But while the Prius became the poster child of the hybrid vehicle, the Insight fought for respect.
It’s seen its share of ups and downs, winning major awards and selling well for periods of time, only to get passed by other hybrid models and eventually being discontinued in 2014.
Perhaps many thought it was dead for good. But Honda simply put the car into hibernation, spending the intervening years working out not only a new design for the hybrid engine, but redesigning the look altogether.
Quite simply, the Insight doesn’t look the part of a hybrid at all anymore. Gone is the 4-door liftback, replaced now by a standard sedan style that might make some people think they’re seeing an Accord.
What they’ve done, however, is craft a much-improved car.
This is the third generation of the Insight after its hiatus. It’s available in three trim levels, starting with the base LX, the EX, and the Touring.
All three use a 1.5-L 4-cylinder engine paired with the electric motor powering the front wheels. A lithium-ion battery pack is stored beneath the rear seats. The system generates 151 horsepower.
Much of the car is based on the 10th generation of the Honda Civic, although the Insight is fractionally longer. Honda also raided its Accord to provide the instrument panel for the Insight.
I felt like the car was larger than I’d expected after my first glance at the exterior. Honda has always done a good job of maximizing space inside, and the Insight is no exception.
You’re dealing with a relatively low-priced car, so don’t expect high-end quality materials. Having said that, however, it doesn’t have the feel of a budget vehicle. Interior quality is good.
In fact, if you step up to the Touring edition you’ll enjoy leather-trimmed seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
There’s very good storage up front, with various cubbyholes and sliding compartments. The center console bin is deep, and there are spots ideal for your phone or other gadgets.
The trunk is also a good size, with a wide opening. Plus, you’ll find even more storage space below the trunk’s floor. Because the battery pack and the car’s smallish fuel tank are below the rear seats, trunk space is generous compared to other hybrids. It’s certainly a plus for the car.
On top of that, you get 60/40 split folding rear seats starting with the EX trim.
I gave the Insight good scores for driver visibility.
I’ve talked with people who’ve driven the Insight, and they felt like the acceleration was good. At one point, though, I asked Gretchen if I was doing something wrong because I just could not get the kind of acceleration that induces confidence.
The car seemed to struggle for me to reach a cruising speed. Once there, it behaved normally and the ride was good.
It’s not the quietest ride, but also not overly noisy. Wind noise was, in fact, slightly below average.
Honda does a good job here. The instrument panel features an easy-to-read display, and the color-coded drive modes are highlighted.
The gear shifting buttons and pulls, which I first mentioned in the review for the Honda Pilot, have received lukewarm reviews from some, but I’ve decided I like them. They don’t take up a lot of space, and it takes no time at all to acclimate to them.
The center stack’s infotainment screen is easy and intuitive to use, and it just looks good. That’s not a given these days, so kudos to the engineers. And Honda has seen fit to give us a volume knob rather than make us use digital arrows or mouse controls. Thank you!
You can get a wireless charging station as an option, and the EX and Touring editions come equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
I liked the blind spot camera, known as Lane Watch, that popped onto the screen whenever you activate the right turn signal, showing you just what’s lurking over there.
That’s part of the Honda Sensing system, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane assistance, collision braking, and more.
The Bottom Line
For years it seemed like automakers were inspired to make hybrids look futuristic and — let’s just tell it like it is — weird. It’s as if they needed to scream to the world that they were being green.
The Insight, in my opinion, has made several smart moves in this area. Using their downtime to transform the car from a lift-back to a standard sedan is the best move of all.
Depending on the trim you choose, your mileage is going to be around the 50-mpg range, and sometimes more. That, combined with a more-than-reasonable price, will draw in curious shoppers who will likely become buyers.
The Insight has a bright future in its reborn form.
2019 Honda Insight Touring
1.5-L 4-cylinder engine w/ hybrid electric system
Electric continuously variable transmission
Fuel economy: 51/45/48 combined
As tested: $28,985
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer