I have not driven the new Honda Insight (Honda’s “affordable hybrid”). I did read Jeremy Clarkson’s scathing review of it last month (and if I didn’t link to it, like every other auto-related blog has done, then this wouldn’t be a bona fide car blog). And although the Top Gear host is admittedly anti-hybrid (his being obtuse is a trait I chalk up to part of his schtick as a TV entertainer), I tend to think his view of things automotive sync up well with mine. (After all, I did declare the Alfa Romeo 8c Competizione the most beautiful car of the modern era, even before he did. Unlike Clarkson, unfortunately, I was not offered the opportunity to drive the 8c on a test track, which may be just as well, since Clarkson was thoroughly unimpressed.)
But now, Consumer Reports has given the Insight another horrible review. And while I’ve never given any credence to CR’s automotive reviews (they tend to approach cars as if they were appliances), the fact that the Insight has now earned two black marks from both extremes of the auto review spectrum makes me think there may be some truth behind the negativity. (Heck, I even winced a little when I saw the first photos of the Insight revealed before the vehicle’s introduction.)
Now, I love the fact that there are more and more hybrid vehicles being introduced to the market … but, if one of the most anticipated and talked-about hybrids is really a piece of shit as bad as they say, then this doesn’t really help the cause for powertrain electrification! If consumers get in their mind that hybrid = crap, then fewer hybrids will be sold. Purchasers of hybrid vehicles should not have to compromise when making their purchase; otherwise, there won’t be any purchasers of hybrid vehicles.
Tesla Motors had the right idea with their Roadster – make a car that people want. Sure, most of us can’t afford a Tesla Roadster, but that’s how technology works – when it’s brand new, it’s expensive. Many more folks will be able to afford Tesla’s Model S. And you know what? It’s also a car that people want. The Toyota Prius – the most successful electrified (in its case, hybrid) vehicle thus far, isn’t necessarily a car that people want, but it doesn’t really force its owner to compromise, either. (OK, the last-generation Prius that I drove over the Rocky Mountains did struggle to maintain a constant speed, but that’s likely true for any normally-aspirated internal combustion engined economy car going up steep hills at 10,000 feet.) The Chevy Volt – although similar in shape to the Insight & Prius (where aerodynamics may trump style) – is actually a decent looking car, in my opinion. And hopefully, GM’s recent claims that the vehicle will be sportier than the Prius will hold true.
So, automakers, take note: don’t make crappy hybrids. Or crappy PHEVs. Or crappy EVs. …Better yet, just don’t build any more crappy cars.