Launched in 1999 into a marketplace not used to cars looking like something from Buck Rogers, the Insight set the template for modern hybrids. Even now, 12 years on, it looks utterly unique and the first-generation Insight was certainly frugal, achieving fuel consumption figures as low as 3.4L/100km, with Car and Driver magazine even managing 1.9L/100km by driving it in the wake of a trailer to reduce wind resistance. When the replacement model came along, Honda went all boring and conventional. Pity.
Or "Pious", depending on your outlook. While Honda's futuristic Insight made a bold statement, it was the Prius that A-list actors took to their hearts with a "look how kind I'm being to the planet" attitude that drew as much criticism as it did praise. They even started turning up at the Oscars in them. And yet, for all the hype, the Prius never did deliver on the promises made by its creators. The Sunday Times tested one against a 3.0L diesel BMW on a return trip from London to Geneva. The Prius drank the most fuel.
It was last year that Honda made a brave attempt at bringing some youthful verve to the hybrid market with its sporty looking CR-Z. With funky fastback styling, a dashboard that lights up like a nightclub and a peppy little powertrain, it certainly has the ability to entertain its driver. But it still doesn't excite on an emotional level - something that manufacturers recognise is key when trying to appeal to a younger customer base. Still, it's widely seen as a step in the right direction and we at Motoring like it a lot.
Not that long ago, we heard a representative of Porsche, at the factory in Leipzig where the Cayenne SUV is built, say that Porsche would never produce a diesel-powered car. And now, not only do we have oil-burning Cayennes and Panameras, but also hybrids. Porsche is in the business of making money and gas guzzlers are rapidly falling out of favour around the world. So marketing sense overcame pride, yet these socially acceptable Porsches manage to retain remarkable levels of driveability.
We recently put the gorgeous Karma through its paces on a road test and came away with an overriding impression of intelligent, exciting design that, at long last, forges environmental awareness with engineering passion and surreal beauty. No surprise, then, that Hollywood has said au revoir to the Prius and orders for the Fisker are pouring in. The company has ambitious plans to build 300 Karmas a week. With more torque than a Veyron and green credentials as long as your arm, what's not to like? A resounding triumph.