(Mirror) There seems to be a notion that cars boasting exotic technology have to be incurably ugly. Certainly, the Toyota Prius is guilty of crimes against natural beauty; ditto the ungainly Honda Clarity. The latter is especially puzzling given the sublime styling of the 2019 Honda Insight Hybrid.
Slipping between the Civic and Accord, the new Insight doesn’t resemble the dorky Insights of old. Surprisingly, its eloquent elegance renders it the best-looking Honda sedan at any price. After all, driving a fuel-efficient car shouldn’t force drivers to pilot the automotive equivalent of sack cloth.
The handsome wrapper contains a driveline that’s sure to make an OPEC oil minister miserable. Honda’s hybrid system uses a 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine and a pair of electric motors. One motor drives the front wheels while another generates electricity. The result produces 151 horsepower, returning an EPA-rated 55 mpg city and 49 mpg highway on base LX ($22,830) and middle EX ($24,060) models. On top-level Touring models ($28,090), it returns a 51 mpg city and 45 mpg highway. In a mix of heavy-footed South Florida driving, the Insight returned 43 mpg.
Uniquely, the Insight doesn’t use a conventional transmission. Instead, a clutch connects the gas engine and electric generator motor to the electric propulsion motor. This results in power being supplied directly to the front wheels without a conventional transmission, saving weight and space.
As with any electric vehicle, the Insight’ throttle response is strong off the line, but it doesn’t like being driven aggressively. Instead, smooth, gradual inputs are rewarded. There is a selectable “Sport” driving mode that makes the vehicle more responsive by using more battery assist. But it doesn’t transform the Insight into a sports sedan.
This is a pleasant, well-mannered sedan with a spacious, quiet cabin with an interior ambience that belies its price. The roominess continues in the trunk, with 15.1 cubic feet of cargo space and a folding rear seat back. That’s because unlike other hybrids, Honda’s engineers placed the Insight’s 60-cell lithium ion battery pack under the rear seats rather than in the trunk.
As with any new car, there’s a mind-numbing pile of driver assistance features to make you a better driver than you really are, including Collision Mitigation Braking, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Road Departure Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Traffic Sign Recognition.
Of course, the technology most drivers care about is infotainment.
The Insight‘s system is similar to the Honda Accord’s. There’s a power/volume knob, but no tuning knob, although Bluetooth and USB ports are offered on all models. However, if you want the larger eight-inch touchscreen with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, they’re only available on the EX or Touring. And Honda’s infotainment software issues continue. Apple CarPlay froze on the test car. Worse, its Bluetooth system was unable to locate my iPhone 8. Is this a deal breaker? It depends on your priorities.
Nevertheless, the 2019 Honda Insight proves to be the best one yet, with handsome styling, a beautiful interior and a quiet demeanor. It demonstrates that driving a fuel-efficient car doesn’t have to make you a style victim.