This was not what the executives at Honda anticipated happening when the Insight was first introduced to the American public.
In December 1999, the Japanese automaker unveiled the Insight as the first-ever hybrid in North America. Touting its outrageous fuel economy and banking on its quirky appearance, Honda was prepared to reap the benefits as the new millennium crept closer and closer.
But the onslaught of Insight sales never materialized. The Toyota Prius came along seven months later and became the hybrid of choice in the U.S. Prius had sales of 15,556 by 2001, more than triple the number of Insights sold that same year. By 2005, the Insight was practically invisible, its sales plummeting to 666 and the highly acclaimed Prius skyrocketing to 107,897.
Retooled as a five-door, five-passenger liftback in 2009, the Insight had a short-lived rebirth, with combined sales just over 77,000 for a three-year period. Yet by 2012 another dip occurred with sales of 5,846, and the end of production arrived by 2015.
Despite its historical lack of success, Honda has reinvented the Insight, hoping the third time is the charm! And this time, Honda may have gotten it right.
The all-new 2019 Honda Insight remains a hybrid, but a much improved one. It is a far more attractive vehicle inside and out. It has the conventional physical appearance of a sedan, features a spacious, well-designed cabin, has a little punch to it in terms of performance, the gas mileage is fabulous (48-55 mpg), and it still sells for a relatively bargain price (starting at just over $23,000).
The third generation Insight, a five-passenger midsize sedan, definitely stole a few qualities from the Honda Civic sedan, especially the car’s measurements. And like the Civic, the Insight has some formidable rivals in the Hyundai Ioniq, Chevrolet Volt, Ford C-Max, and yes, the Prius.
The Honda Insight has a 1.1-kilowatt, lithium-ion battery and employs a hybrid powertrain (1.5-liter, four-cylinder) that acts as a generator, delivering power to the electric motor. The combined system results in 151 horsepower and 197 pound-feet of torque. For a hybrid, the Insight is fairly quick, going 0-60 mph in 8.1 seconds.
Driving an Insight feels more like getting behind the wheel of a conventional sedan and not a hybrid. It has good initial, smooth acceleration. The Insight has other fine traits – steering is precise, the agility to take challenging turns pretty well, and it grips the road efficiently. For this driver, it outperforms the Prius in these areas.
2019 Honda Insight
- Performance: hybrid 1.5 -liter, four-cylinder, 151 horsepoweR
- Mileage estimate: 48-55 mpg
- Price estimate: $23,100 to $28,300
- Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance: 3 years/36,000; corrosion: 5 years/unlimited
Inside, the Honda Insight has a spacious cabin and is set up pretty smartly. There is a 5-inch touchscreen that is sharp, quick and doesn’t require a techy mind to figure out. The center console provides good storage, along with the door area compartments. Note that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto doesn’t come standard with the base model.
Seating is comfortable up front, where leg and head room are not an issue. Because the hybrid battery resides under the seat, the second row will be cramped if trying to accommodate three adults. Cargo area is sufficient at 15 cubic feet.
We feel that Honda has got it right this time regarding the 2019 Insight. It offers considerable upside and should appeal to many hybrid shoppers who want a more conventional sedan that still delivers the excellent fuel efficiency of a hybrid.
Weidel on Wheels is featured periodically on www.tahoeskiworld.com. Auto writer Jeffrey Weidel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @jeffweidel.