2019 Honda Insight first drive: relief in a rising sea

June 19, 2018

Consider us as proverbial frogs, adrift in the rising oceans and paying nickels, dimes, and quarters more for gallons of the same gasoline every time we go to the pump. Impervious to the slow march toward $5 a gallon again, we’ll march happily along in crossovers and pickups until our credit cards boil over in exhaustion.

Gas can’t get any more expensive. No way. Not this time. Not like last time.

The 2019 Honda Insight has arrived at the right time. Or maybe the wrong time.

At $23,725 to start, the Insight is an affordable hybrid sedan for when the water boils and Phoenix neighborhoods become oceanfront property—if it gets that far before EVs show up en masse.

Maybe we won’t see such dire straits. Maybe we will.

With the Insight, Honda is banking on both scenarios.

DON'T MISS: Read our full review of the 2019 Honda Insight

2019 Honda Insight

2019 Honda Insight

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2019 Honda Insight

2019 Honda Insight

Enlarge Photo
2019 Honda Insight

2019 Honda Insight

Enlarge Photo

Civil Civic

The Insight shares much with the Civic, but not a name.

Despite sharing similar dimensions and a skeleton with the Civic (they’re even produced together in the same plant), the Insight feels more grown-up than the car on which it’s based. It would be a disservice to call the Insight simply a “Civic Hybrid.”

That’s evident from behind the wheel of the 2019 Insight, which is more leisurely and highbrow, too.

The digital instrument cluster and 8.0-inch touchscreen in the top two trims are taken largely from the Accord, which are good things. For EX- and Touring-trimmed Insights, the 8.0-inch touchscreen boasts Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, the 2018 equivalents of “can it play my copy of ‘Thriller’?”

Figuratively fire up the Insight (it’s a hybrid after all) and the 1.5-liter inline-4 and battery combo offer up 151 combined horsepower, delivered mostly through Honda’s electric system.

2019 Honda Insight

2019 Honda Insight

Enlarge Photo

The so-called “two-motor hybrid” prefers to route power through the battery and electric motors to the front wheels only, using the gasoline engine as a generator for the batteries mostly. Under high stress, the engine and electric motors can clutch together in concert; under low loads, the electric system can go at it alone.

The results are sometimes altogether different; a deep stab at the accelerator can rev the engine too much—or not at all. Honda fitted the Insight with a slightly different right pedal than its other cars: 75 percent of the pedal travel is normal, but about 25 percent of the pedal is past a stiff detent that sends the engine into a furious tizzy.

Take it easy and the Insight returns 52 mpg combined, according to the EPA, or 55 mpg combined according to us. Over 80 miles around Minneapolis on mostly highway drives, we used less than 1.5 gallons of gasoline.

2019 Honda Insight

2019 Honda Insight

Enlarge Photo

It’s got legs

The Insight has enough room for four adults to ride in relative comfort. Available only as a sedan, the hybrid Honda gets the best of the Civic’s compact exterior size with the benefit of its nearly Accord-sized interior space.

More than 15 cubic feet of space opens up in the trunk, unencumbered by any hybrid batteries, which are stowed under the rear seats. That makes the Insight more than practical for many daily drivers.

But does it make the Insight desirable?

That entirely depends on your worldview. As a compact commuter (technically mid-size), the Insight is more than efficient enough, but it’s also $3,000 more than a comparably equipped Civic, which is already as fuel-efficient than the early Civics of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when cars weighed as much as wet sneezes.

If the 2019 Insight is anything, it’s a glimpse into a small-car future where economy sedans will almost certainly be electrified and provide a pad to land on from $5 a gallon gas.

Want to know more? Read our full review of the 2019 Honda Insight.

Honda provided Internet Brands Automotive travel and lodging to bring you this firsthand report.

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