2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid vs. 2019 Honda Insight: Compare Cars

March 5, 2019
2019 Honda Insight

2019 Honda Insight

Sometime, around the moment we found nutrition labels and no longer considered Thursdays to be part of the weekend, frugal and inexpensive commuter cars began to make sense. It’s cool, we all grow up.

For us olds, the 2019 Honda Insight and 2019 Toyota Corolla Hybrid are adulting like high-fiber cereals and coupons for socks.

Both hybrid sedans are rated by the EPA at 52 mpg combined in their most common configurations and are roughly the same size—they have identical wheelbase measurements and nearly the same span, bumper to bumper. They cost nearly the same, too: the Corolla Hybrid starts at $23,880 and the Insight costs $23,850, both including destination.

But their hybrid powertrains have distinct differences and, for now, just one offers more than one trim level.

On paper, the 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid and 2019 Honda Insight doesn’t seem like much of a comparison. The Honda Insight rates 7.0 on our overall scale, the Toyota Corolla at 6.2. Although the Corolla is a 2020 model and the Insight is still 2019 (although we don’t expect any marked difference from Honda for 2020), that’s not where the discrepancy lies. A technicality means that the Corolla is rated for the gas-powered version on our site, which will be more common than the hybrid version. If rated alone, the Corolla Hybrid would earn a 6.6 on our overall scale. With upcoming safety scores, that score could be even higher.

What’s more grownup than a numbers analysis?

MORE: Read our 2019 Honda Insight and 2020 Toyota Corolla reviews

2020 Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid

2020 Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid

2020 Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid

2020 Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid

2020 Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid

2020 Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid

We consider both cars to be hybrids without pretense.

The Toyota Corolla Hybrid wraps a sedate sedan body shape around a Prius powertrain—no split tailgate or weird bumpers here. It’s the anti-Prius, in a sense. The Corolla sedan is new for 2020 and offers an updated look for the small car that’s been on sale for more than 50 years, but nothing revolutionary. The front and rear glass are racier, and the grille has been enlarged, but it’s hardly foreign.

The Honda Insight is most closely related to the Civic, which is more daring stylistically. The Insight smoothes some of the busier corners of the Civic design with details borrowed from the plainer Accord, and it works. The Insight name for Honda once applied to dorky hatchbacks that wore their efficiency credentials on their sleeve; by comparison, the new sedan is far more handsome and inconspicuous.

Inside, both offer airy cabin layouts dressed with demure colors and fabrics. The Corolla has newer, more interesting details such as a stitched leather-like dash; the Insight has a volume knob. Exciting stuff, we know.

We’re more jazzed on the cars’ efficiency, which is why we’re here anyway. Both the Corolla Hybrid and the Insight pair efficient inline-4s with hybrid battery packs and electric motors to manage more than 50 mpg combined, according to the EPA.

The Corolla Hybrid’s powertrain is familiar to us, even if the car is new. The 1.8-liter inline-4 and electric motor pair to make 121 horsepower combined—it’s the same powertrain from the Prius. The front wheels are driven via a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that maximizes efficiency—not necessarily fun.

2019 Honda Insight

2019 Honda Insight

2019 Honda Insight

2019 Honda Insight

2019 Honda Insight

2019 Honda Insight

The Insight uses a 1.5-liter inline-4 and electric motor combo to combine for 151 hp, although its power delivery is fundamentally different than the Corolla Hybrid’s system. Where Toyota uses battery power to supplement (or in few instances, entirely replace) gas motor power, Honda uses the gas motor to primarily supply charge to the batteries that power the electric motor. Put simply: the Corolla Hybrid uses the gas engine to power the wheels with help from electric motors, the Insight uses the gas motor to act as a generator in most cases.

That translates into different driving experiences behind the wheel. In our drives, the Corolla Hybrid seemingly strains for power when called upon, sometimes the Insight’s revs don’t reflect the overall pace. They both take roughly 10 seconds to speed up to 60 mph from a standstill. Call it a coin flip.

