Review: 2019 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
Fewer Station Breaks
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Good: Sips fuel, legendary Honda build quality, styling that doesn’t embarrass
- What’s Bad: Noisy under acceleration, scattered bit of rock-hard plastic interior trim
Stopping at the gas station is a pain in the neck. Line ups, frustrated motorists, and what side is the gas cap on anyways? That’s not to mention the cost of the stuff, which seems to be in a perpetual march northwards.
Honda thinks it can help drivers with that. The 2019 Insight is a gasoline-powered hybrid, designed to operate solely on its battery under certain low-speed conditions. There’s no need to plug this little sedan into the wall; it captures energy via active methods such as regenerative braking, slowly refilling the lithium-ion battery as you wend your way down Main Street. The car does this automatically with no driver intervention required.
To give it a shot, we took this hybrid on an autumn jaunt to a spot in Nova Scotia that’s quickly becoming a wildly popular spot in the Maritimes for local products hewn from sustainable activities. Masstown Market was founded as a farm-gate operation in 1969. The Jennings family has steadily grown the business since then, buying the majority of its wares from local farmers and fishers. Seems an appropriate destination, given the Insight’s mission of reducing one’s footprint.
Powering the Insight Hybrid is the tag team of a 1.5L inline-four gasoline engine and electric motor. If that sounds familiar, give yourself a gold star. Engines of this displacement permeate the Honda lineup, with turbocharged versions appearing in the Civic and CR-V. Here, the 1.5L makes 107 horsepower and 99lb-ft of torque, answering the question no one asked of how much grunt a non-turbo 1.5L-powered Civic would make.
The Insight combines the gasoline engine and electric motor to make 151 horsepower, more than enough to motivate this 1400kg compact car with an acceptable amount of verve. Its transmission, of the cogless variety, sends the power team to its power peak under hard acceleration where it remains until the driver calls down to the engine room for less power. This is a noisy and coarse way in which to make forward progress.
Fortunately, the Insight is quiet and composed when not being caned to the speed limit. Three driving modes are available, including an EV and Sport modes. The latter does sharpen throttle response to a degree, but one shouldn’t race the neighbour for pink slips. Pressing the EV mode button triggers the Insight’s electronic brain to rely solely on the 1.1kWh lithium-ion battery at low speeds for a brief amount of time.
Rolling into Masstown Market’s parking lot, we’re moving slowly enough for the Insight to switch over to battery power. Those sharp of ear will catch Honda’s acoustic vehicle alerting system that projects a slightly alien sound to warn pedestrians of the Insight’s travel in silent EV mode. The Market’s new butcher and creamery offer all manner of locally-sourced goods, even going so far as to make their own milk and cheese right on site. The surgically clean production area is on display for all to see.
Drivers won’t mind being on display in the Insight, either. One of the Insight’s major appeals is that it doesn’t look like a science fair reject. In the past, buyers had to accept the fact they would spend their time on the road looking like a circus freak in order to eke out rockstar-grade fuel economy. Slats, slashes, and full-wheel hubcaps were the order of the day.
No longer. The uninitiated will likely mistake this Insight for a simple Civic or even an Accord, an error that would never have happed with Honda’s previous attempts at a compact hybrid. Both of the 2019 Insight trims, Base or Touring, are endowed with snazzy 17-inch alloys plus slick-looking LED front and rear peepers. This is one of the few eco-minded cars that may lure buyers in for the car itself and not just its stellar efficiency numbers.
Rated at 4.9L/100km in mixed driving, our test car beat that number by 0.2L in a week’s worth of predominantly in-town journeys. That’s a solid 50 miles per gallon from a vehicle that doesn’t look like a rolling tribute to the noble lungfish. Well done, Honda.
The interior of the Insight is quite agreeable, save for a couple of rock-hard pieces of plastic on which your long-of-leg author kept striking his right knee. The attractive gauge cluster is lifted right out of the Accord, while the infotainment screen will be immediately recognizable to anyone who’s sat in a Honda recently. This is the updated unit which features actual buttons and an honest-to-goodness real volume knob (thank you, Honda).
A tray located just to the right of the gear selector is perfectly sized on which to rest a smartphone, with twin USB ports positioned millimetres away. The only way this setup could get any better is if the tray was geared for wireless charging. Those long of torso will not like the Touring’s sunroof, as it cuts into headroom for front seat passengers. Overall, the cabin feels similar in size to a Civic; if your family includes future NBA stars, take a hard look at the Accord Hybrid instead. For comparison purposes, the bigger car is 220mm longer and has over 300L more interior space.
If the Insight does meet your size requirements, selecting the Base trim is definitely the smart buy. Unless one is hell bent for leather (seats), the $3600 more costly Touring trim simply ladles on non-essential features such as rain sensing wipers and satnav bundled with a better audio system. I’ll hit the wiper stalk myself and use the smartphone for maps, thank you very much. All Insights are equipped with dual-zone climate control and Honda’s excellent suite of safety technology, including adaptive cruise control and LaneWatch.
Leaving the Masstown Market with our haul of local goods, it’s easy to spot the shiny new Level 3 EV charging station in the corner of the lot. This particular Honda doesn’t need it, as it is not a plug-in hybrid, but it’s yet another welcome mat put out by the Jennings family for eco-friendly customers.
Like most other places this size, Masstown Market also has a gas station on its property. If buyers latch on to the Insight, a well-equipped and sharp-looking sedan that doesn’t need to rely on its frugality to make friends, its attendants might get a little lonely.
2019 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
BODY STYLE: Four-Door Sedan
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, Front-wheel drive
PROPULSION: 1.5-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine – power: 107hp, 99lb-ft; electric motor – 129hp, 197lb-ft; combined total output – 151hp; 1.1kWh lithium-ion battery
TRANSMISSION: Electric-Continuously Variable Transmission
CARGO CAPACITY: 416L (14.7 cu. Ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: 4.6L city / 5.3L highway (nrCan Rating, L/100km); 4.7 observed (L/100km)
PRICE: $31,590 (msrp) $33,390 (as tested)
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