2019 Honda Insight Hybrid review with video

The basics:
Base price: $29,770 + tax
As tested: $33,670 + tax
Average fuel economy over week: 6.2L/100 kms (35US MPG)
Competitors: Hyundai Ioniq, Toyota Prius

This is the 2019 Honda Insight Hybrid, and if you’re thinking to yourself, gosh, that sure does look like a Honda Civic Sedan, well, that’s because it almost is. The Insight is based on the current Civic, and shares a lot of it’s pieces, the main difference being of course, that this guy is a hybrid, which one would hope gives it a leg up in a lot of ways. But is the Insight better than it’s traditionally motivated counterparts, and how does it stack up compared to the rapidly growing hybrid market? Furthermore, how would it work when you get the kids, pets, and all the gear you need packed inside? 

The Insight is another one of these models that Honda have kind of been toying with for awhile… it was here, then it was gone, then it came back, left again for a few years, and now is back again for this, the third generation, 2019 Model.  Honda have also played with a couple of different styles here as well… Remember the first generation? it was a very obvious “look at me in my hybrid, who cares how ugly I am because I’m good for the environment” looking thing.   Then came the 2nd generation, which to me was basically an attempt at imitating the genre defining Toyota Prius, and finally now, the thankfully best looking version, which says, I’m a good looking practical car, and oh by the way, I’m also a hybrid.

Yes, this 3rd gen is easily the best looking version of the Insight that we’ve had, and I may dare to say that it’s one of the best looking hybrid sedans available.  It’s great in it’s understatedness, and doesn’t scream look at me I’m a hybrid.  As we mentioned before, It’s ridiculously similar to a Civic, and that’s a good thing.  It does have a sort of sloped hatchback look to it, but don’t be confused, this is a sedan with a trunk, and that’s a bit of a let down to me because who can argue with the versatility of a hatchback right?   There are two trims available, the base model hybrid, and this guy that we’re testing, the hybrid touring.  Both come equipped with LED headlights, tail lights, and turn signals, 17 inch wheels, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and of course, Honda’s 1.5 Litre i-Vtec hybrid which makes for a total of 151 Combined total horespower, and 197 pound feet of torque, which Honda Claims is good for 4.9L / 100Km, which works out to 48 US Miles per gallon and In our real world testing. Over a week of combined driving we found ourselves getting about 6.7 Litres per 100Km, or 35 US MPG.  The Insight has a CVT tranny as you’d expect, and also comes with selectable drive modes. There’s Eco Mode, which really trys to stretch the mileage out of the tank, Normal Mode, and of course Sport Mode.  You can also select how you want the drive train to function as well. In EV Drive power comes from the electric drive motor, provided there’s enough power from the battery.  Hybrid mode uses the gasoline engine to supply electrical power to the drive motor. Engine Drive operation connects the gasoline engine directly to the drive wheels, which is all well and good, but really kind of pointless to me since in most cases the car is just going to go ahead and decide on it’s own what it thinks works best, and then just go ahead and do that.

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It’s not too bad of a drive though, fairly tame and balanced.  One thing that’s notable, and it took me a minute to get used to this, is that the usual jump you get away from a stoplight from electric motor torque is absent here. What you do get is a lot engine noise, and not much action.  The car pulls along just fine and never really feels under powered, but often times it feels like it’s working to try to rustle up more power that just isn’t there.  It’s clearly not a car that’s meant for spirited driving, and that’s just as well. The idea here is to have a economical car that works in everyday scenarios time and time again.  That said, once you are comfortably up to speed, if you hit the sport mode then, you get a pleasant little kick should you need to pull out to pass or just want to show off, but if you’re looking at hybrid, I’d suspect that performance driving isn’t really your main concern anyway.

