Automotive

Review: The 2019 Honda Insight is a normal sedan at 55 mpg

Review: The 2019 Honda Insight...
The 2019 Insight is a good mix of "regular car" and hybrid efficiency
The 2019 Insight is a good mix of "regular car" and hybrid efficiency
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We like the new Honda infotainment interface, which includes tablet-like pinch/swipe gesture controls and fast responses
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We like the new Honda infotainment interface, which includes tablet-like pinch/swipe gesture controls and fast responses
The 2019 Honda Insight's powertrain is EV-centric, using the combustion engine more often as a generator to allow the electrics to do most of the work
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The 2019 Honda Insight's powertrain is EV-centric, using the combustion engine more often as a generator to allow the electrics to do most of the work
Honda's e-CVT integrates a motor and electronic control of the transmission for improved braking regeneration and power output
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Honda's e-CVT integrates a motor and electronic control of the transmission for improved braking regeneration and power output
The 2019 Insight is, to all onlookers, a regular sedan that fits in between the smaller Civic and the larger Accord in both size and design
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The 2019 Insight is, to all onlookers, a regular sedan that fits in between the smaller Civic and the larger Accord in both size and design
The purpose of the Insight, of course, is to deliver excellent fuel economy as a gasoline-electric hybrid
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The purpose of the Insight, of course, is to deliver excellent fuel economy as a gasoline-electric hybrid
Had the Insight been this good from its inception, this would be the vehicle referred to as both synonym and verb for “gasoline-electric hybrid” in today’s automotive vernacular
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Had the Insight been this good from its inception, this would be the vehicle referred to as both synonym and verb for “gasoline-electric hybrid” in today’s automotive vernacular
Combined system power for the 2019 Insight is 151 horsepower (112.6 kW) and 197 pound-feet (267 Nm) of torque
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Combined system power for the 2019 Insight is 151 horsepower (112.6 kW) and 197 pound-feet (267 Nm) of torque
The 2019 Honda Insight is rated at 55 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway
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The 2019 Honda Insight is rated at 55 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway
Taken overall, the 2019 Honda Insight has a lot of appeal as a not-quite-compact sedan with contemporary looks, a good drive dynamic, and useful versatility
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Taken overall, the 2019 Honda Insight has a lot of appeal as a not-quite-compact sedan with contemporary looks, a good drive dynamic, and useful versatility
The 2019 Insight is a good mix of "regular car" and hybrid efficiency
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The 2019 Insight is a good mix of "regular car" and hybrid efficiency
A downer when driving the 2019 Honda Insight is the noise levels on the highway
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A downer when driving the 2019 Honda Insight is the noise levels on the highway
On the road, the Insight is similar to its stablemates in drive quality and appeal, offering a good everyday drive
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On the road, the Insight is similar to its stablemates in drive quality and appeal, offering a good everyday drive
The rear seats are good at the outboards, especially for kids and young adults
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The rear seats are good at the outboards, especially for kids and young adults
Inside, the 2019 Insight is similar to the Accord in layout and design with just a few key differences to account for the hybrid powertrain
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Inside, the 2019 Insight is similar to the Accord in layout and design with just a few key differences to account for the hybrid powertrain
The Insight gains from Honda’s two points of expertise: creating functional interiors and building cars that drive very well at everyday speeds
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The Insight gains from Honda’s two points of expertise: creating functional interiors and building cars that drive very well at everyday speeds
We’re not fond of the Honda-Acura push-button gear selection gimmick (at right), which seems pointless
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We’re not fond of the Honda-Acura push-button gear selection gimmick (at right), which seems pointless
A handy feature in some Insight models is the right-hand view camera, which shows the vehicle's entire right-hand side when the turn signal is activated
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A handy feature in some Insight models is the right-hand view camera, which shows the vehicle's entire right-hand side when the turn signal is activated
Honda placed the batteries and fuel cell below the rear seating in order to better balance the Insight overall
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Honda placed the batteries and fuel cell below the rear seating in order to better balance the Insight overall
For all of its good daily drive vibe, the Insight does get loud on the highway, and the new sedan design limits headroom in the back seat
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For all of its good daily drive vibe, the Insight does get loud on the highway, and the new sedan design limits headroom in the back seat

Honda has redesigned and re-released the Insight for the 2019 model year. The vehicle is now a sedan rather than a hatchback, and is a far more "normal car" than it was before; a mark in its favor. The new Insight is unassuming, nice to look at, and very drivable – all at 55 mpg.

The 2019 Insight is, to all onlookers, a regular sedan that fits in between the smaller Civic and the larger Accord in both size and design. It has a sleek look that matches those sedans, and the similarities don't end there. Inside, the new Insight is similar to the Accord in layout and design, with just a few key differences to account for the hybrid powertrain. On the road, the Insight is also similar to its stablemates in drive quality and appeal, offering a good everyday drive ... especially compared to the previous-gen offering and its chief rival, the Toyota Prius.

Although the Prius gets all of the notice as the go-to "hybrid car," the Insight was actually first to market in the US. Its quirky design and limited market placement meant that the Prius got a lot more attention, though, and the Honda hybrid soon fell on hard times. By the second generation of the car, which ended in 2014, the Insight's sales were so abysmal that Honda discontinued the model's production and promised to rethink the car from the ground up. The 2019 Honda Insight is that rethink.

