The 2019 Honda Insight hybrid is here, and it offers a whole lot of practicality and reliability with a familiar Honda face – none of that goofy, “look at me driving my car from Mars styling” (cough, Prius, cough) – and it gets you 55 MPG in the city.
It is, indeed, a relatively normal looking car. I’m not sure why the first gen hybrids, Priuseseseses and such, had to go with such goofy styling, but all I can assume is that now the car buying public is used to what a hybrid is, and Honda figures they’ll be more comfortable buying them regardless of the wrapper.
Honda says the 2019 Insight has an EPA rating of up to 55 mpg in the city, lots of premium features, and starts at $22,830. Which strikes me as very inexpensive for what you get in the three different trim levels: LX, EX, and Touring. All trim levels come standard with multi-element LED headlights, push-button start (racy!), and the Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety and driver-assist technologies.
Other Insight EX goodies include the eight-inch display/audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Insight Touring adds leather seating surfaces, an eight-way power driver’s seat, Honda’s Satellite-Linked Navigation System, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
But let’s face it, Honda figured out how to make near-perfect automotive interiors back in the 80s. All the cool, discussion worthy stuff here lies under the hood, or unseen altogether.
Power & Performance
The 2019 Insight is motivated by a third-gen Honda two-motor hybrid drivetrain. A 1.5-liter DOHC i-VTEC Atkinson-cycle inline-4 engine does the heavy lifting, and features a 40.5-percent thermal efficiency rating. That ICE is mated to an electric propulsion motor, cranking out 197 lb-ft. of torque. The whole shootin’ match adds up to a total system output of 151 horsepower.
Honda points out how this two-motor design allows the Insight to run without the need for a conventional automatic transmission. Hmmm, I bet tearing the drivetrain apart on one of these guys would be interesting and fun.
Honda further tweaks the energy regeneration system through the use of steering wheel-mounted Deceleration Selectors. These work similar to transmission paddle shifters, and allow you to toggle between three different levels of regenerative braking performance. Grab the left selector to increase regenerative braking, and the right to reduce it. Honda says the system not only increases battery charging via regeneration, but also helps reduce strain on the brakes themselves, letting the driver tailor their regenerative braking level for different conditions.
And yeah, that’s cool and all that, but why don’t you people make an Si variant where the paddles allow you to tailor performance? Just a thought.
Drive Modes & Battery Placement
The full hybrid powertrain on the Insight uses power from all systems – the gasoline engine and electric motors – to accommodate the driving conditions you might find yourself in, moment to moment, and can seamlessly shift through three distinct drive schemes.
In EV Drive, the Insight is powered completely by its electric drive motor, drawing power from the battery. In Hybrid Drive, the gasoline engine drives a generator that supplies electrical power to the drive motor and, in certain circumstances, Engine Drive operation connects the gasoline engine directly to the drive wheels, the way Gottlieb Daimler intended.
The battery for the 2019 Insight lives under the rear seats, housed in something called a “compact intelligent power unit.” The clever packaging solution allows the Insight to offer an impressive 15.1 cubic feet of trunk space. You can fold the rear seatback for long loads (with a 60/40 split in EX and Touring trims), and there’s a grand total of up to 97.6 cubic feet of interior space.
Manufacturing & Pricing
The 2019 Insight will join Honda’s lineup of electrified vehicles, alongside the Clarity series – Clarity Fuel Cell, Clarity Electric, and Clarity Plug-In Hybrid – and the new Accord Hybrid. The 2019 Insight is manufactured at Honda’s Greensburg, Indiana plant, while the 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle two-motor system, intelligent power unit, and hybrid battery pack is produced in Ohio.
Below is a handy chart that shows you the breakdown for the 2019 Honda Insight.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz