You used to be able to characterize the Honda Insight by two features: one, its hybrid efficiency, and two, its kind of nerdy looks. The 2019 Honda Insight Prototype reduces that count by one.
2019 Honda Insight Prototype First Look
New Look, Same Great Taste
The original 1999 Insight was as advanced and purpose-built as the Acura NSX (it was even constructed on the same assembly line), and its covered rear wheels gave it a purposeful-looking weirdness. Limiting its appeal were its two-seat arrangement and its availability with only a manual transmission, with optional air conditioning, the first year it was on sale. The second generation, released in 2009, sought broader appeal — to a fault. It was to be the most affordable hybrid on the market, cutting refinement in the process, and while its hatchback wedge shape wasn't too weird, it was a bit homely.
Now for its third generation, the 2019 Insight Prototype appears to land somewhere in the middle of the previous models' extremes. Sure, it's still a hybrid, but this time it looks good, too.
The 2019 Insight Prototype adopts a few design cues from other recent Honda models, such as the sloping rear roofline first seen on the new Civic and a front-end design that's similar to the latest Accord's. The overall result doesn't look like a spaceship, like the first Insight. And it doesn't it look like an appliance, like the second Insight. It's merely a handsome sedan: a welcome refresher, first discovered by Tesla, that vehicles with alternate means of propulsion don't have to look weird.
While Honda hasn't given an exact fuel economy rating yet, it says the new Insight will return more than 50 mpg. It'll need to, considering that the Toyota Prius gets an EPA-rated 56 mpg combined and the Hyundai Ioniq does 58 mpg combined. Honda also promises class-leading power, so we're eager to expect more than the 139 horsepower offered by the Ioniq.
Details about the Insight's hybrid system are few, but we know it will operate primarily under electric power supplied from either the battery pack or an Atkinson-cycle 1.5-liter four-cylinder that acts like a generator. The setup sounds similar to that of the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid, which for reference makes a combined 212 hp. That car returns 42 mpg combined, so we anticipate some differences for the Insight.
We expect the Insight to be about the same size as the Civic, which has exemplary rear seat space for a compact. That aligns with Honda's claim that the five-seat Insight will have class-leading interior space, something likely aided by that sloping rear roofline design. Also, Honda moved the batteries to underneath the rear seat, a position that allows for a full-size trunk and a folding second row.
The interior photos show a few features borrowed from the Accord. There's a digital gauge cluster, a push-button shifter, and a tablet-style 8-inch touchscreen for the entertainment system that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. We also see dual-zone climate control.
The Insight will also be available with the typical suite of advanced safety and driver assistance features, including blind-spot monitoring, collision mitigation, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, traffic sign recognition, and adaptive cruise control that can operate at low speeds.
Honda wants to make two-thirds of its global vehicles use some form of electric propulsion by 2030. To that end, the Insight will be one of five alternative power vehicles from Honda, joining the Accord Hybrid and Clarity family of cars that includes a fuel cell, a full electric, and a plug-in hybrid. The Clarity range starts at $34,290, and the forthcoming Accord Hybrid should slot right underneath that price, so we bet that the Insight will fall in the low $20,000s when it goes on sale later this year.