Pickup trucks took the limelight this year, but a significant green car made a quiet debut. It's an interesting and handsome model that revives a familiar name for Honda.
The 2019 Honda Insight is a compact premium sedan projected to get an EPA combined rating of 50 mpg or better.
The new Insight is Honda's third try at a dedicated hybrid, each of them a different type of car.
The latest version is a compact sedan, versus the smaller five-door hatchback sold under the same name from 2010 through 2014—or the original Insight, a tiny two-seat three-door hatchback sold from 2000 through 2006.
The 2019 Insight slots between the Civic and Accord sedans, and it's also Honda's first dedicated hybrid model built in the U.S.
It competes with the Toyota Prius, the Hyundai Ioniq, and perhaps hybrid versions of mid-size sedans like the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Toyota Camry, and even Honda's own Accord Hybrid.
It has the same fastback shape as the Civic and Accord sedans, but sleeker and more adult styling than the busy Civic aimed at younger buyers.
The powertrain uses Honda's two-motor hybrid system, which replaces a transmission and drives the front wheels.
Like most conventional hybrids, the Insight can travel short distances on battery power alone.
When the battery is depleted, a 1.5-liter inline-4, using the ultra-efficient Atkinson Cycle, kicks in—but unlike Toyota or Ford hybrids, the Honda's engine often just acts as a generator, recharging the battery to run the electric motor that moves the car.
At highway speeds or when full power is needed, the engine can clutch in to power the wheels along with the electric motor.
Honda isn't telling us much about the Insight for now.
But it's clear that after several lean years, Honda has renewed its push into hybrids—this time, with vehicles that seem likely to hit sweet spots in the market.
The 2019 Honda Insight goes on sale in the second half of this year.
We'll learn more about features, specifications, and prices closer to then.
For all the latest about the (very few) green-car concepts and other updates at the North American International Auto Show, see our Detroit auto-show news page.