I drove a $29,000 Honda Insight hybrid to see how it stacks up against the mighty Toyota Prius - here's what I discovered
- The 2019 Honda Insight is a high-MPG hybrid that looks like a normal sedan.
- Its chief competitor is the Toyota Prius.
- I thought the Insight more than held its own and in the end is a better car than the Prius.
For years now, I've enjoyed spending a meager amount of money on gas while having a versatile vehicle to handle everyday life: school dropoffs and pickups, grocery store runs, even the odd jaunt a few hundred miles here or there. True, I get to sample something like 30 vehicles every year thanks to my job at Business Insider. But for my money, the Prius has been an ideal backup mobile.Advertisement
I like hybrids. When I moved back to the New York area after a decade in Los Angeles, where I had owned a bunch of cars, I did what I had curiously never done in La-La Land and bought a used Toyota Prius.
Of course, the Prius is ... peculiar. Underpowered and completely unexciting to drive. It's reliable as the day is long, but unengaging. Well made, but hardly luxurious. Virtuous, and that was Toyota's genius when it was introduced. If you wanted flash, this wasn't your car. If you wanted staggering good gas mileage, it was.
So, a great car - but could there be better? Could there be hybrids that were, you know, less hybrid-y, but achieved the same objectives?Enter the all-new 2019 Honda Insight. The Insight started out as an oddball super-hybrid that could get massive MPGs, but that appealed to almost no one. When the Prius took off, Honda revamped the Insight, but that "Prius killer" version was also sort of a failure, despite some excellent engineering and a better price.
The latest Insight is, well, basically a normal-looking four-door with a superlative hybrid drivetrain. The best of its kind, in many ways. Honda let me borrow a $29,000 Touring trim-level Insight for a week, and I put it through its paces. Here's how it went.
My test car was the top-level Touring trim, in "Lunar Silver Metallic. It came it at $29,000, but that was with just an extra $1,000 destination charge — the vehicle is fully loaded for $28,000.
Unlike the original Insight — a very unusual-looking two-door — and the second-generation, which was eerily similar to the Toyota Prius in shape, the 2019 version resembles a statelier Civic.Advertisement
I'm not crazy about the front end, which gives us a bit too much chrome, an overly strident slotted grille, and narrow headlights.
That said, the Honda badge is relatively in proportion, and the fascia conveys some measure of aggression — never a goal of the brand's sedan designers.Advertisement
The fastback slope of the roofline is completely consistent with current trends.
The back end is better looking than the front, if you ask me.Advertisement
The 15-cubic-foot truck — no hatchback here — can handle a family's luggage for a weekend or a week's worth of groceries. The rear seats can be dropped if you need to haul something large.
In typical Honda fashion, nothing on the Insight really shouts — neither the nameplate ...Advertisement
... nor the hybrid designation.
"Hybrid" shows up twice on the exterior, but that's the only outward clue that this vehicle runs on a combination of gasoline and electricity.Advertisement
The 17-inch alloy wheels have a cool turbine design.
Under the hood, we find ...Advertisement
... Honda's EarthDream hybrid tech. The basis of the engine is a 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder powerplant, making a total of 151 horsepower. Honda calls it a "two motor" hybrid, and the electric side draws on a modest 1.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
The transmission is a continuously variable unit (CVT), sending power to the to front drive wheels. CVTs are annoying to some — noisy, and odd if you're used to gearshifts, of which there are none — but they contribute to higher MPGs.Advertisement
The black leather interior is what I'd call "mid-premium." The topstitching is quite nice, and the seats themselves are moderately bolstered, but angled more for comfort.
The rear bench-style seats are kind of basic but also roomy.Advertisement
Legroom is reasonable for an adult.
And you get a moonroof to bring in some additional natural light.Advertisement
The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels great, and the digital-analog gauges are what one would expect from Honda, a carmaker that's always been good at delivering information to the driver.
The touchscreen infotainment system doesn't boast the biggest screen in the business, but it is relatively easy to use. Bluetooth device integration is a breeze, there are AUX/USB ports, and the GPS navigation tech performed flawlessly in a drive of about two hours from the New York City area to the Catskills in upstate New York.Advertisement
The 10-speaker premium audio system is included for the Touring trim level. It sounds very good.
Shall we fire up this hybrid and see what it can do?Advertisement
So what's the verdict, from the owner of a Toyota Prius?
The Insight is a winner! Better than even the most recent generation of the Prius.Advertisement
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