In addition to stellar fuel economy, the all-new 2019 Honda Insight comes to market with a graceful design, roomy interior, and a wide range of advanced safety features. At the same time, Apple CarPlay and Android are missing from the base trim, the engine sounds raucous when pressed, and its sedan configuration lacks a hatchback's versatility.

Best Value

Insight pricing starts at $23,725 for the LX trim – about $2,400 cheaper than the hybridized Accord – and rises to $28,985 for the Touring model. But even the base LX is hardly a stripper as, in addition to the usual power bits, standard items include 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, daytime running lights, taillights, and console lighting, automatic climate control, keyless push-button start, a five-inch LCD screen, a 160-watt, six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, and the Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety features that includes a rearview camera, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and road departure mitigation.

Our pick would be the mid-level EX, which adds noteworthy features like smart entry, an eight-inch color touchscreen, satellite radio, a 180-watt, eight-speaker audio system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, Honda LaneWatch, and remote engine start.

The loaded-up Touring is enticing, as it adds 17-inch alloy wheels, LED fog lights, side mirrors with LED turn indicators, rain-sensing wipers, leather seating (heated in front with a power driver's seat), a moonroof, a 450-watt audio system, navigation with real time traffic, dual-zone automatic climate control,, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, but nudging a $30,000 sticker price makes it too dear for us to call it a value.

Here's more insight on the Insight we'd choose:

  • Model:2019 Honda Insight EX
  • Powertrain: 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with dual electric motors
  • Output: 151 hp / 197 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Electronic continuously variable transmission (E-CVT)
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 55 City / 49 Hwy
  • Options:None
  • Base Price:$24,955 (including an $895 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$24,955

Performance

Honda Insight

If you measure performance in miles per gallon, the Insight is a real champ. With an EPA-estimated 55 miles per gallon city, 49 mpg highway, and 52 combined, the Insight is right in line with its arch-rival, the Toyota Prius. We managed to score a vehicle-measured 47.7 miles per gallon in some aggressive suburban driving.

Credit for the impressive fuel economy goes to the 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder coupled to dual electric motors. Total output for the hybrid system is 151 horsepower and 197 pound-feet of torque.

Although hybrids are now commonplace, the setup on the Insight is rather unique compared to the gas/electric systems found on other hybrids – the biggest difference being the fact that Honda's "two-motor hybrid" system doesn't use a typical transmission. Instead, the Insight's system features a fixed gear ratio between both the gas engine and one of the electric motors.

Under certain circumstances, the electric motor can directly drive the front wheels, while at higher speeds, the gas engine kicks in and all three clutch together to power the front wheels through a direct fixed-ratio drive.

The system largely skips the need for a conventional transmission, relegating the gasoline engine to typically operate as an electric generator. For drivers, this amounts to an experience that's noticeably different in that acceleration and the gasoline engine aren't always directly proportional. In some instances, the gas engine is charging up the electric motor in a situation where you wouldn't expect it to be kicking in. On the other hand, there are situations where you'd expect the engine to contribute, but it doesn't. Both scenarios happen every now and then, though these idiosyncrasies should be hardly noticeable after a few months of ownership.

Compared to other hybrids, the transmission-lacking Insight feels more responsive, with direct-drive offering a better burst of acceleration off the line, but with overall acceleration in line with other hybrids in the class, like the Prius. For the hypermiling crowd, the leisurely pace compared to conventional sedans of the same size shouldn't be an issue.

The Insight rides atop a modified version of the Civic's underpinnings, inheriting that vehicle's top-shelf fluid-filled bushings, multi-link rear suspension, and, for the most part, its trademark ride and handling. Road imperfections are handled with ease, and the Insight remains relatively unperturbed over rutty pavement.

The 16-inch wheels on base and EX trims with bigger sidewalls should have more give, but even the 17-inch wheels on our Touring tester offered a smooth ride. There's a decent amount of feedback through the steering wheel, and the brakes are easy to modulate – switching between friction and regenerative braking seamlessly – with excellent stopping power.

At the same time, even with three levels of regenerative braking (operated by the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters), the Insight still lacks one-pedal driving capability. Additionally, passing requires some advanced planning, especially on back roads, while the engine can sound raucous and unrefined when really pressed.

Style

The latest Insight comes to market with a slick, sophisticated design that not only puts the Civic's boy racer styling to shame, but also integrates seamlessly into the brand's lineup.

The roofline and 103.7-inch wheelbase may be borrowed from the Civic, but, mercifully, both fascias take their design cues from the Accord. It all starts up front with an aggressive grille and narrow, elongated headlight enclosures, both topped by a wide, bright, chrome brow. Body sculpting is tamer, with graceful wheel arches and fewer creases along the flanks. In back, wide taillights wrap around the upper rear portions of the quarter panels, tapering down when they reach the trunk lid. Above the taillights, a trunk lid with a built-in spoiler marks the termination of the steeply-raked roofline.

Overall, the Insight's understated, familial design is much more approachable than the old models were, and we're sure the handsome new look will make it a legitimate contender against the bizarre-looking Prius.

The slick body is wrapped around an interior that's logically laid out and boasts of quality materials. There's great outward visibility all around, comfortable seats, and an intuitive infotainment system shared with the Accord. The four drive-by-wire transmission buttons are all shaped and angled differently, allowing you to select the correct one simply by feel. There's ample room both up front and in back for four adults, 15.3 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk, and a rear seat back that folds on a 60/40 split with a pass-through large enough to accommodate a 52cm road bike without having to remove its front wheel.

At the same time, the base model lacks the 60/40-split folding rear seat, the sedan body isn't as versatile as a hatchback, and, despite very good active noise cancellation, some road and tire noise makes its way into the cabin – especially over rough pavement.

The Best and Worst Things

The efficiency, the new buttoned-up styling, the room, and comfort make the Insight an enticing option.

However, the unique powertrain's odd sensations take some getting used to, and there's also the value question: the Accord Hybrid is almost as efficient, larger, and also more powerful at just a $1,260 premium over the Insight EX.

Right For? Wrong For?

Honda Insight

Those who like the idea of the Prius but can't stand what it looks like would be perfect for the new, elegant-looking Insight.

If you're looking for a car with a little more of the old Honda zing behind the wheel, spend your time shopping the Civic or Accord, as the Insight features the most watered-down driving experience of the three.

The Bottom Line

The 2019 Honda Insight marks a turning point for the nameplate. Before, the funky-looking hatchback was an ugly rebel without a cause, and, as a result, it was kicked to the curb by the Prius' popularity. Now, though, Honda's finally learned that best way to tackle Toyota's avant-garde hybrid is offering the Insight with a more approachable design – a move that comes just as the Prius takes a swan dive off the deep end of the styling pool. Considering the overall excellence and aesthetics of the new Insight, Team Prius suddenly has a reason to be worried.