Much has been written about the Insight, Honda’s new low-priced hybrid. We’ve been told how much carbon dioxide it produces, how its dashboard encourages frugal driving by glowing green when you’re easy on the throttle and how it is the dawn of all things. The beginning of days.So far, though, you have not been told what it’s like as a car; as a tool for moving you, your friends and your things from place to place.I have no dog in this fight. I earn a what little living I make from my modem and what little driving I do or is done for me is done in eight or ten year old cars. But seriously. If this is the coming Green Revolution America will begin to look like Cuba with a lot of 30 and 40 year old cars on the road. And what is that going to do for fuel economy or pollution? I predict nothing good.
So here goes. It’s terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It’s the first car I’ve ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn’t have to drive it any more.
The biggest problem, and it’s taken me a while to work this out, because all the other problems are so vast and so cancerous, is the gearbox. For reasons known only to itself, Honda has fitted the Insight with something called constantly variable transmission (CVT).
It doesn’t work. Put your foot down in a normal car and the revs climb in tandem with the speed. In a CVT car, the revs spool up quickly and then the speed rises to match them. It feels like the clutch is slipping. It feels horrid.
And the sound is worse. The Honda’s petrol engine is a much-shaved, built-for-economy, low-friction 1.3 that, at full chat, makes a noise worse than someone else’s crying baby on an airliner. It’s worse than the sound of your parachute failing to open. Really, to get an idea of how awful it is, you’d have to sit a dog on a ham slicer.
No wonder Congress is considering a plan to pay to destroy serviceable used cars. And what will that do to pollution? Probably nothing good if you consider the energy and effort required to turn a scrapped car into a new one.
A functioning market economy is a system for minimizing costs and maximizing value. A functioning Congress is a system for maximizing costs and minimizing value. Too bad we are getting less market and more Congress.
Cross Posted at Classical Values