Honda’s remarkably fleshed-out Insight prototype has now emerged in production form, looking remarkably like the prototype. Go figure, that.
With the 2019 Insight now positioned between the compact Civic, from which it borrows a platform, and the midsize Accord, Honda wants to tempt green car buyers with an upscale appearance (and experience) they can’t find in the Toyota Prius line. If Honda’s estimate pans out, the sedan will boast better city fuel economy than the stalwart Prius.
The Environmental Protection agency hasn’t yet rated the third-generation Insight, but Honda pegs its city consumption at 55 miles per gallon. That’s 1 mpg more than a stock Prius. (The Eco variant tops its thirstier Prius sibling by 4 mpg on both the city and combined cycle.)
When it rolled out the prototype in January, Honda said it was aiming for a 50 mph combined rating. The Prius gets 52 mpg combined. We’ll have to wait and see which car wins this eco cage match.
But fuel economy isn’t the whole reason for the Insight’s existence. If it was, Honda could have just reverted back to the two-seat teardrop shape that tempted buyers at the turn of the century. Apparently, it’s easier to sell upmarket hybrid cars these days; thus, the new Insight boasts a well fleshed out list of standard and available features, plus what Honda claims is the largest backseat in the segment. Rear legroom is 37.4 inches, and the trunk offers up 15.1 cubic inch of cargo volume.
Buyers can choose from LX, EX, and Touring models, with the top-tier trim offering all the goodies you’d expect from a near-luxury vehicle. 17-inch wheels come standard on that trim, along with dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation, perforated leather, heated front seats, 10-speaker audio, HondaLink subscription service and HomeLink remote system. All Insight models arrive with a long list of driver assist features, including automatic emergency braking, pre-collision warning, lane keeping, and adaptive cruise control.
The Insight’s generous dimensions are the result of careful packaging of its two-motor hybrid powertrain. A lithium-ion battery lies beneath the rear seat, keeping the trunk floor where it ought to be. Up front, a 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder and electric propulsion motor makes a combined 151 horsepower and 197 lb-ft of torque, with the gasoline engine acting as a generator most of the time. The dominant electric motor draws current from a continuously refilled battery or straight from the engine/generator, meaning the Insight operates as a series hybrid. A conventional automatic or continuously variable transmission isn’t needed with this setup.
With the electric motor directly powering the front wheels, the only mechanical intervention comes at highway speeds, when a lockup clutch connects the gasoline engine to the axle shafts.
So, how much will the Insight cost? We don’t know yet, but Honda will no doubt make sure it doesn’t tread on the Accord Hybrid’s toes. The 2019 Insight, scheduled for a March 28th debut at the New York International Auto Show, starts production at Honda’s Marysville, Ohio assembly plant later this year.