- Stellar fuel economy
- Good interior room
- Handsome looks
- Impressive safety scorecard
- Great active safety features
- Buzzy engine at times
- Base versions skip some good features
- Not especially fast
- Thin seat bottoms
features & specs
The 2021 Honda Insight is a remarkable hybrid commuter with impressive safety features for a low price.
The 2021 Honda Insight is smart money.
The compact hybrid sedan returns this year with a few new safety features on some trims, although the good stuff doesn’t change. It still returns more than 50 mpg combined in most trims, according to the EPA, and it costs less than $30,000 in every configuration—LX, EX, and Touring.
It’s a 6.5 thanks to its superlative fuel economy and stellar safety scorecard. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
This year, the Insight adds blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts to EX and Touring trims while keeping most of the good stuff intact.
Based on the compact Civic, the Insight dresses up its exterior with slightly more grown-up tastes. The Insight borrows the Accord’s nose and tail—no bad thing—and its sides are a little cleaner compared to the Civic.
The Insight’s interior slightly reflects its below-average price, but it’s uncluttered and spacious. The Insight’s fuel-efficiency is anything but below-average, however.
Under the hoods of all 2021 Insights is a 1.5-liter inline-4 gas engine that makes 107 horsepower. It normally drives a generator that produces power for the hybrid battery pack and 129-hp electric motor that powers the front wheels. In certain situations, the gas motor can clutch in to drive the wheels, although Honda says that’s the exception for its hybrids—not the rule. The EPA rates the combo at up to 52 mpg combined, which is near the top for any new car sold without a plug today.
The Insight is fairly slow compared to most cars, but it’s efficient and easy to drive.
Its cabin is comfortable for four adults and can carry up to five, and the Insight’s 15.1 cubic feet of trunk space is generously sized for a compact car.
Almost as impressive as its efficiency is the Insight’s safety scorecard. Federal and independent testers give it a spotless scorecard: five stars from the NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick+ nod from the IIHS.
Every Insight gets automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and traffic sign recognition. Insight EX and Touring trims add blind-spot monitors, which are new this year.
The Insight LX costs less than $24,000 but skips a few features we’d prefer, such as a split-folding rear seat and a touchscreen with smartphone software.
We’d opt instead for an Insight EX that costs $25,765 and is equipped with 16-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, fog lights, two USB ports and active safety features.
2021 Honda Insight
The 2021 Insight is what happens when a Civic and Accord meet in the middle.
Grown up, moved out, and moved up, the 2021 Insight takes the Civic’s youthful personality and puts it into middle management. The Insight hybrid borrows broader, mature themes from the Accord and wears them well.
It’s a 7 for style thanks to its looks inside and out.
Although the Insight shares many similarities with the Civic—right down to proportions and roofline—it looks better. The Insight takes the Accord’s nose and tail and grafts them onto a smaller shape with good effect.
The Insight’s wheel arches are more elegant too, and the hybrid’s most photogenic side could very well be its profile.
Inside, the Insight offers a low, wide dash that coalesces toward the middle of the car in a wide “V” shape. Budget materials rear their heads in several places, but the overall aesthetic is pleasant.
2021 Honda Insight
Seek alternate definitions for performance in the 2021 Insight; it’s more about mpg than mph.
Miles per gallon not miles per hour is how the 2021 Insight measures performance.
The fuel-efficient hybrid loses a point for lackluster acceleration, compounded by a fussy accelerator pedal that’s a head scratcher to us. It’s a 4 here and so what; the Insight is affordable and fuel-efficient.
The Insight operates differently than many other hybrids on the road. Honda uses a small 1.5-liter inline-4 that makes 107 hp and a 129-hp electric motor to propel the Insight. Its combined output is 151 hp, and there’s math involved.
Under most circumstances, the Insight’s drive is powered by the electric motor alone. The engine is mostly responsible for generating power for the battery, which can result in hurried noises from the hood when the Insight isn’t traveling all that fast. There isn’t a direct relationship between engine speed and wheel speed.
The engine can drive the front wheels in a few situations, although Honda says that’s not very often. It’s a process that’s unique to Honda hybrids, and it’s shared with the Accord and CR-V Hybrid, although both those cars use a bigger 2.0-liter inline-4.
We pegged the Insight’s acceleration from 0 to 60 mph at about 9 seconds, which means advanced planning may be necessary to speed up alongside highway traffic.
In our drives, we noticed that the Sport and Econ buttons didn’t dramatically impact performance in meaningful ways. Pushing the Insight into Sport mode didn’t make the sedan any faster, just louder. Similarly, opting for Econ didn’t force the Insight into EV mode any more than normal; it just deadened the accelerator more.
