Honda keeps the Insight nameplate alive, constantly reviving it in new bodies, although he car hasn’t really been visually distinct since the memorable first wave of them that debuted in the late 90s. Remember those? An eclectic little two-door hatchback with covered rear wheel wells (a styling cue that can still be found on the company’s Clarity PHEV) that grabbed attention.
And then it went away for a while before returning for a second generation where, in a peculiar design choice, it was almost identical to Toyota’s Prius, which was at the time the unquestioned champion of hybrid passenger cars. I remember being at the North American launch of the second-gen Insight, and when they unveiled it we of the press all said in unison: “Um, that’s a Prius, dudes”, to which Honda’s engineering team responded “No it isn’t! No it isn’t! It’s totally unique bla bla bla”, which convinced almost no one.
Because, seriously, that is basically what it is, it is a Civic with a hybrid powertrain. Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you, Civic is one of the most well-known and highly regarded compacts in the world; so if you’re going to look like something it may as well be that.
And here is where I’ll point out that this is, in my opinion, a darn good-looking car.
With dimensions and volumes that are identical to Civic (the sedan version of the Civic, that is, not the cool new hatchback configuration that is also available) and a sticker price that isn’t too much of a premium (especially if you live somewhere that offers incentives for buying a hybrid) this may be the Insight that finally grabs a bigger market share; because the thing is, there isn’t much to dislike about this car.
The Insight I drove recently was a Touring trim (so, the top of the line), and loaded up the car with all the tech and driver assistance that Honda can pile on:
Most of it is accessed through the touchscreen on the center console (and, now that the company has gone back to at least including a knob for volume control, it isn’t hard to learn to like the interface).
A basic suite of apps lets you get to the settings for phone connection, Bluetooth and navigation, and the screen is also where the side mirror camera’s image is displayed.
This is one of my favorite features in any Honda product that includes it (not all models do), a rear-facing camera in the side mirror that comes on automatically when you signal a right turn (or when you activate it with the button on the stalk on the steering wheel) that shows a driver what is right beside them – a cyclist, for example.
The Insight uses a 1.5L gasoline engine mated to the hybrid drive’s electric motor, pumping a potential 151 horsepower and 197 lb.-ft. of torque.
Honda says fuel economy will average 4.6L/100 km in city driving (and 5.4L on the highway). I came in a little over that, but still well within ‘good’ economy territory.
The Insight offers the usual choices of drive modes found on a lot of hybrid cars – you’ve got Sport, Econ and full electric (EV). I’ll mention, too, that Sport mode isn’t just an afterthought on the Insight; it really does give the car some jam.
But with me being something of a skinflint, I ran it in Econ mode for most of my time with the car, and you know what? For everyday, regular ol’ daily driving, Econ is fine. I never felt underpowered with it, and any time I was concerned about needing some extra oomph for a quick merge, I’d just jab the Sport button for additional acceleration.
Steering, handling and braking were likewise fine. Better than average, I would say.
Combine this with a genuinely nice interior, a black-on-black motif in the case of the vehicle I used, and the Insight is a solid package for a compact family sedan.
The price, well tell me what you think. Granted this one here is Touring trim, feature packed and with no additional option packages, but it tipped the scales at $34,245 (that’s including freight and tax)
Insight has also got some serious competition coming down the pike, both from the segment-dominating Prius family.
Oh, and Toyota’s newest entry, the Corolla Hybrid, which we’ll be checking out next – but spoiler alert: it came in nearly 5K cheaper.