New Car Reviews

First Drive: 2019 Honda Insight

Cool compact sedan “that happens to be a hybrid”

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — We spent some time in the Twin Cities driving the all-new 2019 Honda Insight sedan around town and on the nearby Wisconsin countryside.

The third-generation Insight is a modern gem from Honda. The compact sedan has been substantially upgraded from the second-generation model, which was discontinued in 2013.

“It’s a great driving car that happens to be a hybrid,” Sage Marie, Honda Assistant VP of auto operations tells us during the launch presentation.

Marie also states that by 2030, Honda believes that electrified vehicles will account for two-thirds of its global sales. Honda’s third generation Insight looks nothing like the weirdly original 1999 version—or the dorky second-gen 2008 model.

Noriyuki Sato, Honda chief engineer tells us via a translator, “We wanted it to look cool.”

And it does. Sato first points out the compact sedan’s wide and stylish front end, followed by its rear, which gives the car a more compelling shape. Even the headlights feature side markers that are inspired by the winglets of the HondaJet, he points out. (By the way, we took a ride in the HondaJet and it really flies.)

The 2019 Insight joins the Accord Hybrid and the Clarity family in Honda’s lineup of electrified vehicles. Compared to the competition, the new Insight looks pretty darn good.

It slots between the Civic and the Accord with an eye towards younger owners without kids looking for a good value. And that it is, with a base LX starting at $23,725. The EX trim starts at $24,995, while the Insight Touring is priced at $28,985. Both the LX and EX get a whopping 55/49 mpg (city/highway) and the Touring gets a respectable 51/45 mpg (city/highway). And that’s using recommended regular unleaded 87-octane gas.

Under the hood, a 1.5-liter inline-four delivers 107 hp and 99 lb-ft of torque. Not earth shattering, but it also features two electric motors that add an additional 129 hp and 197 lb-ft of torque. Combined output is 151 hp and 197 lb-ft of torque, which feels pretty spunky out on country roads and in stop and go city traffic.

The engine and EV wizardry is mated to an electronic continuously variable transmission. There are three driving modes: Normal, Econ, and our favorite—Sport. The first two are similar with Econ providing the best balance for fuel misers. When engaging Sport mode there is a noticeable difference that feels like a small turbo boost when it is employed.

The Insight’s main battery is located in the center tunnel of the cabin. Regenerative braking can be controlled via the shifter panels on the steering wheel. Tap the left paddle for more regenerative braking and the right paddle for less.

Inside, there are plenty of soft materials up front and leather wrapped steering wheel on the Touring trim that feels good and meaty. There’s a volume knob for the 8.0-inch display of the audio system that’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay friendly. It has an electronic gear selector and a 7.0-inch digital meter that’s customizable.

Seats in the Insight Touring are not quite as comfortable as the one’s on the HondaJet, but still feels good on the tuckus. Even the seats on the Insight LX are comfortable, but they are made of a cloth material that’s not very pet friendly.

Our only other gripe concerns the legroom of the passenger seat—if you are 6’ or taller, your legs can’t fully extend, which makes it difficult to sit comfortably for longer road trips. Still, there is an ample 97.6 cubic feet of passenger space and rear seats that fold 60/40 on EX and Touring trims. The battery resides beneath the rear seats, which allows for more space in the trunk—15.1 cubic feet of room for all of your stuff.

Overall the cabin is pretty quiet while driving thanks to lots of sound absorption materials. Up front gets a MacPherson strut suspension and a multi-link one in the rear.

The electric power steering is intuitive and the car handles confidently on the more twisty roads we encountered along the Mississippi River. Regenerative braking isn’t too springy, either. The lower trims roll on 16-inch wheels, while the Insight Touring gets 17-inch ones.

Great news on the tech front is that Honda Sensing is now standard on all trims. It includes collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, lane keeping assist, and road departure mitigation. The EX and Touring trims also get Honda LaneWatch.

Buyers considering a new Prius or Ioniq should take a test drive of the 2019 Honda Insight—you may find it insightful. It’s on sale now.

2019 Honda Insight Specifications

PRICE $23,725 (base)
ENGINE 1.5 DOHC 16-valve I-4/107 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 99 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
MOTOR Permanent magnet synchronous, 2x/129 hp, 197 lb-ft
COMBINED OUTPUT 151 hp, 197 lb-ft
BATTERY Lithium-ion
TRANSMISSION Electronic continuously variable
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 51-55/45-49 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 183.6 x 71.6 x 55.6 in
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
WEIGHT 2,987-3,078 lb
0-60 MPH 8 sec
TOP SPEED 120 mph

Want more? Check out The Big Ass 2019 Honda Insight Galley here.

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