What likely is of main of concern for you, is how much it can fit, and how does it work when loaded down with kids and gear? The answer there is that it works well enough. Check out our standardized trunk test… We easily fit a stroller, diaper bag, camera bag, two bags of groceries, and so much more with room to spare. We’re looking at 416 litres back here, which is actually just slightly less than the base insight hybrid which gets 428 Litres. Now this is less than the Toyota Prius, and Hyundai Ioniq, which offer 696 Litres, and 750 litres respectively, but both of those are hatchbacks, and offer a different look than this, and that’s kind of the trade off if you want the look of a sedan. I Would definitely have loved to see a hatchback or lift back option in the Insight and we have our fingers crossed that it’s something Honda might consider. Inside the cabin things were spacious enough as well. In our rear facing car seat test we measured 30 inches from the back of the passenger seat to the glove box, which is respectable, and passengers riding in the back seat should find themselves comfortable enough for a reasonable amount of time. The space isn’t huge, but it’s nice. The interior has a refinement to it, and reminded me immediately of the Insight’s bigger brother the Accord hybrid that we reviewed a little while back. Now, this car doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that the Accord does, but again, it’s a different class.

From the drivers seat things are typical Honda, well organized and comfortable. The drivers seat gets 8 way power adjustment, and the passenger gets power too, but only 4 way adjustable. The center console here is a little bit disappointing, it’s not huge and the I’m not a fan of this sliding cup holder thing. It’s another one of these setups that attempts to make the space more configurable and usable, but I just found that when I went to actually use it in real life, I found myself looking for cup holders that have inevitably been moved to accommodate something else. As well, This little dock for you phone is nice, but a bit too small to hold anything else, and I also found myself wishing for UDB ports that were more hidden away. With these out in the open like this it’s impossible to leave anything plugged in anytime you walk away from the car without fear that it will have gone missing when you return.

Infotainment system is like half way there… The basics are fine but it’s missing the extra stuff that you get in models like that aforementioned Accord. The touch screen looks good, but I would have liked more real buttons on the sides. Navigation using the touch screen is just so tedious, and having some buttons helps, but would’ve loved them to go the whole way here. The steering wheel buttons are laid out well though, and once you get the hang of them they’re no problem, and Apple Car Play and Android Auto come standard on both trims which is a great perk. There’s also a feature here that I want to point out that I actually find pretty jarring…. The Insight has a typical backup camera, but also has this passenger side rear view camera mounted on the side mirror. This can be activated while driving, by a button on the indicator switch, but it also turns on automatically when you signal to turn right. I guess I get why they do it this way… it makes the most sense to me for when you need to shoulder check for a bike lane, but it really does turn on and take over the whole screen anytime you use the right signal, and the whole screen changing all the time just really seemed like a distraction to me. Like, how hard is it to shoulder check? And at the risk of sounding a bit like my dad, Shoulder checks are a basic skill, and its a slippery slope when we start replacing these basic skills with things like cameras. Makes for lazy, less engaged, and less attentive drivers. Scary thought. Ok, rant over.

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Ultimately the hybrid is a decent enough driver. It’s road presence and performance certainly won’t make you jump out of your seat, but that’s not really what it’s for. It’s cheap enough to run, and does a great job of blending in with the growing amount of hybrids, PHEVS, and full electrics, and It holds its own as a well spec’d mid range sedan. For my family I think I’d probably prefer the versatility of a hatchback, but if your dead set on a trunk and aren’t willing to go all the way to the Accord, the insight is a decent option. It starts at 29,770, and for the base model, and 33670 for the touring, which is signifcantly cheaper than the Accord too. Its like a really normal, well done, if somewhat uninspired sedan. Think reliability, economy, and professionalism at an entry level. If your goal is smarts and practicality, that is has your name all over it, and of course, it’s a Honda, so it’ll likely run forever and retain some healthy resale value too. Not bad.

Family Wheels report card:
Family Wheels driver comfort score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels interior layout score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels infotainment system score: 3/5
Family Wheels interior noise score: 3.5/5 (62 dB at 100 kms/h)
Family Wheels performance score: 2.5/5
Family Wheels rear passenger score: 4.0/5
Family Wheels trunk score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels fuel economy score: 4/5
Family Wheels build quality score: 4.55
Family Wheels value score: 4/5

Family Wheels overall score: 35.5/50= 71%

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