Competes with: Toyota Prius, full stop. Don’t all hybrid sedans?
Looks like: A Civic for folks with less attitude and more money
Drivetrain: Gasoline-electric hybrid system with 1.5-liter four-cylinder, two electric motors and no conventional transmission, putting out a combined 151 horsepower
Hits dealerships: Early summer
Honda is making another run at denting the Toyota Prius primacy among hybrid compact sedans with a stylish new 2019 Insight that it estimates will be rated at 55 mpg in city driving. That should let it take direct aim at the Prius, EPA-rated at 54 mpg in the city for most versions, in competition for buyers who want a dedicated hybrid sedan.
The revived Insight is based on the Civic — think of it, in fact, as the Civic hybrid — but Honda has given it a more grown-up and upscale look befitting its likely higher price (exact pricing not yet specified, but Honda says it is a “premium compact sedan” that will slot between the Civic and Accord on the sticker). When it goes on sale in early summer, the Insight will be offered in three flavors: a base LX, EX and top-of-the-line Touring. The 2019 Insight is having its official coming out on Wednesday at the 2018 New York International Auto Show following its first appearance as a prototype in January in Detroit.
This is Honda’s third time around with an Insight. The automaker was a gas-electric hybrid pioneer with the charmingly weird little two-seat Insight in 1999, but Toyota came along later with the Prius sedan and the rest is history. Neither a previous Insight reboot as a not-so-charming wedge-shaped sedan nor a lukewarm Civic hybrid was able to run with the big dog.
Will the third time be the charm for the Insight? The 2019 model shows Honda is back in the hunt with renewed vigor, and the Insight will be built alongside Civics in Ohio — which should ensure that they are able to make as many as they can sell. The Insight joins the just-on-sale 2018 Accord Hybrid, as well as the Clarity models (hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell), among fresh electrified vehicle options in the Honda lineup.
With estimated mileage ratings competitive, this will be a good test of whether the core hybrid buyer wants a car that’s a bit odd in order to advertise their green cred. The 2019 Insight is anything but odd — quite the opposite, in fact. In a veiled jab at the Prius, Honda calls it “universally appealing styling.” And the Insight trades some of the exuberance of the Civic for fewer sharp elbows and more upscale trim while retaining its overall low and wide look.
The front end is less aggressive and more upright, with a bold Honda “flying wing” of chrome stretching across and into the standard LED headlight pods. The Insight also gets its own weight-saving aluminum hood. LED daytime running lights and taillights are standard. A coupelike roofline stretches into the trunk; aerodynamic alloy wheels are 16- or 17-inchers.
Interior and Tech
While it shares the Civic’s bones, Honda says the Insight has received ride quality and interior noise improvements, including more sound insulation, befitting its premium sedan aspirations, as well as some nicer interior materials and trim. The hybrid battery pack is positioned beneath the backseat, allowing for a relatively generous 15.1 cubic feet of trunk space and a folding rear seat back (60/40-split folding for the top two trim levels).
A 7-inch digital instrument display is standard on all models, as is push-button start. EX trim level additions include an upgraded multimedia system with an 8-inch touchscreen and Apple Carplay and Android Auto smartphone integration, nicer audio, satellite radio capability and keyless entry. The Touring interior goes all in with amenities including perforated leather, a power moonroof, heated and power front seats, dual-zone climate control, a navigation system, a 4G connection with Wi-Fi hot spot and premium 10-speaker audio.
Under the Hood
The Insight shares with the Honda’s other new electrified models a version of the company’s third-generation two-motor hybrid system. For the Insight, it incorporates a 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine, two electric motors and no conventional transmission. The system’s combined output is 151 horsepower and 197 pounds-feet of torque. Honda expects an EPA city rating for the Insight of 55 mpg (for comparison, the bigger and heavier 2018 Honda Accord Hybrid using a 2.0-liter gas engine and putting out 212 net horsepower is EPA-rated at 47 mpg city, highway and combined).
The system operates as a full series hybrid most of the time, Honda says, with the gas engine generating electricity for the electric drive motor and charging the battery; on the highway, a clutch locks the gas engine to the drive axles. Honda has not specified the battery but says the Insight should be able to do “about a mile” on battery power alone. Paddles on the steering wheel allow the driver to switch among three levels of regenerative braking. Three selectable performance- and efficiency-varying driving modes are Normal, Econ and Sport.
Safety and Driver Assistance
All trim levels include the Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver-assist tech that includes a front collision system with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and road- and lane-departure warnings. All Insights also have a multi-angle backup camera, and the EX and Touring models also will have the Honda’s love-it-or-hate-it LaneWatch camera system, which shows an image of the passenger-side blind spot on the dashboard screen.
2019 Honda Insight; Manufacturer images
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