2019 Honda Insight essentials: Civic chassis, hybrid efficiency

What is it: The 2019 Honda Insight is the company’s 51-city-mpg runabout that is both decent to look at and decent to drive. That might not sound like much, but with electric/hybrid/plug-in technology as it feels today, at least for enthusiasts, it is. And darn it if this whole sportback wave hasn’t caught on.

Key Competitors: Hyundai Ioniq, Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius, Ford C-Max

Base Price: $28,985 As-Tested Price: $28,985

Full review: 2019 Honda Insight first drive

Highlights: The Insight has a 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine along with a two-motor hybrid system to make an agreeable 151 hp and an impressive 197 lb-ft of torque. The paddles on the steering wheel are called “deceleration selectors” and toggle between three levels of regenerative braking.

Our Opinion: I’ll start with my main complaints about hybrids — and how this Honda has knocked them off one by one.

First: regenerative braking. The pedal feels surprisingly normal, which is a big deal. There are probably a handful of cars that one WOULDN’T have to get used to, to drive normally. This is one of them.

Second, speed. Not flat-out speed, just enough takeoff speed and expressway entrance speed to not be annoying. Keep it in sport for those moments and you’ll be fine.

Lastly, the transmission. This car does have a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and you’ll need to hammer the throttle to pass other cars on the expressway, but it’s less annoying than most. That’s probably as much praise as I’ll ever give one.

As for daily-driving stuff, the Insight is fine, surprisingly normal. It has a ton of trunk space and plenty of room for four. It takes potholes well and turns in with a bit of authority. It feels bigger than it is from the driver’s seat too. It has class-leading rear legroom and class-leading passenger space.

Those seats, front and back, are comfortable too — soft and supportive. Visibility is good, and Honda is returning to using a knob for radio volume, thank God. A handful of Hondas are currently using a little slider/hard-button thing and it’s a pain to adjust while driving.

Everything comes with this touring version including leather seats with heat, a power moonroof, premium stereo, dual-zone climate control and a bunch of other stuff, for just under $30K.

Not a bad way to get more than 50 mpg in the city.

 

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