Update: Since this first drive was published in June 2018, we have purchased and evaluated our own Insight, and added a quick drive video. 

See the complete Honda Insight road test


It’s no surprise: The Insight’s calling card is fuel efficiency. The Touring trim that we borrowed should get 51 mpg in city driving, according to Honda; other trims that are lighter and use smaller tires will get an estimated 55 city mpg, according to the automaker.

The Insight feels fairly premium for a compact sedan, but the gas engine’s startling noise that’s unleashed when the driver needs more power might be a deal-breaker for some. And there are some Honda quirks—such as its gear selector and convoluted controls—that might chase away some buyers.

Still, the Insight doesn’t scream hybrid. It’s a conventional-looking sedan that isn’t styled to highlight its fuel-efficiency credentials. Unlike the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Ioniq hatchbacks, the Insight looks like any other compact sedan on the road today.

The Insight rounds out Honda’s lineup of fuel-efficient vehicles, joining the Accord Hybrid and Clarity line of plug-in hybrid, electric, and fuel-cell models. The company says it wants its electrified vehicles to make up two-thirds of its global auto sales by 2030.

We rented a Touring version from Honda to try out this redesigned hybrid before we bought our own for testing. Below is our first drive report. We have since finished testing the Insight.

2019 Honda Insight front three-quarter view.
2019 Honda Insight.

What we rented: 2019 Honda Insight Touring
Drivetrain: 151-hp, 1.5-liter four-cylinder and electric drive; continuously variable transmission; front-wheel drive.
Starting MSRP: $28,090
Options: Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, keyless entry, standard navigation, moonroof, power-adjustable leather seats, and a 10-speaker sound system
Destination fee: $895

How It Drives

Overall, this gas-electric hybrid system works pretty well. Drivers feel a good initial punch from the electric drive system, which is typical of most hybrids. But just like the Honda Clarity that we recently tested, when the engine kicks in, it’s with an intrusive and gravelly hum. This characteristic is the car’s most glaring fault.

Hybrid Car Reviews

The Insight features what Honda calls its two-motor hybrid system: a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that works with an electric motor for a combined 151 hp. 

The Insight is built on the same platform as the compact Civic, and has a smooth ride that absorbs bumps and road irregularities. Except for the odd engine flaring, when the gas powertrain kicks in, the Insight’s cabin stays fairly quiet.

Interior of 2019 Honda Insight.
2019 Honda Insight interior.

Inside

The leather seats in the Touring version are pretty comfortable, but they lack lumbar adjustment, which is an omission we have been seeing recently in Hondas. Rear-seat room is decent for a small car.

Our rented Insight came with impressive fit and finish, highlighted by the Touring’s many padded surfaces.

Unfortunately, the Insight also gets Honda’s push-button gear selector, which we have found cumbersome and unintuitive to use. However, Honda has built in comprehensive safeguards to prevent the vehicle from an accidental rollaway if drivers fail to put it in Park or if they open the door while the vehicle is in gear.

The Touring’s touch-screen infotainment system includes a rotary volume knob, which is always appreciated, but the rest of the adjustments are buried in multiple screens. 

The EX and Touring versions come with a 60/40-split folding rear seat, which expands the cargo area. The hybrid battery pack doesn’t intrude on overall cargo space.

Safety & Driver-Assist Systems

All trims get the Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety features as standard equipment. This package includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist. But Honda isn’t offering a blind spot warning system at all. Instead, it includes Honda LaneWatch system on the EX and Touring trims.

LaneWatch displays an image of the right side of the vehicle when the driver activates the right-hand turn signal; the left side of the car doesn’t have coverage. We’ve never been fans of this system.

CR’s Take

Overall, the Insight is a good effort from Honda. Its low introductory price and good fuel economy may tempt buyers, but those Honda quirks such as the push-button gear selector and Honda’s distracting LaneWatch system instead of a true blind-spot warning system give us pause.

See the complete Honda Insight road test

2019 Honda Insight rear three-quarter view.
2019 Honda Insight.