The first generation (from 1999–2006) Honda Insight was Honda's first foray into hybrid electric vehicle manufacturing and in its first generation produced as a three-door, two passenger hatchback of remarkable innovation and commitment.
The Insight was assembled at the Honda factory in Suzuka, Japan, where the similarly aluminium bodied Honda NSX was also manufactured. With its aluminium body and frame, the Insight was an expensive car to produce & was never designed for high-volume sales Instead, it was designed to be a real-world test car for hybrid technology and a gauge to new consumer driving habits. With an aerodynamic fuel-saving shape (Cd of just 0.25e - At the time of production, it was the most aerodynamic production car, ever!), lightweight structure and clever design features to maximize efficiency, these little cars proved themselves to be an excellent concept. The 1st generation Insight has deservedly built a loyal following from enthusiasts, with the manual versions being especially sought after.
Hypermiling was coined as a term for owners who used the 1 litre - 67 bhp's 3-cylinder engine's lean-burn capability (AFR ratio of 25.8:1!!!) & Integrated 3-phase electric 144v motor (in the space where a 4th cylinder would usually fit) to provide an additional assistance of 13 bhp (Therefore 80 bhp Total). Whilst it's capable of getting up to a smidge under 115 mph and 0-60 in a respectable 12 seconds, the gearing was made tall to maximize efficiency whilst the IMA engine enabled drivers to run at very low revs and use the car's lightweight and the electric assistance to run the engine at very low rpm, thus also maximizing fuel economy. Honda even thought of making the rear wheels run less width than the front, all in the pursuit of low coefficient of (air) friction & economy. We can’t help thinking Honda’s engineers really had fun developing this little car. No wonder it has gained so many fans worldwide.
In warmer temps (so it won't get cold in the cabin in winter) the engine is designed to automatically stop when the car senses it doesn't need to continue running (such as when waiting at traffic lights, but never in reverse). Just dipping the clutch causes the IMA 3-phase motor to spin and start the engine seamlessly ready to move off (There's also a conventional 12V battery and a starter motor as a backup in case the IMA's computer feels there's a better way to restart the car (for example if it's very cold and the IMA battery is still not warm enough to work efficiently without risking damage to it).
Honda thought of everything & gave the driver as much control as possible, even making the optional air conditioning controls have an economy mode that allows the A/C to continue to run when the motor stopped, or not - depending on the driver's selection on the controls. Naturally, the instrumentation gives a good indication of economy levels too, which helps maintain driver involvement. Weighing only 820kg (kerb weight) the engine offers decent performance when coupled with the torque of the IMA motor.
Honda even thought of the wheel design (lightweight alloys) to be as slippery in the air as possible and the tyres are designed to run at high pressure so they have minimal rolling resistance.
Combined with the and slippery shape enthusiast owners on the Insight online community have reported as much as 100 mpg & over, with some of the crazier owners reporting closer to 200 mpg - by slipstreaming trucks!
Equipment includes: Electric power steering (same system as an S2000!), 5 speed manual transmission, air conditioning with climate control & pollen filter, dual SRS airbags, side-impact door bars, tinted electric windows, rear wiper, unmarked part Alcantara interior, fitted mats, remote central locking, electric release for rear hatch, electric windows, remote fuel lid release, White 5000K headlight bulbs, roof-mounted antenna, Sony head unit & Honda factory immobilizer.
In addition, whilst preparing this car, we obtained an S2000 steering wheel & had it re-trimmed in Alcantara, together with a matching Alcantara shift boot. This was finished with a genuine titanium Type R shift knob (from an Integra DC2), thus addressing the issue of a plastic steering wheel & shift knob, which we felt wasn’t pleasant to the touch. We also had the floor mats replaced with new pattern items, to finish off the interior and make it as inviting as possible.
For those seeking authenticity as a collector's car, we kept the original parts, which will be supplied together.
Condition of this example is first class. Only 200 or so of these were officially imported to the UK and although the body will never rust, judging by what others have told us of their searches, we expect few if any in England will be in the same beautiful condition in which this example is presented. Not least there are underside steel components as not all the chassis nor its fasteners are built of aluminium (Chassis is mostly steel, for strength, etc). As this example has never seen salt in its life and has always been driven on Japan's world-class smooth & well-maintained roads, it's far less worn (suspension bushes, etc) than a typical example that has been on typically harsher UK road conditions since new.
Interior is in near new condition. There are no pin dents anywhere, the paintwork is unmarked. The car's been regularly serviced. Lack of damage from use confirms the previous owner was a mature driver who knew how to look after his car very well. He was also a non-smoker. Being cars targeted at people who care for the environment, these didn't even come with an ashtray as standard.
Note: Interior pictures show two different types of floor mat This is only to show the different colours and designs that are included.
