By Nauman Farooq
Back in 1999, the Honda Insight became the first hybrid vehicle to go on sale in Canada. However, two things didn’t let it become a household name; 1- it was a impractical two-seat coupe, and 2- Toyota soon after launched the Prius, which just took the market by storm and has never let go of its grip in this segment!
Honda Insight was killed off in 2006, and was not immediately replaced. In fact, fans of the Insight (which weren’t many) had to wait till the 2010 model year to once again be able to get their hands on a new Insight – and it was no longer a sleek, two-seat coupe! No, the Insight had morphed into something that looked a lot like the Toyota Prius, and had room for five people.
However, despite all of Honda’s efforts, not too many people cared for this Insight either, and it quietly went out of production in 2014.
After a five year absence, the Insight nameplate is back in Honda showrooms. This time, it isn’t a coupe, or a Prius lookalike – in fact, it looks similar to the current Honda Civic and Accord. Question is, will Honda be lucky with the Insight third time around?
Styling: Honda had dared to be very different with the first Insight model, and it didn’t pay off. Than, Honda tried to copy Toyota with the second generation Insight model, and that didn’t work either. Now, the third generation model has a familiar Honda family look, so will it attract more buyers?
I think, Honda has played it too safe. The 2019 Insight looks very similar to the current Civic model, which means, most people who see this car, don’t even know what it is, and probably ignore it for being just another Civic on our roads.
While it looks smart, it blends in far too much, which may hurt its appeal in the long run.
Interior: Step inside, and while -again- there is a lot of familiarity between the Insight and other Honda products like the Civic and Accord, I think the Insight is the better one out of this trio. I love the design of the dashboard, and how it leads to the transmission tunnel – it is very clever, and also very practical. I also like the fact that the gear selector switches are lifted straight out of Honda’s other hybrid offering, the Acura NSX supercar, and that’s cool!
Apart from that, it is spacious and comfortable, so certainly ideal for a small family to use as a daily runabout.
Equipment wise, there isn’t anything new, but I liked the fact it had adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and wireless phone charging; so Honda has packaged it right for the modern day consumer.
Powertrain & Performance: Under the hood lies a 1.5L inline-four cylinder engine which also features an electric motor that runs on a lithium-ion battery pack. Total power output is rated at 151 hp and 197 lb-ft of torque. That might not sound like a lot, but this Insight is plenty quick, especially when you drive it in sport mode. While not NSX fast, the Insight sure shows that it has performance inspired by its supercar brother, with a 0 to 100 km/h time of just 7.8 seconds – that’s quick for a compact hybrid!
Power is fed to just the front-wheels, and the only transmission on offer is a CVT automatic – which works well in this application.
Driving Dynamics: As you’d expect, a car like this 2019 Insight is not going to be very engaging to drive, but the torque from its electric motor certainly helps give it some personality.
Couple that with a electric power steering system that offers up decent feedback, along with a very good chassis, and you end up with a vehicle that is actually quite good to drive. Often times, I’d forget that I’m driving a hybrid, and that is a good thing – the Insight feels natural, and that is what a lot of buyers want out of their daily run-about!
Fuel Economy: Most people who look at buying a hybrid, are interested in them because of their savings at the gas pumps. In my testing (170 km of highway driving + 130 km of city driving) I had averaged 5.5 L/100 km. According to Honda Canada, the Insight should average out at 4.9 L/100 km. Perhaps, I was using “sport” mode a little too much. In any case, that’s impressive fuel economy.
Pricing: The 2019 Honda Insight has a base price of $28,090. My very well equipped “Touring” model is yours from $31,990. That’s right about what Toyota charges for their current Prius, so I think Honda needs to figure out how to drop their pricing a bit, to make the Insight more appealing to the hybrid buyer.
Verdict: The latest Honda Insight is very nice to drive, and offers good standard equipment, plus is a practical, comfortable, everyday runabout!
It surely deserves to get your attention, and I hope that its sales will lead to future Insight models, rather than the old baseball saying, “Three strikes and you’re out.”