Honda brings back Insight as a "normal" 50+ mpg hybrid sedan
The Honda Insight was the first production hybrid to be sold in the United States, but bowed out of a market in which the Toyota Prius was dominating sales. Now, the Honda Insight is back, this time with Prius-killing looks, loads of driver-assist technology and fuel economy that's expected to exceed 50 mpg.
The chief complaints from automotive journalists and those disinterested in hybrids thanks to the Prius and its perceived culture, include odd exterior design, a bad driving dynamic, and limited interior space. These were also complaints against the previous-generation Honda Insight and the two cars contributed to the negative American perception of hybrid cars in general as under-performing, boring, and ugly little machines. Honda very obviously plans to break that mold and, in the process, dig at Toyota and its segment-dominating Prius by tackling the three major negatives associated with that car.
"The new 2019 Honda Insight signals we are entering a new era of electrification with a new generation of Honda products that offer customers the benefits of advanced powertrain technology without the traditional trade-offs in design, premium features or packaging," said Henio Arcangeli, Jr., senior vice president of Automobile Sales and general manager of the Honda Division, American Honda Motor Co. "The Honda Insight is anticipated to received fuel economy ratings competitive with the best hybrids in the segment, with styling that will have universal appeal inside and out and best-in-class passenger volume."
The 2019 Honda Insight Prototype will be displayed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in mid-January. The production-prototype may not turn heads for its design, but it certainly isn't ugly. Looking a lot like the Honda Civic that will nest just below it in Honda's lineup, the Insight has a smart profile and sleek appearance that is at least contemporary.
The low and wide stance of Honda sedans is accentuated by the company's "flying wing" grille and low-profile headlights. Those LED headlamps are standard on the Insight, Honda says, as are the LED taillamps.
The exterior look is mirrored inside, where the new Insight boasts plentiful passenger space. Honda has yet to release numbers, but visually we can see much more interior room, especially in rear legroom, than most compacts might offer. Headroom, however, might be a concern for rear passengers.
Infotainment and driver aids are also plentiful. An 8-inch Display Audio capacitive touchscreen will have smartphone connectivity, including customizable app tiles and home screen shortcuts. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be available as will Wi-Fi-enabled over-the-air system updates. A 7-inch driver information screen will be standard.
Included or available technologies for the Insight include Honda LaneWatch (lane departure warning, mitigation), Honda Sensing (parking sensors), Collision Mitigation Braking System, Road Departure Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, and Honda's new Traffic Sign Recognition.
Powering the new Insight will be the latest generation of Honda's two-motor hybrid system. Honda expects that this system will receive higher than 50 mpg in combined fuel economy from the EPA. The third-generation hybrid system starts with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine in the Atkinson cycle, an electric motor, and a lithium-ion battery pack. The other electric motor acts as a starter-generator for both starting the engine and enabling regenerative braking. The batteries are located underneath the rear seating, explaining their stadium-style positioning within the sedan. The rear seats will have split-fold capability, further "normalizing" the Insight as a sedan.
Honda says that in most driving situations the Insight will drive electric-only, with the engine acting only as a generator to provide power for the battery pack. There's no detail as yet on the battery's size or the expected all-EV range. We suspect it will be similar to the 2018 Prius hybrid's 3-5 miles without engine assistance, at lower speeds.
The 2019 Honda Insight will be manufactured at the company's Greensburg, Indiana plant alongside the Civic and CR-V models and will enter the US market later in 2018. It will be the fifth electrified vehicle in Honda's lineup added since the announcement of its electrification initiative at the 2017 North American International Auto Show.