Even though it beat the Toyota Prius to the U.S. market by a full year, the Honda Insight has always played second fiddle to its far more successful rival. The first-generation Insight launched in 2000 and didn't exactly win over our hearts and minds with just two seats and a mandatory manual transmission. (A CVT automatic was available beginning in 2001.) After taking a few years off, the Insight returned in 2010 with five seats and a price point that undercut the Prius by thousands of dollars. Although it was more practical than the previous model, the Insight was less powerful, less fuel-efficient, more cramped in the back seat, and louder at highway speeds than the Prius.
2019 Honda Insight First Look
Redesigned Hybrid Offers Better Fuel Economy, Larger Cabin
It looks as if Honda has learned from its mistakes and, in the process, may have created the perfect compact hybrid in the new 2019 Honda Insight, set to debut this week at the 2018 New York Auto Show. A typical sedan profile replaces the previous model's Prius-aping hatchback design, while the front end bears more than a passing resemblance to the Accord. The Honda Insight's interior design closely mimics that of other vehicles in its manufacturer's lineup. Looking like a cross between the cabins of the Civic and Accord, the Insight's interior goes for familiarity rather than the Prius' "look at me, I'm a hybrid!" plasticky mess of a dashboard. The third-generation Insight should also have one of the largest cabins in the class, considering the wheelbase and rear legroom figures are identical to those of the exceptionally roomy Civic.
Though the previous two Insights were hatchbacks, the new model has a trunk, making it look like a typical Honda sedan from the outside. By positioning the lithium-ion battery pack under the rear seat, cargo space is identical to the Civic's 15.1 cubic feet of storage. The pack's location also allows for a folding rear seat and a wide aperture for increased cargo capacity.
So the livability issues from Insights past seem to have been addressed, but what about the fuel efficiency and power deficiencies? The new Insight is motivated by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine — paired to a motor-generator — that provides electricity to the battery pack and electric propulsion motor that normally drives the front wheels. While accelerating hard or traveling at higher speeds, a lock-up clutch connects the engine to the drive axles for an extra boost. Total system power stands at 151 horsepower and 197 pound-feet of torque, more than the Prius and Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid offer. As far as fuel economy goes, Honda says the Insight gets 55 mpg in city driving, about the same as those two cars.
Packaging and powertrain improvements make up for the Insight's previous missteps, while a host of new safety and entertainment features makes this iteration more passenger-friendly than ever before. On the safety front, even the base LX model comes with a rearview camera and the Honda Sensing suite of driver aids, including lane departure warning and mitigation, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. The midtier EX and the top-trim Touring also include a rear-facing camera on the passenger side to eliminate blind spots, though we find it's not as effective as a sensor-based blind-spot monitor. The EX and the Touring also boast an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Touring models further add a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.
All in all, the 2019 Honda Insight is not only shaping up to be better than previous Insights in terms of power, cabin size and fuel efficiency, but also more competitive with the cars in its class. Look for it to arrive in dealerships later this year.