The car is supplied with matching left & right mats of each type.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
Being Honda enthusiasts ourselves (We own a couple of Type R's & raced one in Japanese endurance championship too) and enjoying all manner of cars that are involving & fun to drive, we bought our own Insight 1st generation in autumn of 2016 to use locally in Japan. This is how we have come to understand these well, so we might offer a service of supplying the best we can find if there’s a niche market.
These nifty little Hondas drive not unlike like a larger car and no matter how much we pushed ours, it still returned at least 50 mpg when we thrashed it (most of the time, TBH!) or 65 mpg when we just drove it at moderate speeds! We came to realise they're reliable things & with few problems reported by owners worldwide plus knowledge gained we know how to take care to select the best ones, of the quality we'd want to own ourselves.
These came with Automatic or Manual gearboxes. Being enthusiasts, we naturally plumbed only for a nice condition manual. Auto just wouldn’t do! The manual version offers a nifty & precise gearchange and the IMA motor offers enough torque to allow the engine to chug along at low revs, where other conventional petrol engines might stall if summoned to do the same. All the while, the battery indicator is telling the driver if the IMA motor is working, or recouping energy from braking, etc.
The main thing to do in order to preserve & maximize the performance and life of the IMA battery pack is to have a grid charger. Every experienced long-term enthusiast says the same, so as a test we fitted one to this car and instantly noticed the battery performance was bettered. Essentially, by grid charging - the battery pack is reconditioned, just as long as it wasn't dead in the first place.
For this Insight, we have fitted a purpose-made harness from Hybrid Automotive - so that the new owner can get maximum efficiency & performance from his new car by simply plugging a charger in. Hybrid Automotive's products & service are first class and they will ship a Prolong Battery charger anywhere worldwide. also offering great customer service.
We noticed we weren’t the only Honda enthusiasts who have come to discover & really like these funky little cars. There has been Evo magazine staff owners and many others besides. If I recall correctly, even LJK Setright may have owned one for a while a good few years ago, before his time came to pass this life. It would have been just the sort of car he’d have liked. Low powered, with decent handling – so it needs to be kept moving at speed, taking advantage of corners, in order to maximise progress and keep up the smile per mile.
WHEELS, BRAKES & SUSPENSION
Being a lightweight and small car, we also discovered these are fun little things that handle well. Yes, there’s a bit of body roll, but this isn’t a type R Honda, so all is forgiven. As mentioned above, the wheels are lightweight as standard and tyres are of small cross-section, so that the resulting low unsprung weight helps the suspension work efficiently too. Some people have been known to uprate the rear springs and fit Koni adjustable shock absorbers, but in our experience, we didn’t feel any need to uprate the suspension. The car didn’t exhibit any tendency to understeer, nor any anomalies in how well the rear suspension worked.
Brakes work well too, not least because this car is equipped with what they originally called, F1 Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS). Weighing only 852kg officially, there isn’t much weight to haul up, really and with the IMA taking back as much of the kinetic energy as possible when slowing down, the brakes aren’t really taxed with much work.
Note also that tyres are all in near new condition; all 4 were recently replaced as part of maintenance work & improvements carried out by Newera.
There are no faults to report, as those we discovered have already been taken care of, complete with recent full service and new 12V battery too. There were some minor scratches, but these have been taken care of fully too.
We noticed the air conditioning wasn’t holding its gas charge and this was traced to a faulty seal resulting from a worn bearing, so we replaced the compressor with a reconditioned one and recharged. It has held its charge since. Currently, the IMA battery is disconnected (via a switch, located in the boot) and we’ll freshly Grid charge it with the Prolong charger, just before it leaves us, once it is reserved for its new owner.
Knowing these well by now, having done much research as enthusiasts, we're aware of how to test these. We found nothing amiss. The IMA battery pack was fine when it came to us and gave good performance even when driving for maximum performance it never faltered. Since then, to give the IMA pack the best chance of lasting several more years, we've fitted a Hybrid Automotive "discharge ready" loom & whilst in stock the IMA has been rejuvenated & kept topped up. Having the loom already fitted means the new owner can charge him/herself from time to time by simply obtaining a charger and plugging it into the mains for a few days when the car's not in use, to continue keeping the battery pack in top condition. We can also confirm that clutch, suspension, exhaust, etc. are all in very good condition and this car has many years & many miles of fun & low-cost motoring to offer as a depreciation proof and very interesting, unique little car.
These cars have by now proven themselves capable of covering huge mileages reliably, especially if the battery packs are cared for with an aforementioned grid charger. These accessories are available from several after-market specialists. Note there are also ZE1 insight specialists in the UK and this is a car that Honda dealers can also look after for UK owners.
As the first Honda Hybrid produced and possibly the most interesting one Honda has / will ever make, we can see these are now becoming collectable and deservedly so. The newer hybrids today really don't have anywhere near as much clever ingenuity nor offer the same attainable levels of economy and possibly the CRZ aside, and don’t offer as much fun either!
The price includes Full UK OTR (on the road) preparation to include UK registering, 12 months MOT & comprehensive warranty.
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