Saturday, January 21, 2006

The wonders and frustrations of the Honda Insight

I bought a Honda Insight back in 2000, probably one of the first to drive this remarkable little hybrid car in Chicago. The dealer tried to get me to pay $5000 over list. Ha!

Over the last 5+ years and 45000+ miles (I avoid driving whenever possible), I have averaged 49.8 MPG. As good as the EPA ratings? Of course not, but I never expected that. I am really really happy with this peppy, aerodynamic, gas-stingy vehicle.

Unfortunately, there is one big, bad thing about the car: it is absolutely horrible when driving in snow. The car is so darned light that it just rides on the merest layer of snowflakes. It also rides, very very low to the ground. Great for gas mileage, but....

Last night, Veva and I drove up to Milwaukee for the opening of Chris's latest show: Public Display of Affection. I knew that snow would be falling, but we figured we could make it in the Insight (Chris already had our all-wheel drive Subaru wagon up in Milwaukee). So we spent almost four hours driving the usual 1.5 hour trip through heavy snow on unplowed highways. My hands, legs, neck were tied in knots. It was very rough going, but I kept my snowflake of a car on the road.

On the way back, they finally plowed the highways and all was well, until we got to a tollbooth. There, suddenly, the plowing on the left lanes stopped and I went headlong into snow that must have been 10-14 inches high. So what, you might ask?

So I spun to the left, almost turned all the way around. Got myself straightened out, and we went on, but it sounded like we were dragging big chunks of ice with us. Ugh. Finally got off at next exit and found that the hard plastic layer of something or other that protects the undercarriage from the road had come peeled away from the car and was both scraping and dragging.

How pathetic. How irritating. Especially since I'd finally gotten around to canceling the collision coverage on my car. How totally predictable.

So I make a vow to myself: do not drive the Insight in any sort of heavy snow.

6 comments:

Tharg said...

I used to own a green snow beating machine in my student days, to wit:- A Fiat Panda.

Boasting a 900 cc engine (the big boy) tyres with a profile so narrow they would grace a bicycle, a gearbox designed by massey-ferguson tractors, and a 0-60 time measured in hours, it was truly an ultimate vehicle.

However, it had one or two saving graces. At the end of one year at uni, whilst strapped for cash, I took a friend home and back. Cruising at a stately 50 mph on the motorway, zealously keeping in 5th gear, and never accelerating rapidly, I managed an astonishing 73 m.p.g. Now I know that an Imperial gallon is bigger than u.s., but thats pretty good for a 1980's vintage vehicle.

But snow, hah, no problemo Mr Feuerstein. I had to visit a friend in the sticks, and watched a flash-git-mobile with low profiles snaking all over the place, and eventually giving up. My narrow profiles, (weighted down by that massive engine), sank into the snow, got a grip, and hauled me forward. I made it through a foot of the white fluffy stuff with ease.

I recommend the impecunious student-mobile to all snow-bound U.S. punters.

Steven Feuerstein said...

Your words bring back similar memories for me. During college in Rochester NY, I owned a Fiat as well. The winters were very snowy (still are, I think) and I can remember very clearly taking the car out after a big snow and just meandering through the unplowed side streets, never getting stuck....that was a fine day....

Catherine said...

Hooray for the Insight! Hooray for giving out a long, hearty, evil laugh when coworkers whine about $2.50 gas! We've been driving one since 2001.

Oddly, I've never noticed it being difficult in snow... then again, Dayton really doesn't expose us to serious snow.

Catherine said...

Hooray for the Insight! Hooray for giving out a long, hearty, evil laugh when coworkers whine about $2.50 gas! We've been driving one since 2001.

Oddly, I've never noticed it being difficult in snow... then again, Dayton really doesn't expose us to serious snow.

David Aldridge said...

I'v ebeen wishing that Us manufacturers would offer small diesel engine options since I drove Ford and Volvo (ie. another Ford) cars in Europe this summer. http://oraclesponge.blogspot.com/2005/06/fuel-economy.html

I have plenty of ground clearance on my E150 van but rear wheel drive and a torquey engine lead to some interesting snow driving experiences. I find that they one thing you can't do without is a decent set of snow tires. I had Michelin Alpins for a while, and they were fantastic, but wore pretty quickly. Now I have Michelin LTX's that do a good job.

Those Insights have a dedicated type of tire though don't they? Can you get snow tires for them?

Kenshi said...

Steven, you might consider getting narrow winter tires. Some good ones, like Bridgestone Blizzak LM-22 or other from Blizzak series.

I have two set of the wheels for summer and winter. And usually doing reasonably good.