That sound you hear isn’t the 2019 Honda Insight’s hybrid powertrain whirring along. It’s the undertaker coming for the vaunted Honda Civic nameplate.
The 2019 Insight isn’t just a better hybrid, it’s a better compact car.
I spent a week moseying around in an Insight Touring, a well-equipped $29,000 compact sedan with mid-size space for passengers and cargo that averaged about 45 mpg no matter how I drove it.
With its soft leather trim, power-adjustable front seats, quality sound system, crisp infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto plus integrated navigation, and suite of active safety tech, it lacked for little.
An equivalent Civic Touring sedan costs about $1,200 less. According to EPA estimates, the Civic will cost the average driver about $300 more annually, meaning the two will be nearly at price parity by the time the three-year warranty runs out.
The Insight’s composed ride is softer than the Civic’s, and the reflexes from its low rolling resistance tires aren’t quite as sharp. But for the way most drivers handle the daily slog, the Insight has the confident, polished feel reserved for more costly luxury cars until recently.
2019 Honda Insight
The Insight didn’t meet the mark for fuel economy, however. Perhaps it was my lead foot—I mostly drove it like I would any other car—or perhaps it was my location at about a mile above sea level that left its gas engine working hard. There’s no tachometer, but the Insight doesn’t need one. Its gasoline-electric powertrain eliminates the need for a transmission, which means that the 1.5-liter inline-4 can howl as it works to move the Insight along.
I tried to use the Insight’s EV mode as often as possible, especially for shorter trips in town, where stop-and-go driving is the norm. The Insight allows for a decent amount of electric-only motoring, but the gas engine makes its presence known in the cabin when it kicks on. True, a Civic—especially one with the turbo-4 that makes 174 horsepower—will outrun the Insight.
But in town, the Insight provides good getaway from stop lights and silent motoring, at least most of the time.
I’d also like to see a dedicated regenerative braking mode. The Insight makes drivers tap the “downshift” paddle on the meaty three-spoke steering wheel to access regenerative braking. After a complete stop, regenerative braking defaults back to off.
2019 Honda Insight
These minor quibbles aside, the Insight makes a great case for itself. Its interior feels like a bucks-up version of what’s found in the Civic, and even its 15 cubic-foot trunk isn’t much of a compromise.
The Insight LX is priced well at about $23,800, but for about $25,000, the Insight EX swaps in worthwhile upgrades such as a better infotainment system with Apple and Android capability. Make mine Honda’s pretty Crimson Pearl, thank you very much.