2020 Honda Insight

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2020
The Car Connection
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2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
August 14, 2019

Buying tip

Every Insight is a Top Safety Pick+ car, but the base version skips a touchscreen. Opt for the Insight EX, we say.

The 2020 Honda Insight is a fuel-efficient compact sedan that has a secret: it’s among the safest cars on the road.

Efficiency-focused shoppers would do well to consider the 2020 Honda Insight hybrid sedan. 

The small car from Honda returns not only more than 50 mpg combined in most configurations, according to the EPA, it also manages to do it for less than $24,000 in base form and perhaps, more importantly, without drawing attention to itself. 

It has plenty to be proud about, however. 

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The 2020 Insight earns a 6.8 on our overall scale and is buoyed by very good safety scores and fuel economy. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

With the Insight, Honda has a small hybrid commuter car that’s efficient with fuel and its interior space. Four adults easily fit into the Insight’s confines, with room for gear in the rear, too. 

Its looks aren’t come-at-me-hatchback (Prius, we see you) but rather a tasteful evolution from the Accord mid-size sedan. 

Under the hood of the Insight is an inline-4 and hybrid battery setup that’s unique among its competitors. The Insight’s 1.5-liter inline-4 engine mainly drives a generator that powers the hybrid batteries and 129-horsepower electric motor that drives the front wheels. The engine and the driver’s right foot may be a little disconnected at times, but the Insight efficiently soldiers down a road at a mostly relaxed pace with a placid ride. Its best performance number? Most Insights are rated at 52 mpg combined by the EPA. 

Four adults fit best, but five will fit in a pinch, with 15.1 cubic feet of cargo room in the trunk. The Insight’s batteries don’t eat into available interior space at all, and aside from the leisurely acceleration, it’s hard to tell the Insight apart from a Civic. 

Like the Civic, the Insight has superlative safety scores. Every Insight is a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS, and the sedan aced the federal crash-test regimen with top scores in every subtest. Very few cars can say the same. 

For less than $24,000 to start, the 2020 Insight LX is equipped with 16-inch wheels, LED headlights, a 5.0-inch display for audio, Bluetooth connectivity, one USB charger, cloth duds inside, and active safety features.

We see better value in the Insight EX that costs a little more than $25,000 and adds an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, two USB ports, active lane control, a split-folding rear seat, and an uprated radio with more speakers.

7

2020 Honda Insight

Styling

The 2020 Insight isn’t starved for attention, but it’s hardly lazy either.

Built on a Civic but with looks from the Accord, the 2020 Honda Insight draws inspiration from two good sources. 

We give the Insight points above average for the interior and exterior. It’s a 7. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Insight only gets the Civic’s wheelbase and roofline, what’s left for the Insight is a clean-sheet redesign that looks closer to an Accord mid-size sedan. The Insight borrows the Accord’s nose and tail, with few creases along the body sides that’s a less busy look than the Civic. The wheel arches are more graceful too; the Insight likely looks better to 30-somethings—not 20-somethings. 

Inside, the Insight has a low dash and a mild style that’s more tasteful than boastful. It’s not laziness either, the Insight’s dash convenes toward the middle of the car in a subtle cue that draws eyes to the center of the cabin. 

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5

2020 Honda Insight

Performance

It’s just OK, but the 2020 Insight isn’t about speed anyhow.

Performance is relative in the 2020 Insight. The hybrid compact sedan’s superlatives are found in its fuel-economy figures, not 0-60-mph tests. 

Starting from an average score, we ring the bell for lackluster acceleration but give one back for the Insight’s ride. It’s a wash at 5. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Insight’s motivation comes from a 1.5-liter inline-4 that makes 107 hp and a 129-hp electric motor that make a 151 hp combined. That’s not new math; the Insight’s hybrid acceleration is fundamentally different than many other hybrids on the road. 

In most cases, the engine powers a generator that feeds the battery, which spins up the electric motor that drives the front wheels. The engine drives the front wheels in only a few situations, which is a process unique to Honda hybrids. 

Honda calls the system a “two-motor hybrid” system and it skips the need for a conventional transmission. It relegates the gas engine to generator duty in many situations. 

The noticeable difference for many drivers will be the disconnection between their right feet and what’s going on under the hood. In some cases, the engine could be furiously scrambling to power the generator at low speeds, or nearly silent at high speeds. 

At any speed, the Insight takes its time to get most places. Zero to 60 mph happens in about 9 seconds, which is a little slow. Climbing hills or merging into traffic could take some advance planning. 

The Insight is equipped with EV, Sport, and Econ modes that predictably impact performance, although Sport mode feels out of place here. In our testing, tipping the Insight into Sport made the throttle peppier and the engine rev higher (not to mention pipe in some unnecessary engine sounds into the cabin) but didn’t make the car any faster. Switching over to Econ mode relaxes the throttle response, but didn’t seem to push the car into all-electric mode any more than normal.

