2006 Honda Insight
2006 Honda Insight. Click image to enlarge

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Test Drives

2006 Honda Insight, by Peter Bleakney

2004 Honda Insight, by Jil McIntosh
2001 Honda Insight, by Greg Wilson

Manufacturer’s web site

Honda Canada

By Chris Chase; photos by Peter Bleakney

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2006 Honda Insight

The Insight was Honda’s first hybrid model, a tiny two-door, two-seat runabout that owed something to the CRX of the 1980s and 1990s in terms of styling and packaging.

While the CRX was designed as a sporty car, the Insight had a much different purpose. It catered to drivers needing nothing more from a car than the ability to putter between home, work, the mall and back home again (though a super-thrifty CRX HF model sold in the U.S. could achieve fuel economy to rival that of a hybrid).

The Insight was powered by a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor and mated exclusively to a five-speed manual transmission. In the U.S., it was also available with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Horsepower was a whopping 73 and torque 91 lb-ft with both gasoline and electrical power sources working together. That doesn’t sound like much, but a 1,900 lb (roughly 860 kg) car doesn’t need much power in order to keep up with traffic.

2006 Honda Insight
2006 Honda Insight
2006 Honda Insight. Click image to enlarge

The Insight’s aerodynamic shape and economical drivetrain combined to make for some impressive fuel consumption numbers. According to Natural Resources’ EnerGuide, the Insight’s ratings were 3.9 L/100 km (city) and 3.2 L/100 km (highway).

On the whole, the Insight seems to have been pretty reliable, considering its relatively complicated nature and the fact that it was one of the first mass-produced hybrids on the market. Consumer Reports only has used vehicle data for U.S. market 2000 model year Insights (the car didn’t go on sale in Canada until the following model year); it earned a “much better than average” rating.

A discussion at InsightCentral.net suggests that the use of aftermarket LED taillights could affect operation of the Insight’s computer, and cause the instrument panel to work erratically.

It’s easy to discern from this thread that the Insight engine’s oil pan is prone to cracking upon reinstalling the drain bolt after an oil change. The replacement part seems quite pricey, according to posters at InsightCentral.net.

Read about possible causes of “herky-jerky” drivetrain operation here, here and here.

An Insight that fails emission tests may need a computer reflash.

2006 Honda Insight
2006 Honda Insight. Click image to enlarge

If you drive your Insight in winter weather, watch out for deep snow that could tear the underbody aerodynamic covers off.

Read these threads for details on Insight starting problems (thread one; thread two.

At least one owner at InsightCentral.net has dealt with a car that won’t stay running.

One important consideration related to Insight ownership – and long-term ownership of any hybrid vehicle – is battery life. Replacing battery packs can be pricey, and an expense that is avoided by choosing a non-hybrid vehicle. According to InsightCentral.net, the Insight’s battery pack carries an eight-year warranty, and info gleaned from that site put the cost at well over US$1,000, not including labour charges to install it. However, one Ottawa Honda dealer quoted a price of $775 for the battery pack, but I wasn’t able to find out what the labour charge for installation would add to that.

According to Canadian Red Book, used Insight prices range from $7,850 for a 2001 model to $18,425 for a 2006 version. The Insight’s rate of depreciation is about in line with that of other Honda cars;

2006 Honda Insight
2006 Honda Insight. Click image to enlarge

naturally, with gasoline prices where they are (about $1.25 per litre in Ottawa at the time of this writing), the Insight will either command a premium on used car lots, or be next to impossible to find.

If you’re having trouble finding one through conventional means, you might want to approach other Insight drivers to see if they’ll sell you theirs.

The Insight has its drawbacks – utility is limited by it being a two-seater, for example, and finding a technician who actually knows how to fix them could be tricky – but it was Honda’s first big experiment in gas/electric propulsion, and it strikes me as a more reliable choice in economical transportation than the newer Smart Fortwo, despite that car’s internal-combustion-only drivetrain.

Online resources

InsightCentral.net is a very good source of information; it appears to be the only (or one of very few) Insight-specific sites on the web. HybridCars.com is a good general site for hybrid vehicle information, as is GreenHybrid.com.

Related stories on Autos
Test Drives
  • 2006 Honda Insight, by Peter Bleakney
  • 2004 Honda Insight, by Jil McIntosh
  • 2001 Honda Insight, by Greg Wilson

    Manufacturer’s Website
  • Honda Canada


    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2002146; Units affected: 35
    2001: On certain passenger vehicles, the passenger air bag module was not properly welded and may not deploy in a collision. The seat occupant may not be properly protected in the event of a collision, increasing the risk of personal injury. Correction: Dealers will replace the passenger air bag module.

    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

    Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

    For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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