- Handsome looks
- 50 mpg-plus equals Prius
- Largely runs electrically
- Handsome, conventional interior
- Too much like a Civic?
- Will high-end power be enough?
- Does gas mileage matter any more?
- Should a plug be optional too?
While we haven't driven it yet, the 2019 Honda Insight appears to be a handsome, high-mileage dedicated hybrid car that no one will have to apologize for.
The 2019 Honda Insight is a new compact hybrid sedan, related to the Civic of the same size, with a combined EPA fuel-efficiency rating promised to be 50 mpg or better. It will be offered in three trim levels: a base LX version, a mid-range EX model, and a top-of-the-lineup Touring trim.
When the Insight starts to roll off the lines in Indiana sometime in the middle of 2018, it will be Honda's first dedicated hybrid model built in the U.S. The company hopes third time's a charm, after two previous generations of Insight—one a bare-bones subcompact, the other a tiny two-seater—didn't.
The 2019 Insight slots between the Civic and the Accord in Honda's lineup; the company calls it a "premium compact" car. It will face off against a range of small hybrid hatchbacks, from the new Hyundai Ioniq to the three-car Toyota Prius lineup. It may also compete with the hybrid versions of mid-size sedans like the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Toyota Camry—not to mention Honda's own Accord Hybrid, which is a size larger.
While all the world's heading for crossover utility vehicles, small passenger cars still get the best gas mileage. The Insight is likely to be carry the highest fuel-economy ratings of any model in Honda's lineup without a plug. While EPA ratings won't be released until shortly before the 2019 Insight goes on sale, Honda projected its city rating to be "up to 55 mpg," or comparable with the Prius Liftback.
The Insight will likely receive high marks for its looks. With the fourth-generation Toyota Prius clad in downright bizarre lines, the new Insight is both identifiable as a Honda and handsome in its own right. The fastback shape echoes that of the Civic and the latest Accord, and the upright front end with a chrome strip across it says "Honda family" immediately. But it's smoother and less busy than the Civic of roughly the same size, closer to the calm elegance of the larger Accord. The result is a Civic-size car that looks a little more refined, a little more grownup. The LED headlights and taillights that are now all but mandatory on high-efficiency cars are present, of course.
Inside, the 2019 Insight seats five in a typically stylish but functional Honda interior. Ahead of the driver is the usual two-gauge instrument cluster with a digital display panel between the gauges. A touchscreen standing slightly proud of the surface occupies the center of the dash, just in front of two large vents. On the console are Honda's space-saving new gear selector push-and-pull buttons, along with a flat pad for mobile phones as well as the usual cup holders and other nooks and crannies for storage.
The Insight's powertrain is similar to that used in the Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid, but without that car's large battery pack that can be plugged in to recharge it. The 1.5-liter inline-4 runs on the ultra-efficient Atkinson cycle and is paired with a simple, ingenious, and powerful two-motor hybrid system that replaces the transmission entirely. Total output is 151 horsepower and 197 pound-feet of torque, against 158 hp and 138 lb-ft in the base Civic, which makes the Insight both more fuel-efficient and torquier, with roughly the same power.
Unlike Toyota hybrids, the Honda system mostly runs on battery power alone or with the engine acting as a generator to recharge the battery that powers the car. The engine only clutches in to power the wheels directly when maximum power is required or at highway speeds.This should give the Insight instant response to the accelerator, and potentially quite peppy performance around town.
The second motor acts as a generator to recharge the battery; when the engine is used to power the wheels, the two motors are clutched together to connect the entire drivetrain to the front wheels. One new feature is "steering wheel-mounted deceleration selectors" (also known as "regen paddles") that let a driver select from three increasingly strong levels of regenerative braking.
As mass-market car companies strengthen their safety offerings, Honda has fitted the Insight with its Honda Sensing suite of active-safety systems. Standard equipment includes automatic emergency braking, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and a traffic-sign recognition feature common on European cars for several years but largely new to mass-priced U.S. vehicles. A rearview camera is also standard on all models.
EX and Touring models of the 2019 Insight will add the clever Lane Watch system, uses a camera in the right-side door mirror to display a view of the car's blind spot on the center screen as soon as the driver signals a right turn. Honda says it is targeting top crash-safety ratings, including a 5-star overall score and a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS.
All new Insights will come standard with full LED lighting, 16-inch alloy wheels, a 7-inch digital display between the instruments, pushbutton start, heated side mirrors, a folding rear seat, and a six-speaker audio system, along with Bluetooth pairing, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay.
The Insight EX, likely to be the most popular model, adds keyless entry, a 60/40 split folding rear seat back, an 8-inch touchscreen for the audio and connectivity features, satellite radio, and two more speakers.
For buyers who want all the trimmings, the Touring adds 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, perforated leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, 8-way driver's seat power adjust (4-way for the front passenger), navigation with digital traffic information, 4G LTE connectivity, a premium audio system with 10 speakers, and LEDs for the fog lights and side-mirror turn signals.
The 2019 Honda Insight will go on sale in the "early summer" of 2018. Final features, specifications, and prices will be released closer to that time.