We’ve found that the Insight is best when operated without micromanaging; start the car up and go. Honda introduced a heavier-than-normal “kickdown switch”—about 25 percent of the throttle is past a heavy detent that seemed awkward—so a relaxed attitude is best with the Insight.

Acceleration aside, the Insight tempers fussy roads with complaint suspension pieces and good tuning. Front struts and a rear multi-link gulp down bad road behavior well. 

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6

2020 Honda Insight

Comfort & Quality

Efficient with fuel and space, the 2020 Insight carries people and cargo a long way on a tank.

Despite having a different name, the 2020 Insight is actually a Honda Civic underneath. 

That’s good news for people and cargo, which both easily fit within the Insight’s compact frame. Starting from an average score, the compact Honda wins points on our scale for good cargo capacity at just a hair over 15 cubic feet. It misses out on other points because the interior is efficient—like the rest of the car—but not opulent. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Insight’s seats are comfortable and supportive, but lower than we expected. The room up front is good for long bodies in any direction: 42.3 inches of leg room and 39.3 inches of head room. 

Drivers should find a wide range of adjustability between the seats and telescoping steering wheel; long reach and short legs won’t complain, or vice versa. 

Behind the front seats is a comfortable three-person bench that we say is better for two. There’s 37.4 inches of available leg room, enough for 6-footers to sit behind other 6-footers. The seat bottoms are a little thin, but there’s good knee room and hip room for two big, wide American bodies. 

The Insight doesn’t eat too much into cargo space, compared to the Civic. There’s 15.1 cubic feet of cargo room under the lid, which expands when the rear seats are folded down. 

We’ve noticed (and heard from readers) about initial quality concerns in early Insight sedans: trim pieces not lining up, odd panel gaps. Honda’s hopefully cleared that up, but the noises that filter into the cabin aren’t an aberration. Sometimes the Insight can drone on due to its powertrain configuration. 

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2020 Honda Insight

Safety

The 2020 Honda Insight is one of the safest cars on the road, for less money than many others.

Safety is the 2020 Insight’s best-kept secret. 

In addition to stellar scores from crash-testers, the 2020 Honda Insight makes active safety features standard and outward vision is good. It’s a 9 here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Testers from the IIHS gave the Insight a Top Safety Pick+ award in every configuration. That’s relatively rare because many automakers don’t bundle pricey headlights in base models. The IIHS also rated its automatic emergency braking system as “Superior” and noted that the Insight avoided forward crashes at 12 and 25 mph. 

Federal testers gave the Insight five stars across the board, including five stars in every sub test, another relative rarity. 

Every Insight is equipped with standard automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and traffic sign recognition. Insight EX and Touring versions add active lane control. 

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6

2020 Honda Insight

Features

Honda’s middle child in the 2020 Insight family is our just-right pick for value.

The base 2020 Insight is a commuter special: cheap to run and cheap to buy. 

Everything else is better equipped but they’re all good values. 

It’s a 6 for that value, but the 2020 Insight misses more points for features left off the entry version. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

This year, Honda offers the Insight in LX, EX, and Touring packages. The 2020 Insight LX costs less than $24,000 and includes 16-inch wheels, LED headlights, a 5.0-inch display for audio, Bluetooth connectivity, one USB charger, cloth duds inside, and active safety features that we cover above. 

We’ll skip ahead to the Insight Touring that adds an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, two USB ports, active lane control, a split-folding rear seat, and uprated radio with more speakers. Insight EX sedans cost about $25,000. 

At the top are Insight Touring versions that heap on navigation, a moonroof, 17-inch wheels, and leather upholstery. Before you go: Touring versions rate lower on the EPA scale. 

Honda Insight infotainment

Honda’s native infotainment system is simple and straightforward, with easy-to-follow menus and a handful of customizable features. It’s not as flashy as some competitors, but it does work just as well—if not better. 

A bar across the top of the touchscreen shows frequently used tabs: phone, source, time, and what’s playing. The hard buttons along the side offer quick keys to the home screen, brightness, track selection, volume control, and a back button. 

When connected, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto run smoothly with little lag. 

We haven’t tested the base 5.0-inch display on the Insight yet. 

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8

2020 Honda Insight

Fuel Economy

The 2020 Honda Insight is very efficient with a gallon of gasoline.

At 52 mpg combined, not many cars are more fuel-efficient than the 2020 Honda Insight. 

Those that are more efficient typically come with a plug. 

The EPA rates the 2020 Insight at 55 mpg city, 49 highway, 52 combined. That’s an 8 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Insight Touring versions get their own rating, 51/45/28 mpg. Those versions have bigger tires that cut into efficiency. 

Those numbers aren’t backward. Hybrid cars typically fare better in city tests at low speeds where hybrid batteries help engines more. 

The Prius rates 52 mpg combined in its most popular configuration, according to the EPA. The Hyundai Ioniq rates 55 mpg, although both hybrid cars have more efficient versions with fewer features. 

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6.8
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 5
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety 9
Features 6
Fuel Economy 8
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