Auto review of the year

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on May 20, 2009

The Times of London's auto writer, Jeremy Clarkson, checked out the new Honda Insight -- and he didn't like it.

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.

Clarkson also took aim at one of the oft-ignored issues of these hybrid vehicles -- the environmental cost of constructing them.

Honda has produced a graph that seems to suggest that making the Insight is only marginally more energy-hungry than making a normal car. And that the slight difference is more than negated by the resultant fuel savings.

Hmmm. I would not accuse Honda of telling porkies. That would be foolish. But I cannot see how making a car with two motors costs the same in terms of resources as making a car with one.

The nickel for the battery has to come from somewhere. Canada, usually. It has to be shipped to Japan, not on a sailing boat, I presume. And then it must be converted, not in a tree house, into a battery, and then that battery must be transported, not on an ox cart, to the Insight production plant in Suzuka. And then the finished car has to be shipped, not by Thor Heyerdahl, to Britain, where it can be transported, not by wind, to the home of a man with a beard who thinks he’s doing the world a favour.

Why doesn’t he just buy a Range Rover, which is made from local components, just down the road? No, really — weird-beards buy locally produced meat and vegetables for eco-reasons. So why not apply the same logic to cars?

Because buying locally doesn't have the same cachet as driving around the latest eco-car. There's a reason that Toyota's Prius is often referred to as the "Pious."

0 comments on “Auto review of the year”

  1. Jeremy's wit is one of the best things about the London Times. And the show he hosts, Top Gear is worth watching if you love cars at all (though don't expect to see too many U.S. cars on the show).

    He has it exactly right and I have often wondered how much "carbon" I'd supposedly be saving by ditching my 24MPG (real world MPG) car built in 1993 and pushing 220k miles for a car that requires more toxic substances (batteries) and all new production of oil refined resources like plastic. When the true accounting is done, how many MPG do you have to gain to offset the very production of the vehicle. If I were in the market for a new, compact sedan, I *might* consider a hybrid for the same price. But it is more about saving my dollars than the world and truth be told, a diesel Jetta gets better mileage and costs less.

    There is an episode of Top Gear where Jeremy Clarkson drives a three wheeled car from the sixties that is small enough to fit in to an elevator. (Literally, he actually takes it in to the BBC building's elevator.) The car gets more than 40mpg but is still charged London's congestion charge. The Lexus RX400h they use to film the car driving around gets well under 30mpg and it is spared the charge due to a fuel efficient hybrid engine.


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May 2009



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