CC Capsule Monday Morning Rarities – 2000 Honda Insight, Pioneer Or Science Experiment?

2000 Honda Insight

Circling back to the eco-themed cars, it is not very often that I see a first-gen Honda Insight, and for good reason!  A whopping 45 Insights were sold in Australia, but I think it is one of the most remarkable cars ever built.

Honda Insight aero

The first generation Insight is a pretty exceptional car, and one of the most hardcore cars ever brought to the market.  The body is composed completely of aluminium, which allowed the weight of 827 kg (1823 lb) (with AC), while the aerodynamic coefficient of drag figure of just 0.25 was one of the lowest ever achieved.  The 1L 3-cyl engine weighs an incredible 56 kg (123 lb), while the just-under 1 kWh battery pack added just 20 kg (44 lb).

Apart from the obvious 2-seater limitation there were some downsides including a fairly rough ride due to the low rolling resistance tyres and a rather unrefined suspension setup, plus high noise levels due to scant sound insulation.

Black Insight

The most significant issue though was the price being charged, a whopping AUD$48,900 which meant that while the second batch of 10 customer-ordered cars sold quickly to early-adopters, some of the initial batch of 33 demonstrator and promotional cars sat on dealer lots for literally years.  That comes to just 43 cars; subsequently two black 2002 models were imported presumably to order.  All were manual transmission cars, however more recently there has been a privately-imported CVT car arrive.

Insight Brochure p5 25162019875_63ab6b902e_o

Silver was the most common colour, followed by red and citrus yellow; which you might call green.  While only one of the first generation cars is known to have been written off, a couple now reside in museums so the herd left on the road is diminishing.  One of the cars has covered more than 300,000 km (190k miles).

Honda Insight display engine

I don’t think any have been modified with a conventional Honda engine, which interestingly does not have a normal alternator but rather one integrated with the flywheel (above); in the US there a few with normal Honda K-series VTEC engines swapped in and one has even been an awd conversion using CR-V parts!

It is telling that the second-generation car was much more conventional, less ambitious and a huge chunk cheaper – 60% the price of the first model.  Just 17,020 of this revolutionary Insight were produced in total, and by far the majority (~13,600) were sold in the USA.  It is uncanny that the Insight, S2000 and NSX all went out of production in 2006; perhaps a sure sign that Honda had fundamentally changed.


Further Reading:

In Motion Outtake: 2000 Honda Insight – The First Hybrid Is Getting Scarce

Cohort Outtake: Honda CR-Z And Insight

Automotive Aerodynamics: Drag Area – Size Matters