As we mentioned, the Honda Insight is back, and this time it’s a sedan. You may recall the first-generation Insight that debuted all the way back in 1999 before things like the iPhone and … just about everything else really. You may also recall the second-generation Insight that looked exactly like the Toyota Prius. The latest, third-generation Insight made its debut at the Detroit auto show just days ago in production form, and it will join a growing range of compact and midsize sedans that have been the recipients of Honda’s hybrid powertrains, taking aim at a much greater field of competitors than the original Insight faced.
Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming 2019 Honda Insight.
1. The powertrain
The new Insight will be powered by a 1.5-liter Atkinson cycle engine coupled with an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery. In most driving conditions, the Insight will run on electric power alone, using the engine as a generator. The batteries will be housed under the rear seats, so they won’t rob the trunk of any space, and the rear seats will even be able to fold down in a 60/40 fashion.
For a transmission, the Insight will use a multimode direct drive setup: The electric motor will operate on a single ratio, while the gas engine will use another ratio for driving at higher speeds.
2. Fuel economy
Honda expects an EPA fuel economy combined rating in excess of 50 mpg, which will make it competitive with other hybrids on the market. The current Toyota Prius now currently offers combined ratings ranging from 52 mpg to 56 mpg, so the Insight achieves general parity.
By comparison, the previous-gen Insight model that left in 2014 served up a combined 41 mpg, from a closely spaced rating of 40 mpg in the city and 42 mpg on the highway. 50 mpg is the new 40 mpg when it comes to hybrids, and the Insight will have to stay competitive past late 2018, when it goes on sale. It’ll be interesting to see how the EVs that are promised to debut before 2020 will affect the sales of hybrids on the market, but Honda is certainly planning on midsize hybrids ruling the field for the near future.
“The Honda Insight is anticipated to receive fuel economy ratings competitive with the best hybrids in the segment, with styling that will have universal appeal inside and out and best-in-class passenger volume,” said Henio Arcangeli, Jr., senior vice president of automobile sales and general manager of the Honda Division.
3. Luxury and technology
Honda is taking the Insight upmarket, and this means available perforated leather seating, plenty of rear-seat legroom, bolstered seats, a wide center console and premium plastics inside. This also means an 8-inch capacitive infotainment touchscreen and a 7-inch LCD instrument cluster display for the driver. The infotainment system will feature customizable app tiles, as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration. The car’s systems will also be able to receive over-the-air updates.
“The new 2019 Honda Insight signals we are entering a new era of electrification with a new generation of Honda products that offer customers the benefits of advanced powertrain technology without the traditional trade-offs in design, premium features or packaging,” said Arcangeli Jr.
4. Out with the old
The very first Insight looked like an early 1990s view of the future, complete with an aerodynamic teardrop shape, tapered rear wheel arches and not a whole lot of room to cut down on weight and size. The second-generation Insight that debuted in 2009 could easily be mistaken for the Prius, offering four doors, a tall fastback hatch profile and a more bulbous shape. The second-gen Insight stayed in production a relatively short time, leaving the lineup in 2014, but what’s important about the first two generations is that their slabby, wedge-shaped designs screamed hybrid, and everyone could guess they were hybrids from a mile away without even being familiar with their powerplants.
The 2019 Insight aims to change all that by adopting a modern Honda sedan shape, something between the style of the Civic and the Accord. In terms of size and interior room the new Insight will actually be closer to the Accord, offering a comfortable, premium interior without compromising interior room, exterior design, or serving up extremely obvious aerodynamic tweaks. The new Accord is a fastback now itself and the Insight tracks this shape, offering a short trunklid with benefit of plenty of rear-seat room. In fact, Honda promises class-leading passenger space in the new Insight, moving it closer to the Accord when it comes to usable interior space.
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6. Safety tech
The Insight will feature Honda LaneWatch — a video feed of the passenger side of the car that appears when the right-hand turn signal is engaged — on EX trim models and above.
As standard equipment the Insight will also include lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control with a low-speed follow feature for traffic jams, road departure mitigation and a collision mitigation braking system as part of the Honda Sensing Suite. This system will also include traffic sign recognition.
That’s right — Honda already has a plug-in hybrid in the lineup, and it’s on sale now. It also uses a 1.5-liter inline-four paired with an AC permanent magnet synchronous electric motor churning out a combined 212 hp. The Clarity PHEV and the Accord Hybrid (there’s that too) will be positioned above the Insight, so don’t expect too much overlap in price. The price, by the way, will be announced closer to the start of sales this fall. We’re expecting it to start in the $30,000 range given its size, hardware and standard features, giving the Accord Hybrid and the Clarity PHEV a little room higher up in the range.