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 aluminum 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 only 0.25e!), lightweight structure and clever design features to maximize efficiency, these little cars proved themselves to be an excellent concept. The 1st generation Insight has since 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. 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 light weight and the electric assistance to run the engine at very low rpm, thus also maximizing fuel economy.
In warmer temps (so it wouldn't get cold in the cabin in winter) the engine was designed to automatically stop when the car sensed it didn't need to continue running (such as when waiting at traffic lights, but never in reverse). Just dipping the clutch would cause the IMA 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 allowed 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 gave good indication of ecomony levels too, which helped maintain driver involvement. Weighing only 820kg (kerb weight) the engine could offer decent performance, but Honda even thought of the wheel design (lightweight alloy) to be as slippery in the air as possible and the tyres would run at high pressure so they had minimum rolling resistance. Combined with the and slippery shape enthusiast owners on www.insightcentral.net have reported as much as 100 mpg & over, with some of the crazier owners reporting closer to 200 mpg - by slipstreaming trucks!
These cars have today also proved themselves capable of covering huge mileages reliably, especially if the battery packs are cared for with a grid charger, which 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 ever made, 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.
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 pue own Insight 1st generation in autumn of 2016 to use in Japan ourselves and so come to understand these well, so we might offer a service of supplying the best we can find. We've discovered they're a fun little things that handle well. They drive not unlike like a larger car and no matter how much we push ours, it still returns at least 50 mpg if we're silly or 65 mpg if we just drive normally! We have come to know they're reliable things with few problems reported by owners worldwide and so with knowledge gained we can take care to select the best ones, of the quality we'd want to own ourselves.
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 owner says the same, so we fitted one to our's and instantly noticed the car performed bettered. Essentially by grid charging the battery pack is reconditioned, 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.
But we're not the only Honda enthusiasts who have come to discover & really like these funky little cars. There has been Evo magazine staff owners and here's an article from Pistonheads & what an NSX & Audi RS4 owner had to say about his. Or watch a review in 2002 by Richard Hammond. There is also a good writeup on Wikkipedia.
Equipment: 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, low resistance alloy wheels and high pressure tyres, White 5000K headlight bulbs, roof mounted antenna, Sony head unit, Honda 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 felt inferior 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 also kept the original parts, which will be supplied with the car. Note also that tyres are all in near new condition.
Condition Report: 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 this example is presented. Not least there are underside steel components as not all the chassis nor it's fasteners are of aluminium. As this example has never seen salt in it's 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 & exterior are in near new condition. There are no pin dents anywhere, 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.
Test Drive: Knowing these well by now, having done much research as enthusiasts, we're aware how to test these. We found nothing amis. 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 re-juvenated & 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.
Price: £7,795 also includes Full UK OTR (on the road) preparation to include UK registering, 12 months MOT & comprehensive warranty.
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