Honda, the carmaker that rarely gets it wrong, has done so at least twice – 10 years apart.
In 1999, Honda decided to be the first with a hybrid in North America. The first-generation Insight beat the original Toyota Prius to showrooms by seven months. The head start was of little help. In seven years, just as the second-gen Prius was setting sales records, Honda pulled the plug on the Insight. It was funny looking (even compared to the Prius) and impractical, as it had only two seats.
Honda regrouped and came back with an Insight in 2009 that looked like it was meant to compete head-to-head with the Prius, with seating for five and styling that appeared like someone had pretty much put a sheet of tracing paper over a Prius brochure and then made some adjustments to keep the lawyers happy.
It died in five years. It might have looked better than the first and been a couple of thousand dollars less than a Prius, but it wasn’t nearly as good as a Prius.
Third time’s a charm
Well, here we are, living in a year ending in a “9,” and here comes Honda again – with the third Insight. And it’s just plain tremendous.
With the 2019 Insight, Honda has come up with the logical middle between the Civic and the Accord. It’s an answer to a question I didn’t know to ask; it’s pure Goldilocks – just right.
And the icing on the cake: It’s a hybrid. The 1.5-liter I-VTEC four-cylinder engine, plus an electric motor mated to a CVT, makes for a combined 151 horsepower, which is more than adequate for the Insight’s size and weight. It also delivers staggeringly good fuel economy. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says 51 mpg city/45 highway. But in 300 miles of city street and urban freeway driving, my end-of-the-week average was 50.
And in top-of-the-line Touring trim like our tester, the Insight is phenomenally well-equipped and borders on luxury. The Honda Insight Touring’s all-included price of $28,090 boasts an array of features, including hill start assist, vehicle stability assist, lane-keeping assist, road-departure mitigation, remote engine start, navigation, voice recognition and multiview rear camera.
There’s also three years or 36,000 miles of Honda roadside assistance. I’ll be astonished if you ever need it.
The 2019 Honda Insight belongs in the ranks of the best cars it has ever made. And if I go Honda shopping, this is the one I’ll be going for.