Indecision doesn’t ease up from there, either. The Corolla Hybrid is gifted with 15-inch wheels and a soft suspension tune that smother road imperfections; the Insight is treated to fluid-filled bushings and an independent suspension from the Civic that delivers a similarly cushy ride.

Both cars’ interiors make the most of that ride, too. The Insight and Corolla Hybrid offer good room in front for adults and enough leg room in the back for carpools. The Corolla’s seats are slightly better this time around, even though they’re thinner and lighter, they’re still all-day comfortable. The Insight boasts more room in its trunk however, 15.1 cubic feet compared to 13.1 cubes in the Corolla. We give a slight comfort edge to the Corolla (in ways that don’t show up on the scorecard) because it’s quieter inside, and the Insight’s sometimes-unpredictable engine use can buzz inside the cabin.

Both cars leave competitors in the dust to protect those passengers. Both Insight and Corolla Hybrid offer standard automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control.

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The Insight has been comprehensively crashed by federal and IIHS testers, the latter gave it a Top Safety Pick+ award for 2019. The 2020 Corolla hasn’t yet set dates with brick walls, we’ll update this space when they do.

In a game of miles per gallon, the inches matter—we mean inches of touchscreen, actually. The Corolla Hybrid scores higher on our features scale thanks to its standard 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay. The Insight offers a 7.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone compatibility—just not on its base model. The Corolla Hybrid so far is only available in LE configuration, which includes 15-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, two USB power plugs, keyless ignition, and automatic climate control.

The base Insight LX offers a 5.0-inch display for audio, one USB power plug, automatic climate control, and keyless ignition.

The edge goes to the Corolla, but only in base configuration. Toyota offers just one trim level for the Corolla Hybrid, Honda offers three trim levels for the Insight. Asking for leather upholstery or premium audio will require an Insight, for now. More features and bigger wheels dings mileage slightly, the EPA rates Insight Touring models at 48 mpg combined.

We expect that Toyota will catch up quickly and offer its Corolla Hybrid with more variety sometime in the future.

But for now, the Insight and Corolla prove that growing old has its advantages. Life’s too short to spend much time at gas stations anyway.

Summary

7.0
Expert Rating
Forget the other Hondas to wear the Insight name, the 2019 Honda Insight is what “normal” will look like for small cars in the near future.
6.2
Expert Rating
It’s still among the more mildly flavored mass-market sedans, but the 2020 Toyota Corolla has dropped the bland from its diet.

Styling

7.0
Expert Rating
More grown up than the Civic, the 2019 Insight is appropriately styled for a night out in the city.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The latest Corolla sips some styling caffeine, but not more than it can handle.
Read More

Performance

5.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Insight is relaxed in most of its operation; not great for performance, but fine for ride quality.
Read More
5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Corolla ratchets up its enthusiasm for driving, but keeps it low-key.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

6.0
Expert Rating
With good bones, the 2019 Honda Insight excels at being a compact car that punches above its class in comfort.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Corolla suits up with swell front-seat space; the back seat and trunk pull up shy of rivals.
Read More

Safety

9.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Honda Insight has earned top marks from crash testers and it comes with advanced safety tech.
Read More
We’re waiting on Corolla crash-test data to give it a score.
Read More

Features

7.0
Expert Rating
Even at roughly $3,000 more than a comparably equipped Civic, the 2019 Honda Insight offers a compelling value to hybrid shoppers.
Read More
8.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Corolla gets CarPlay and safety galore; it’s a great value, too.
Read More

Fuel Economy

8.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Honda Insight is among the most fuel-efficient cars on sale without a plug.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
A new hybrid model sends gas mileage soaring; popular Corollas earn good fuel economy.
Read More

MSRP

from $22,930
from N/A

Invoice

from $21,303
from N/A

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

52

Engine

Gas/Electric I-4, 1.5 L

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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