Sure, we didn’t get the original Insight in Europe, but the Honda Insight ZE2 was among us, and obviously we still didn’t buy it. But why do we insist on ignoring one of the cheapest hybrids on the market?

The whole idea of the Honda Insight was built around fuel economy. In Europe we had the VW Lupo 3L at the time, which was capable of achieving a galactic fuel economy of under 80 mpg / 3 l/100 km of extra-urban driving (driving, not racing because you couldn’t achieve racecar speeds). In the early 2000s, Honda embarked on a similar project and introduced the original Honda Insight, with a modest 1-liter engine and a 13-horsepower electric motor, managing to achieve fuel economy figures of 70+ mpg. This was quite the ambitious project, considering that in the United States of the 2000s there were giants roaming around like the Ford Excursion, Chevy Suburban, or the Dodge Viper with its naturally aspirated 450-horsepower 8.0 V10 petrol powered engine.

However, the little Insight gathered a small community of Americans who developed the concept of hypermiling – how to achieve the best possible fuel economy. But the Honda Insight ZE2 has nothing to do with all of that.

The Honda Insight ZE2 was launched in 2010 as an entirely new car, but it wasn’t an automotive revolution; it was just a simple answer from Honda to the Toyota Prius. They threw away the body of the defunct Honda Civic Hybrid, kept the same powertrain, and mounted it on the Honda Insight ZE2 body, which looks remarkably like the Prius. More remarkably than when you remember that you left a jar in the fridge six months ago, you now have to clean that jar.

But at least they managed to make a fairly large car with a sufficiently large boot to accommodate the batteries and biodegradable bags filled with organic food.


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Honda Insight ZE2 Engines


1.3 MPI LDA-MF3 + hybrid of 98 horsepower – Built specifically with fuel economy in mind, this engine has the unique feature of double the number of spark plugs per cylinder, just like Alfa Romeo. Except that in Alfa Romeo, they were for performance. On the Insight however they’re for achieving comically impressive mpg figures. Aside from the fact that you have to replace 8 spark plugs instead of 4, some engines develop an appetite for oil late in life, much later than any Honda Insight ZE2 owner would dare to drive. There remains the real issue of the hybrid system, which, when it needs servicing it will tank away all your fuel savings.

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Honda Insight ZE 2 Reliability Issues

  • It’s a rare car, so good luck finding parts and mechanics. Moreover, even though the car is very good and very reliable, the hybrid system still requires special servicing, and you have a good chance of being turned away, even by the dealership
  • To keep up the fuel economy numbers a lot of work went into reducing the total weight, including soundproofing. Asian cars, in general, are famous for poor soundproofing (Toyota Corolla), but the Hyundai Insight ZE2 starts to sound like a 3 Series. And no, not a BMW 3 Series, but a John Deere 3 series.


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Honda Insight ZE2 Verdict

A relatively rare car that didn’t have a thunderous success in Europe. Is it due to that bland and possibly ugly interior? Is it because we’re not interested in hybrids since we’re a diesel continent? Or perhaps the lack of hybrid servicing infrastructure is what keeps us away? All I know is that the Honda Insight ZE2 is one of the few hybrid cars you can buy when you have a budget of 5,000 pounds or less, so if you want to try something new, the Honda Insight ZE2 is worth a look. Just don’t expect performance, because the Honda Insight lacks sportiness just as much as I lack clarity.