By BRENWIN NAIDU
Since being launched, the Prius has been marketed as the bastion of environmental friendliness. Many Hollywood celebrities like actress Cameron Diaz flocked to the Prius, perhaps in the belief that driving such a car might reverse the precarious state of the earth, restore the swiftly melting ice caps and mend the holes in the protective ozone layer.
But the Prius has endured a fair bit of criticism – with many doubting the verity of its status as a bona fide eco-friendly hybrid, preferring to view the Prius as a bit of a PR excercise. Television’s rambling and irreverent star, Jeremy Clarkson even set out to disprove Toyota’s claims of the car’s economy and frugality. On an episode of Top Gear, he put the Prius against the powerful BMW M3 on the famous test track. He performed a lap in each, driving at the same, consistent speed. Clarkson reported that the Prius had rendered poorer fuel economy than the V8-engined BMW. He then went on to validate his point by telling the audience about parts of the Prius that come from various continents of the world – referring to the pollution caused by transporting all these components to the factory where the Prius is assembled.
No doubt, car manufacturers must direct focus to the environment. And most seem to be coming to the party – look at Volkswagen’s Bluemotion range, Mercedes with their Blue Efficiency nomenclature and BMW with their array of Efficient Dynamics technologies, geared at improving economy. And there are many other manufacturers with electric and hybrid products in the pipeline – I’m quite sure we’ll be given a taste at the forthcoming Johannesburg International Motor Show.
But for now, hybrid lovers can marvel at models like Honda’s Insight and CR-Z , in addition to the already established Prius. The Insight gives company to the sexy CR-Z coupe hybrid, which graced our shores in the latter months of 2010. The CR-Z has already seized the title of Car of the Year Japan – the newcomer is enjoying success and acclaim early in life. The Insight appears to be a more conservative, but more practical hybrid, in comparison to the sporty CR-Z.
It’s got four doors – five if you include the boot lid on the hatched rear, so you probably won’t encounter issues accommodating children, luggage and the family pet. The Insight boasts 400 litres of cargo storage space, which is pretty cavernous – this does affirm the Insight’s position as a versatile, practical family vehicle.
The business of power is taken care of by a 1,3-litre i-VTEC engine with IMA – that stands for Integrated Motor Assist. This powerplant produces 65 kW and 121 Nm of torque. With a claimed 0-100 time of 12,5 seconds, it would be best to ignore the Type R owner alongside you, wanting a robot-to-robot sprint – just remember, this is a vehicle aimed at economy.
The electric motor has an output of 10,3 kW and 78,4 Nm of torque and it’s sandwiched between the engine and the gearbox, which is of the CVT (Constantly Variable Transmission) type.
In the event you’re unable to cope with the Insight’s colossal power, it does come with Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA). Developed by Honda, this system aids control in situations of sharp braking and abrupt manoeuvring.
Aesthetically, the Insight is a handsome vehicle. Although it looks bulky from some angles, a very sleek profile has been created with a shape described by the press release as “wedged” – which is pretty apt when you look at the car. At the front, you’ll notice Honda DNA resonating from models like the Accord and FCX Clarity.
There is only one Insight derivative and it comes laden with all the nice features you would want. So there is no hassle of having to fork out more of your hard earned cash to specify extras. For interior convenience, you get electric windows, a six-speaker sound system with MP3/WMA playback capability and an iPod/USB port, climate control and cruise control. The Insight is equipped with front, side and curtain airbags, adding that peace of mind for the family-orientated
Here’s the real surprise – the price: the Insight bears a tag of R259, 900. What you’re getting is a spacious family hatchback with a high level of features, eco-friendly credentials and of course, Honda’s solid reputation for reliability – this is a product that deserves consideration, if you’re after these virtues. You would be hard-pressed to find anything that delivers as much, for the same amount.
The price is inclusive of a three-year/100 000 km warranty, and a five-year/90 000 km service plan