The 2019 Honda Insight's powertrain is EV-centric, using the combustion engine more often as a generator to allow the electrics to do most of the work
The 2019 Honda Insight's powertrain is EV-centric, using the combustion engine more often as a generator to allow the electrics to do most of the work

Had the Insight been this good from its inception, this would be the vehicle referred to as both synonym and verb for "gasoline-electric hybrid" in today's automotive vernacular.

There are some downsides to the 2019 Insight, however, and we'd be remiss to ignore them. For all of its good daily-drive vibe, the Insight does get loud on the highway, and the new sedan design limits headroom in the back seat. We're also not fond of the Honda-Acura push-button gear selection gimmick, which seems pointless.

Yet the Insight does gain from Honda's two points of expertise: creating functional interiors and building cars that drive very well at everyday speeds. The driver's cockpit, with the exception of the distracting button-centric gear selector, is laid out very well. It's easy to find a comfortable spot as the driver, no matter one's size, and feel confident in the controls layout for the car. The front passenger is likewise treated to a well-done space, with comfort and the ergonomic placement of storage being the focus.

The rear seats are good at the outboards, especially for kids and young adults. Taller folks will find headroom may be at a premium, but even those at six feet should be able to sit upright without stooping. Getting in and out of the back seats is also challenging for taller people, as the roofline slopes considerably, requiring a low duck for entry. Surprisingly, though, the back bench has more lateral room than would be expected for a car this size, allowing three across readily. Toe and knee room are optimal in the Insight's back seat as well.

The 2019 Insight also sports the latest evolution of Honda's infotainment system, which has faster responses, better screen resolution, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto as standard in most of the Insight's trim levels. The interface uses tablet-like pinch and swipe gestures, making it more intuitive and faster to learn. Hard buttons to either side of the screen offer faster menu jumps, and Honda finally added a volume knob back to the infotainment screens in this new-gen system. The Insight comes standard with two USB ports and a 12-volt plug, and upper trim levels offer even more of those.

On the road, the Insight is similar to its stablemates in drive quality and appeal, offering a good everyday drive
On the road, the Insight is similar to its stablemates in drive quality and appeal, offering a good everyday drive

The purpose of the Insight, of course, is to deliver excellent fuel economy as a gasoline-electric hybrid. Every generation of the car has done so, with the 2019 model being rated at 55 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway (4.3 and 4.8 l/100km) by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). During a week with the car, our average after daily driving in a variety of circumstances was 51 mpg, proving out the EPA's estimate.

That fuel efficiency comes from the hybrid powertrain that drives the 2019 Insight. That same drivetrain is surprisingly peppy and fast-paced for a hybrid as well, offering good around-town driving feel and lots of punch at the light.

A 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine combines with an electronic continuously variable transmission (e-CVT), an electric motor, and a 1.1-kWh battery pack to motivate the new Insight. The batteries are placed below the rear seat while the engine and transmission are located up front, under the hood. This balances the vehicle well, giving it a solid feel. Honda's well-done chassis with a solid steering feel finishes that appeal.

The Insight primarily uses the combustion engine as a generator and secondary motivator. The motor and batteries do most of the work moving the Insight around. Combined system power is 151 horsepower (112.6 kW) and 197 pound-feet (267 Nm) of torque. Because a goodly portion of this comes thanks to the electric motor, the 2019 Insight has a respectable 0-60 mph (96 km/h) time of about 8 seconds, which is on par with most compact cars and far better than most hybrids in the sedan segments.

A downer when driving the 2019 Honda Insight, as mentioned, is the noise levels on the highway. The car is more than capable of going highway speeds, but it makes complaints when doing so. This is especially true at freeway speeds above 55 mph (89 km/h), where engine noise and noise from outside the car can begin to become tiresome.

Taken overall, the 2019 Honda Insight has a lot of appeal as a not-quite-compact sedan with contemporary looks, a good drive dynamic, and useful versatility. With a price point in the mid-US$20,000 range when well-equipped, and fuel economy that's underrated, the vehicle offers a lot as a good mix of "regular car" and hybrid efficiency.

Product Page: 2019 Honda Insight

5 comments
paul314
Is the highway noise complaint about the actual noise level or about the frequency distribution of the noise? I ask this because the first time I drove a hybrid I was taken about by all the high-pitched wind noise on the highway. And then I realized the reason I was hearing it so clearly was that the engine wasn't running and so there wasn't the usual bass and midrange of engine and transmission to counterpoint the wind.
Joshua Tulberg
Looks like it's a role-reversal now that Toyota recently made the (regular) Prius so darn ugly.
SimonClarke
Hybrids, I do feel that they have had their time even before they have had a chance to get started. There are already some awesome Electric cars on the road, there are a lot more coming out this year and I'm sure that Honda has some brilliant ones coming out soon. The car that I currently drive will be my last ever ICE car. My next one will defiantly be all electric.
usugo
simple hybrids are already outdated. Doesn't make sense to buy something new that's not a PHEV or a BEV
Daishi
@usugo Here is something to consider. In the US plug in vehicles benefit from the federal credit that is $2,500 to $7,500 depending on battery size for 200k vehicles. Companies shipping plug-in hybrids with smaller batteries are not taking full advantage of the tax credit. I don't remember the required battery size to hit the full $7,500 credit. So while I agree plug in hybrids are nice it may not be a good business decision in the US to sell them at least until the tax credits are used up. If 2 companies are selling similarly specced $35,00 electric cars and one manufacturer still qualifies for the $7,500 credit and the other does not most people are going to buy the vehicle that qualifies for the credit. It seems like there could be some optimizations to the program to prevent from unintentionally punishing companies earlier to market but I don't have all the details.