Remember when we thought there’d be flying cars now? Heck, we really don’t even have reliable self-driving cars, let alone ones that can fly.
Why bring all this up? Well, “back in the ’90s” there was a futuristic-looking car with this new-fangled hybrid technology. It was called the Honda Insight. The looks were Jetsons-like with the rear wheel well practically enclosed. It was, in a word, ugly. If that was the future, it wasn’t going to be a bright one.
At the same time, Toyota launched the Prius which was also “aesthetically challenged.” During the ’90s and much of the early 2000s, hybrid technology was still new and clearly had to also be ugly. Thankfully a lot has changed.
In 2014, Honda discontinued the Insight. We thought that was the end of it, with Honda investing hybrid technology in other cars in their product line (like the Accord). But, for 2019 the Insight is back. But thankfully it doesn’t look like an oddball this time around.
And for the Accord fans out there, the Insight won’t replace the hybrid version of the Accord, either. Honda is growing their environmental product line with the Insight, the Accord Hybrid and the Honda Clarity, too.
With all this thoroughly covered, let’s take a look at the 2019 Honda Insight Touring that I drove.
The Insight, which is built on the Civic platform, falls between the Civic and Accord in dimension and is considered a premium compact sedan, with a hybrid powertrain. The looks are much more aligned with the rest of the Honda product line.
This means it has conservative looks. The front end is attractive and modern. The side profile resembles an Accord as does the back. If you like the Honda styling, you’ll like the Insight. Some find it too conservative. I’ll take conservative over covered rear wheels and ugly concept design cues any day.
The most important thing to know about the 2019 Insight is that it’s hybrid with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric assist motor. This isn’t new or cutting-edge technology. There’s a total power output of 151 horsepower and 197 lbs.-ft. of torque. If that doesn’t like a lot of power, that’s because it’s not. And the Insight doesn’t outperform those numbers either. It’s a little pokey off the line but once up to speed and on the highway it’s smooth and efficient. Remember, you aren’t buying the Insight to win drag races. You’re buying it for its fuel efficiency.
I enjoyed the different driving modes (ECON, SPORT and EV). In Sport mode it felt more like an Accord and less like a hybrid. The only big drawback to me was the continuously variable transmission. I’ve never been a fan of CVTs, and this did nothing to change my mind.
Inside, the Insight is nice. It’s nicer than most Priuses and as nice as an Accord. Again, the interior is somewhat conservative, but that’s in no way a criticism. There’s little flash, but there’s also nothing that disappoints either.
Unlike many hybrids, which sacrifice cabin space (especially back seat space) for the hybrid battery technology, the Insight offers 97.6 cubic feet of passenger space. It’s bigger than a Civic and smaller than an Accord. But it is well-suited and comfortable for two adults or two adults and one kiddo.
High-quality materials help keep road noise to a minimum; that is a major plus for the Insight. The whisper-quiet hybrid engine makes this a smooth, comfortable interior. There’s a 14.7-cubic-feet trunk, too.
The infotainment system is good and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on a high-resolution 8-inch touchscreen. Honda Sensing technology beams blind spot camera images onto the display. It’s a crisp, clean image that engages when you use turn signals. It’s a neat feature that isn’t just a gimmick but a legitimate safety feature.
The most appealing feature to the Insight is its EPA rating of 51 mpg/city and 45 mpg/highway. I will say, I never once saw 50 mpg and averaged “just” 42 mpg in heavy-footed driving with lousy winter weather conditions. The cold could have affected the overall fuel economy. But any time you can get more than 40 mpg, that’s a win.
There are three trims offered for the Insight: LX, EX and Touring. My tester was the top-of-the-line Touring. This trim comes with a leather-trimmed interior, 17-inch alloy wheels, leather steering wheel and rain-sensing wipers. MSRP for the Insight Touring is $28,090. The base trim starts at $22,830, making this a viable, affordable, fuel-efficient vehicle.
What’s old is new again for Honda. Thankfully the 2019 Honda Insight doesn’t look anything like the older version of this hybrid.
Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to exclusive deals and newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.