Last week, we drove the new 2019 Honda Insight sedan and found Honda's newest compact hybrid roomy and comfortable.
During our drive around Minneapolis, its exurbs, and into Wisconsin, we wanted to put to the test Honda's claims that its 1.5-liter inline-4 and 96-kw electric motor combination could return an EPA-rated 52 mpg combined (48 mpg combined in Touring trim). In base and EX trims, the Insight is rated at 55 mpg city, 49 highway, 52 combined (51/45/48 mpg in Touring trim).
The Insight's 1.1-kwh battery is enough to achieve those competitive mileage figures, but it's clear that the Insight will be positioned as a slightly more mature Civic—not necessarily more frugal.
We wanted to see for ourselves if the Insight could pass muster as a true Prius or Ioniq competitor in our first drive—both are rated at 50 mpg or more by the EPA.
To be clear, our methods for testing were far from the precise and consistent EPA cycle. Our overall distance in the Insight rang the bell at 81.6 miles, clocked mostly on the highway at or near posted speed limits of 55 to 75 mph. Near St. Paul, Minnesota, we encountered roughly 5 miles of stop-and-go traffic on U.S. 52. For the rest, our average speed likely hovered around 45 mph, with some in-town stretches at 25 mph.
The final tally? Our indicator showed 81.6 miles and the Insight took 1.477 gallons of regular unleaded, filled to a similar level that we topped off before our drive.
That computes to 55.24 mpg combined for our journey, in varied driving conditions with varying throttle positions. We did not use the trip computer for our final mpg tally, as those can fluctuate by nearly 10 percent in some cases.
Shuttling the Insight among Sport, Econ, and Normal modes (we tipped it into EV mode to test overall electric-only range, which was less than a mile at low speeds) revealed distinct differences in pedal behavior, but not overall drive characteristics.
In the Insight, Honda uses a drive-by-wire throttle system with a higher kickdown in the pedal travel to encourage more efficient driving. The Insight's accelerator pedal travels normally roughly 75 percent of the way, but the last fraction of the travel is beyond a heavy "click" that requires a deep stab to push the car harder.
Honda's two-motor hybrid system effectively uses the engine only to power the electric motor under most circumstances, and clutches in to drive the wheels mechanically under limited circumstances at highway speeds.
Putting the car into "Sport" mode only changes the engine note filtered in to the cabin, and tips the accelerator in sooner, but a faster car the "Sport" mode doesn't make.
Econ, by contrast, settled the engine (and its noise) further and tamed how aggressive we could be with our right foot, although it didn't change regenerative braking force.
The 2019 Honda Insight uses the steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters from the Civic to choose among three levels of brake regen, although none of the levels are aggressive enough for one-pedal driving. It's clear that's not the Insight's mission anyway.
Throughout our drive, we explored the Insight's "rev range" to test noise, vibration, and response—not mpg returns.
Our 55 mpg was impressive not only for its ease of access, but also for its return in a Touring trim that was rated much lower than volume trims.
Want to know more? Head over to our full video recap or The Car Connection's full 2019 Honda Insight review.
Honda provided travel and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.