You could be forgiven for not remembering the two Honda vehicles that have worn an Insight badge before.
The first was a quirky hatchback two-seater that struggled for acceptance with mainstream buyers. The second was a Prius-like Prius fighter, egg shape and all.
This 2019 Honda Insight is the third Honda to wear the name and perhaps it’s remarkable in its anonymity.
How is that a thing?
Honda stops short of calling the new Insight a “Civic Hybrid,” mostly for good reasons. Although the basic structure is borrowed from the Civic—they’re even produced in the same plant—not much of the Insight’s exterior comes from the Civic. The Insight gets grownup, more mature looks compared to the Civic, and Honda expects that 30 somethings, not 20 somethings, will be swayed by the Insight’s looks.
That includes the revised nose and tail, where we see more in common with the Accord than the Civic.
When it goes on sale this month, the Insight will cost roughly $3,000 more than a comparably equipped Civic—but there are several key differences.
For $23,725 to start, the Honda Insight LX gets standard Honda Sensing, which includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, LED headlights, a 5.0-inch infotainment display and 16-inch wheels.
Of course, the bulk of that price hike from the Civic is the 1.5-liter inline-4 and lithium-ion battery pack combo that manages up to 52 mpg combined, according to the EPA. Our experience says that’s even understating it—around Minnesota, we calculated 55 mpg combined in mostly highway driving in our own independent testing, and we weren’t taking it easy on the throttle.
Although we’re sure that most drivers won’t buy the Insight to flog it, Honda’s hybrid always seemed like it’s rushing to catch up with our right foot. Like most of its competitors, including the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Ioniq, the Insight needs a certain, we’ll say relaxed, approach to driving, to keep it from screaming at us.
Take it easy in the Insight and it’s nearly as quiet as the Prius, but the Honda is better to drive. We just felt that it seemed to rev higher than we thought was necessary.
That could be down to the continuously variable automatic transmission that usually goes hand-in-hand with a hybrid powertrain. But Honda’s new throttle isn’t helping much either. Press down on the pedal roughly 75 percent to the floor, and everything is fine. Ask for more and there’s a deep detent that sends the engine screaming for mercy.
Back off, and the Honda settles nicely. The good parts of being based on a Civic are all there. Enough room for four adults in relative comfort, a big trunk, Apple CarPlay, and standard active safety features.
Although Honda won’t admit it to us, what we see in the Insight is a peek into the future for their small cars.
We have our quibbles with the powertrain, but it’s likely that the Insight and Civic will converge in the future—even the Civic can’t escape an electrified future.
Cars like the Insight may prep us for a future where small cars like the Civic get a big fuel economy boost from batteries.
That kind of glimpse is, well, insightful.
Honda provided travel and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.