,700, MSRP as tested), is powered by a 167-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that feels smooth and refined and delivers 25 mpg overall in mixed driving. The five-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly. Braking is Very Good. Cargo space is good behind the rear seats, and when the seatbacks are lowered the hatch encloses a good-sized cargo area.

The Pontiac Vibe is versatile, fuel-efficient, and reasonably priced. The Vibe's ride is compliant but not very steady and bumps create side-to-side rocking and even the highway ride can feel choppy. The Pontiac Vibe 1.8L, ($19,085, MSRP as tested), is powered by a 132-hp, 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine that provides good performance and 24 mpg overall. The four-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. Braking is Very Good. The rear is quite spacious. The cargo area is lined with hard plastic and small items slide around on it.

The Chevrolet HHR plays to 1950s design nostalgia but one drawback to its retro styling is the small and short windows, which inhibit the view out. Bumps are absorbed quite well, but the deep ruts and ridges come through as rubbery kicks. The Chevrolet HHR LT, ($24,730 MSRP), as tested is powered by a 172-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that provides good performance and 24 mpg overall. The four-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. Braking is Very Good. The seatbacks fold down for generous cargo space.

With more than 7 million print and online subscribers, Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Web site; the magazine's auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To become a subscriber, consumers can call 1-800-234-1645. Information and articles from the magazine can be accessed online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

AUGUST 2009

The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for commercial or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports(R) is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect. To maintain our independence and impartiality, Consumers Union accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. Consumers Union supports itself through the sale of our information products and services, individual contributions, and a few noncommercial grants.


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  • 82 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      We'll see how well it ages compared to the cars they placed ahead of it. I wish these reviewers would consider the long-term ownership experience. I'm still driving '94 and '00 accords, and just bought an '02 odyssey. Hondas age very well.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ummm, CR reviewers do. They will only award a "Recommended" to a vehicle with a good frequency-of-repair record, based on members' survey replies.
      ElizabethLewisinSATX
      • 5 Years Ago
      Cool! I like that, this article anyway, not the car! On astethics alone I would never buy that ugly thing but glad to hear I'm not missing out on anything under the hood or inside! I'd rather catch the bus... or walk. For now I'll just stick to my "gas guzzler" 97x & occasional bus trips & continue to save my kish kash for that Escalade hybrid.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I love Honda, always have. Their Euro Civic Type R was my fav. hatch back, even though the performance is not as good as the old version. I really have a mix feeling with this new Insight, I went to the dealer to check it out the days after it came out, because of the price is really god compare to Prius or Fusion. I didn't test drive the car, because I usually have to like everything else before I do that. Here are my 3 dislikes. 1) the backseat is almost non-usable, they are slightly bigger than other coups. 2) they made the back door very very narrow and small at the bottom half, so it will be difficult to remove stuff from the back seat. 3) what's up with that dash????!!! I can handle the Civic, but this??? whoever designed it was tripping on something or loves ghetto boomboxes from the 80s.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ouch.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is a shocker coming from Consumer Reports. Their main focus is to bash US automakers since most of their reviewers are disgruntled engineers from GM, Ford and Chrysler. I wouldn't trust CR's opinion on a f-ing light bulb.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I drove the 09 VW Jetta TDI and totally fell in love with it. Powerful, handles and rides well and the fit and finish is excellent. Can't believe this is a VW. Had 3 before, 2 good, 1 bad (Beetle). Want to check into this car more and perhaps buy one.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have to wonder did everyone read the full press release. They're not talking about routine handling, they're talking about at its limits, in an emergency situtation. And under those conditions the Insight plowed and the tail swung out some even with ESC. The Prius is not a handler and CR states as much, but it didn't act like the Insight did under extreme conditions. I don't think any of you who test drove an Insight took it to a track to see how it'd do in an emergency.

      In addition to what's listed above, the Insight also scored poorly for headlights, something to consider if you drive at night.

      While it got a good, CR no longer recommends below a 55. And why should they when there are many other choices that score higher? They are an advocacy group too and where's the incentive to do better when on the low side of mediocre is good enough.
      • 5 Years Ago
      i find this interesting because I've read many reviews of this car which gave the car thumbs up.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wow! CR usually rates Honda's extremely well, so this is a shocker. Of course, as soon as I sat in an Insight at the NY International Auto Show and found the drivers seat to be extremely flat and uncomfortable I knew it was crap.

