Very likely when you think of hybrids, more likely than not you’re may be picturing a Toyota Prius. It has become the most popular in its class, but it wasn’t the first. The original Honda Insight beat it to market by a few months, but it never struggled to compete on an even playing field. The second-generation Insight was stopped in 2014, leaving a distinct space in Honda’s lineup.
The 2019 Honda Insight fills that gap, and it does so in an impressive manner. First off, it no longer appears like the last-generation Insight or Prius. It’s now a sedan and can easily be mistaken for the new Accord. The new Insight also exorcises some of the odd hybrid driving quirks that irked us before. Now it drives much like a conventional vehicle, with a lot more punch and responsiveness when accelerating from a stop.
This new Insight isn’t quite as miserly with fuel as the Prius or the Hyundai Ioniq, but it’s close enough to keep it competitive, as is its long list of standard advanced safety features. Our initial impressions are favorable, making us to recommend it heartily against any other hybrid on the market.
What is new
After a five-year absence, the Honda Insight comes back as an all-new hybrid sedan.
We recommend the EX trim Insight primarily for its inclusion of folding rear seats that give it greater cargo flexibility. It also lands with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are strong substitutes for the Touring trim’s built-in navigation system.
trim levels & features
The 2019 Honda Insight is a five-passenger midsize sedan that is offered in three trim levels: LX, EXand Touring. All are powered by a hybrid powertrain composed of a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that primarily functions as a generator to supply power to an electric motor that drives the front wheels. Combined system output is 151 horsepower and 197 pound-feet of torque, and a 1.1-kWh lithium-ion battery is located under the rear seats.
The base LX Insight arrives standard with automatic LED headlights, heated mirrors, keyless ignition, automatic climate control, active noise cancellation, Bluetooth, a multi-angle rearview camera, a 5-inch touchscreen, and a six-speaker audio system with a USB port and Pandora internet streaming radio.
Standard advanced safety features are inclusive of adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and mitigation, lane keeping assist, automatic high beams, a traffic sign reader, and a driver attention monitor.
The EX trim includes
keyless entry, a rear-seat center armrest, 60/40-split folding rear seats, an 8-inch touchscreen, HondaLink smartphone integration, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, an additional USB port, and an eight-speaker audio system with satellite and HD radio. The Honda LaneWatch blind-spot camera system is equally included.
The top Touring trim rounds out the features list with LED foglights, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, power-adjustable front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, a navigation system, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and a 10-speaker premium audio system.
This new Insight drives a lot like how it looks, which is to say a lot like a conventional vehicle. It has more oomph off the line than the typical hybrid, and the brake pedal feel is natural.
All thanks to the electric motor’s immediate response, the Insight pulls away from a stop with urgency. It’s not a rocket, but it gets up to highway speeds quicker than many of the other hybrids.
The Insight comes to a halt much like any conventional vehicle. The switchover from regenerative braking to the conventional brakes is super smooth.
The only major knock against the Insight is the engine drone. It acts and sounds much like a vehicle with a continuously variable automatic transmission. When you’re accelerating hard, the engine will rev high and stay there. It’s pretty loud and coarse.
The Insight lets go of the glossy plastic that’s prevalent in other hybrids and goes with a more traditional design. In a lot of ways, it looks and feels just like an Accord, and that’s a good thing. Materials quality is better than you might think of.
Cargo capacity is above-average for a compact sedan. Unlike with some other hybrids, the batteries are found underneath the rear seats and don’t take up any cargo space. There’s also plenty of bins and pockets in the passenger compartment to hold your personal items.
A rubberized pocket near the gear selector stores small and large phones. The center console bin has convenient sliding compartments, and you get two regular-size cupholders and a single large one up front.
The hybrid batteries are put under the rear seats and don’t affect cargo capacity. With 15 cubic feet of space, the Insight’s trunk is big among compact sedans. Note that the split-folding rear seats are not available on the base trim, and the Touring’s premium subwoofer reduces capacity a little.
The infotainment system gets excellent scores for its quick response and ease of use. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all trims except for the base LX. You get a lot of advanced safety features, but the LaneWatch system continues to irk us.
audio & navigation
The 8-inch touchscreen reacts quickly to inputs. We’re happy that Honda has left the much-maligned virtual slider for volume control.
The EX and Touring trims lands standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The mid and top trims get an extra USB port up front, but no USB ports for rear passengers. The base LX is not qualified for any of these features.
Every Insight lands with a full complement of advanced safety features. The absence of a conventional blind-spot monitor is conspicuous since the distracting LaneWatch system will override the central screen, covering the information you selected.