The 2019 Honda Insight is the hybrid you didn't know you wanted, although I was puzzled the first time I saw it.
Honda brought the Insight and plug-in Clarity hybrid to Drive Revolution 2018, the annual comparion of alternative-fuel vehicles organized by the Northeast Automotive Press Association. Although I had driven the midsize Clarity at the previous year's event, I had somehow missed that Honda was bringing out a new compact stand-alone hybrid.
When I first laid eyes on the Insight, I thought it was a hybrid version of the compact Civic. But then I realized the exterior styling was more subdued, the interior design was more refined, and the car itself seemed a little larger. That's when the factory representative kindly explained the 2019 Insight is a brand new car that slots between the Civic and midsize Accord — and that is only available as a hybrid.
With an EPA rating of 48 miles per gallon, the new Insight is one of the most efficient hybrids on the market. But I was still puzzled why anyone would introduce a new hybrid, since low gas prices are hindering the sale of all electrified vehicles.
But then drove the new Insight and instantly realized it is a different kind of hybrid — a well-designed and comfortable car that is more concerned with the driving experience than calling attention to itself.
And then I learned that it starts at under $24,000, which is low for any kind of electrified car because of the high cost of batteries — and a bargain for one this nice. My longterm test vehicle is a top-of-the-line Touring version, but it costs less than $30,000, which is still surprisingly low.
On the road, its hard to remember the Insight is a Honda. Aside from the lack of engine noise when it first starts, it drives like a normal car. in fact, it drives smoother than a normal car because the electric motor doubles as the transmission, with an occasional assist from the 1.5-liter gas engine when the most power is needed.
The fastback styling makes the insight look like a hatchback, but it is a convention sedan with a normal trunk. The interior design is contemporary and — in the Touring version at least — very well equipped for an affordable compact, with hardly a trace of the hard plastic that marks most economy cars.
Our test version has a wealth of infotainment and safery features, including warnings for departing lanes and approaching traffic too quickly (or traffic ahead braking to abruptly). It also had the Honda LaneWatch camera. When the right turn signal is on, it shows what's beside and behind the car on the right on the infortainment screen, which is great for spotting approaching bicyclists.
This is actually Honda's third Insight hybrid. The first was a space age-looking two-seater subcompact with enclosed rear wheels produced between 1999 and 2006. The second was a subcomapct that looked like a Civic with a Toyota Priu rear end produced between 2009 and 2014. The new one is by far the most conventional and best.
Despite tough sales conditions and the lack of suppose from the White House, Honda aims to make elecrtified vehicles two thirds of global sales by 2030. To do so, it will need to rely on more than committed environmentalists who are willing to pay more and drive odd-looking cars to reduce their carbon footprints. The 2019 Insight is proof Honda is on the right track.
2019 Honda Insight Touring
Base price: $23,723
Price as tested: $28,985
Type: Compact hybrid sedan
Engine: 1.5-liter 4 and electric motor (129 hp, 197 ft-lbs)
Transmission: Electric Continuosly Variable
EPA estimated mileage: 51/45
Overall length: 183.6 inches
Curb weight: 2,987 to 3,078 pounds
Final assembly: Greensburg, Indiana
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