      Honda seems to have lost it's way, they even managed to fug up the Fit, which in the previous gen was tossable and now is getting boring. Add the super-buttoned huge Accord and of course the nasty new faces of Acuras and Honda is in trouble.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This really shouldn't surprise anyone. If you head to a Honda lot and look around the Insight, it's pretty easy to see this was a rushed vehicle. It was about as ill-conceived as the first Insight. Neither seem to have been fully thought out given the time frame of their releases. Although the original had the highest EPA rating of any Hybrid thus far (real world mileage on a friend's was consistently 68-70mpg), it was always cramped with a fairly busy ride; this one doesn't seem to address any of that.

        In the quest to become the cheapest hybrid you can purchase, Honda really seems to have cut major corners. One thing I've noticed becoming increasingly frustrating about car companies (particularly ones we've grown up with and have come to love, be-it Chevy, Honda, Dodge, etc...) is a particular brand has to have vehicles that cannot be denied. Not everyone is going to like your car, but if you offer something nobody else does, especially if it's cheap, people will buy it because they feel they're getting value. There's no real merit to the value of the Insight because it's (a) EPA rating (important only really for marketing given the real world efficiency) is lower than the Prius, (b) not as practical as a Honda Fit, and (c) rides like an old Cavalier with no significant trade-off in handling (compared to the Prius, yes...again, compared to the Fit...not so much).

        The Insight II is merely adequate when the game has moved well beyond it even before it was announced. I anticipate the Fit Hybrid will likely get a better score and truth be told, is exactly what the Insight II should've been. This new Insight seems redundant given the rumors about Honda's future hybrid product plans.

        This, coming from a fan of Hondas.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's not that big of a shocker if you've driven the car. I thought clarkson was being his normal grumpy self, but it's really that bad.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Lost their way," I was thinking the exact same thing. Honda used to be top for engineering, etc. They seem to have a problem keeping interior noise levels down -- Insight, Fit & Civic, their Accord styling is horrendous and so is their new Acura styling. I've bought 5 Hondas over the years, but I can't think of one I would buy now.
      • 5 Years Ago

      Quote: I don't think the problem is the insight, i think the problem is CR

      Honda gets bashed and now the problem is CR? This is absolute GOLD. Couldnt be the fact that the Insight is just plain inferior to the Prius and/or Fusion? As I mentioned, if you are interested in a no-compromise-drives-like-a-conventional-sedan, you simply cannot beat the Fusion/Milan. Test drive a Prius and a Fusion/Milan back-to-back and see what I mean.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Its funny few weeks ago I just drove Prius and Insight back to back. I don't know what are those CR people doing when they test a car. But I believe in what the car magazines said about the two cars.

      1. Yes, Insight feel so cheap inside but the built quality still superb.
      2. No, they are wrong about the driving experience for insight is still so much better than Prius. why do they compare other normal gasoline and diesel hatchback with this hybrid car? They complain its noisy YES DOOH the engine is smaller than all the competitor the CR compare, sure why don't they compare same engine size?
      3. Both Prius and Insight still get great MPG but one with fully loaded gadgets in Prius and the other one is more like a normal car example Start Stop push button VS turning the key like normal car or Looking at the rear view mirror when u park insight while Prius you just have to look at the rear view monitor.

      Prius felt heavy and comfy that is very typical Toyota and if you push it to the limit you will feel that the car cant handle fast cornering yes is more quiet because the engine is bigger than insight 1.5 liter vs 1.3 liter.

      Insight do have a great handling maybe because it shared chassis with Honda fit/jazz, I was teaching my gf how to drive and rent a Honda insight from ZIP CAR and I told her to do some slalom in the parking lot and boy I cant believe this "green car" with a very narrow tires could handle fast turning confidently. Plus after I drove her home I rushed back to return the car and drove the insight fast in FDR highway (if any of you know how narrow and twisty this highway then you know that this is not some boring highway.) I drove it like I steal this car and I turn off the ECO mode walla the car is noisy but still have great acceleration in highway and CR said it got bad driving experience? wow they really don't know what they talking about. I drove Mazda3 hatch from ZIP CAR in the same highway many2 times and I know this car has a great handling.
      • 5 Years Ago

      I've driven a 2010 Milan Hybrid. It's the most seemless gas-electric transition I've experienced. The car was ridiculously quiet. I stomped on it, feathered the gas, spun through curves, slammed on the brakes. The car had ZERO hiccups. If it wasn't for the dash, you'd likely have no idea if the car was running under electricity or gas. The only time I ever heard the electric motor was backing up down a hill; then it had a bit of a growl to it. Kudos to Ford; the vehicle is really, really outstanding. (and the dash was hyper-cool too)
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