REAL CAR CULTURE

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REAL CAR CULTURE

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How To keep Driving Honda Insight, A 25 Year Old Hybrid Car

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TEXT: 酒寄俊幸(SAKAYORI Toshiyuki/gasgraphix)  PHOTO: 酒寄俊幸(SAKAYORI Toshiyuki/gasgraphix)

  • Owner of a first generation Honda Insight for 16 years
  • Owner of a first generation Honda Insight for 16 years
  • Owner of a first generation Honda Insight for 16 years
  • Owner of a first generation Honda Insight for 16 years
  • Owner of a first generation Honda Insight for 16 years
  • Owner of a first generation Honda Insight for 16 years
  • Owner of a first generation Honda Insight for 16 years
  • Owner of a first generation Honda Insight for 16 years
  • Owner of a first generation Honda Insight for 16 years

Did you know that a 5-speed manual transmission was available?

The Honda Insight began with the first generation (ZE1), which was introduced in 1999, followed by the second generation (ZE2/3), launched in 2009, and the third generation (ZE4) in 2018. However, in contrast to the Toyota Prius, which successfully implemented a brand image strategy as the same model, the Insight, which changed with each model change from a two-door fastback coupe, to a five-door hatchback and a coupe-like four-door sedan, was discontinued with the third generation. Intrigued by the beautiful and rare car, we interviewed its owner, Hirotaka Sonoda.

Search for a manual car led me here

Before owning this Honda Insight (first generation), Mr. Sonoda drove a 1991 Beat, and after 14 years of driving his beloved car, it had become quite worn out, in the end, the body deteriorated and the boot burst open, which is when he decided to make the switch.

“It was an absolute requirement that it be a manual car. It’s fun to drive. Also, I wanted a car with as few people driving it as possible. I wasn’t too particular about it being a Honda car, but I knew that the first-generation Insight had a manual transmission. And the fact that it was a two-seater, like the Beat, was another reason I started to be interested in it. I really wanted a CR-X or something like that, but I also thought it wasn’t realistic considering the maintenance costs”.

As a result, he communicated that he wanted to go to a local dealer and look for a first-generation Insight. After about a month of waiting, they found this unit in good condition.

Sonoda was not 100% satisfied with his purchase, as he commented, “It has a manual transmission, but I didn’t enjoy the driving”. However, the car was already eight years old at the time of purchase from new car sales. From then to now, Mr. Sonoda has been driving this beloved car for about 16 years.

The question is whether it will be maintained in the future due to lack of parts

Simple question, what are the difficulties of maintaining a 25-year-old hybrid car now?

“To be honest, there were times when I thought about giving it up, like when I had battery problems or the body was too damaged and I had to have it completely painted five years ago. But when I talk to people I know about it, they tell me it’s a waste of money and I shouldn’t let it go. Put yourself in the shoes of those of us who own them! If you feel sorry for me, give me money! I always think to myself, ‘If I’m going to feel sorry for you, give me money!'”

According to Sonoda, “90% of my concerns about my car are the battery”. Hybrid batteries are already out of stock from the manufacturer. If there is a problem in the future, he expects to ask a specialist battery repair company. In fact, the hybrid battery has been replaced twice. However, Mr. Sonoda told us that there is no particular problem with that and that side-effect problems are more troublesome than that.

“It doesn’t matter if it just ruins the battery for the hybrid. It can run on petrol. However, in this car, if the hybrid battery goes bad, the normal 12V battery is not charged. We didn’t know this when we had our first problem, so we kept running on petrol and before we knew it, the 12V battery was empty and we stopped on the road.”

After that experience, Sonoda’s rule is to always have a charged 12V spare battery on hand when making long trips. The system will differ depending on the model of the car, but for those who drive older hybrid cars, this is a good reference point.

translated by DeepL

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