The best way to drive the Insight is without any preconceived agenda at all, we’ve found. The Insight has a heavier accelerator that reserves about 25% of the throttle behind a kickdown switch, which is awkward. For anyone who’s ever futzed to light an old gas burner on their stovetops, you’ll feel our pain. We found that it’s best when drivers get in, buckle up, and go—no micromanaging.
The Insight gets a four-wheel independent suspension that filters out road imperfections well and it steers easily.
2021 Honda Insight
Comfort & Quality
The 2021 Insight isn’t only efficient with gas, it’s also smart with its interior space too.
The Insight counts among its cousins the Honda Civic despite the differences in their names. That bodes well for interior space, which belies both cars’ “compact” classification.
The Insight gets a 6 on our scale thanks to a generously sized trunk, and narrowly misses out on more points because the spacious interior is pretty dull. We like the supportive front seats that are comfortable, although the Insight rides a little lower than we expected. The tilt and telescoping steering wheel adjusts to a wide range of body types: long legs, short arms or vice versa, they’re all covered.
In the back, there’s more than 37 inches of rear seat leg room, which is good for adults even if the seat bottoms are thin. Three across is a stretch, although two adults should have more than enough space. Even 6-footers can sit behind other 6-footers.
In the trunk, the Insight holds 15.1 cubic feet of cargo, which is good for its class and comparable to mid-size sedans. The Insight’s hybrid battery pack doesn’t eat into the cargo room and the rear seats fold down in EX and Touring trims for even more versatility.
2021 Honda Insight
The 2021 Insight is among the safest cars on the road.
The Insight has a report card we wish we had in school.
Safety officials from the federal government and IIHS give it a spotless report, and it’s one of few cars on the road that have aced every available test.
It’s a 9 for safety thanks to its Top Safety Pick+ nod by the IIHS, a five-star overall (and five-star everything else) rating, its standard active safety features, and good outward vision. The Insight lacks advanced safety features such as a surround-view camera system, which is expected for its price, which is why it doesn’t get a perfect score from us.
Not that it’s a bad thing. Unlike most cars, every Insight gets the same basic safety features that earn a Top Safety Pick+ nod. The IIHS rated the Insight’s automatic emergency braking system as “Superior” at avoiding forward crashes at 12 and 25 mph.
Every Insight gets automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and traffic sign recognition. Insight EX and Touring trims add blind-spot monitors as standard equipment.
2021 Honda Insight
The 2021 Insight is a relative steal among new cars available today.
This year, the 2021 Insight adds standard blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts for EX and Touring models. Every Insight gets mostly good equipment, although base models skip a touchscreen and some common-sense items. The Insight gets two points above average for its standard equipment and its good value, but we knock one point back for its lack of options—namely, there aren’t any. It’s a 6 for features.
The base 2021 Insight LX costs $23,885, including mandatory destination charges, and is equipped with cloth upholstery, 16-inch wheels, one USB port, a 5.0-inch display for infotainment (no touchscreen), Bluetooth connectivity, active safety features that we cover above, and power features. It skips some basics such as a split-folding back seat and pockets on the front seat backs.
We recommend all buyers step up to the $25,765 Insight EX that adds those basics and includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto software, blind-spot monitors, and two USB charging ports.
The Insight Touring costs $29,765 and includes a moonroof, navigation, leather upholstery, and dual-zone climate controls. It also adds 17-inch wheels that impact fuel economy. It’s still a relative value among new cars available, although we struggle to justify the $4,000 added cost for better upholstery and bigger wheels.
Unfortunately, Honda doesn’t offer any factory-installed options on the Insight—what you see is what you get. That almost guarantees that buyers can get the one they want from dealer lots, but it doesn’t offer many opportunities for personalization.
2021 Honda Insight
The 2021 Insight is among the most fuel-efficient vehicles on sale today.
Among new cars, the 2021 Insight is near the tops for efficiency with a gallon of gasoline and without a plug.
Most versions rate 55 mpg city, 49 highway, 52 combined. That’s good for an 8 on our fuel-economy scale.
The top Insight Touring rates lower than the rest of the range thanks to its bigger, 17-inch wheels. The EPA rates those vehicles at 51/45/48 mpg.
Hybrid competitors are in the same ballpark as the Insight—maybe even the same team, depending on your worldview.
The Prius rates up to 56 mpg combined and the Hyundai Ioniq rates up to 58 mpg combined. To do much better than all three, you’d need a plug and a much bigger battery.