Introduced in late 1999, the Honda Insight was the first production to feature the company’s then-new Integrated Motor Assist system. It was also the first hybrid launched in North America, arriving in showrooms seven months before the Toyota Prius. Production ended in 2006, after only 17,020 units built, with plans to roll out a replacement in 2009. The second-gen model arrived on time, but this time as a five-door hatchback. The Insight was discontinued for the second time in 2014, mostly due to slow sales. Come 2018 and Honda wants to revive the nameplate with a modern design and drivetrain, and a pre-production prototype is set to break cover at the Detroit Auto Show.
"The Honda Insight is anticipated to receive fuel economy ratings competitive with the best hybrids in the segment, with styling that will have universal appeal inside and out and best-in-class passenger volume," said Henio Arcangeli Jr., senior vice resident of American Honda. The redesigned Insight will join four other electrified Hondas, including the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, Electric, and Fuel Cell, and the Fit EV. Most specs are still being kept under wraps, but Honda did unveil a few details about the car’s design and technology. Let’s find out more about it in the review below. And remember to stay tuned for an update from the 2018 Detroit Auto Show.
Continue reading to learn more about the Honda Insight.
The new Insight was designed around the company’s recent styling language, so it looks pretty familiar, especially when compared to the new Clarity and the Accord. The angular headlamps, the large grille that’s narrower at the bottom, and the aggressive bumper vents are features we can find on several other Honda models. On the other hand, the grille has a unique design with the "flying wing" insert placed at the top and running into the headlamps.
The side view is a bit more generic than the exotic-looking Clarity, in the sense that it doesn’t have the sharp beltline running through the door handles. However, the Insight benefits from significantly more muscular fenders front and rear and a swoopy beltline that makes it stand out.
The rear is a significant departure from the previous generations. While both its predecessors had hatchback configurations, Honda went with a fastback sedan design for the new Insight. The roof become sleek as it descends toward the rear fascia, while the decklid is rather short. But unlike most modern fastbacks, there’s no tailgate.
The rear fascia itself looks modern and fresh. The taillights are large and have sizable LED strips, but become narrower on the trunk lid. The small spoiler integrated above adds a bit of character. The rear bumper is as simple as they get, but the black insert with chrome trim in the lower area gives the Insight a sportier feel. Overall, it’s an exciting design that integrates the Insight into current Honda lineup.
High-resolution photos of the cabin aren’t yet available, but Honda did release a couple of renderings. Much like the exterior, the interior looks familiar and shares some features with existing Honda models, but it does have a few unique styling cues. The dashboard is particularly interesting, with the A/C vents in the center stack and on the passenger side connected by a slim black and chrome strip. Not only it gives the cabin a premium look, but it also gives it a more organic, two-tier layout. The eight-inch infotainment screen is position just below the center A/C vents, with more controls underneath. The configuration is clean and uncluttered and follows current trends.
The steering wheel has a somewhat flat bottom and a few controls for both hands. The digital, seven-inch instrument cluster looks modern too and includes features specific to hybrid models.
Honda says that the new Insight will have many premium features. However, things perforated leather seating, Apple CarPlay, and Andoid Auto will be optional. It also promises smartphone-like features and functionality plus customizable app tiles and home-screen shortcuts for the new infotainment system. The Wi-Fi-enabled over-the-air system updates should make updating the unit a breeze.
Tech-wise, it will also include Honda LaneWatch on EX and above trims and Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety and driver-assistance technologies as standard equipment. The latter will add Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Departure Warning, Road Departure Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, and new Traffic Sign Recognition.
The longer wheelbase will also make the new sedan the roomiest Insight yet. Honda claims it will provide class-leading passenger space and a full-size trunk thanks to the batteries being located under the rear seats. 60/40 split rear seats are available on the options list.
There aren’t many drivetrain details to run by as of this writing, but Honda claims that the Insight will deliver class-leading power. This isn’t hard to achieve though, as the competition isn’t overly powerful. While the Toyota Prius has a total system output of 121 horsepower, the Chevy Volt provides 149 horses and the Hyundai Ioniq cranks out 139 horsepower.
As for fuel economy, Honda anticipates a combined mileage of 50 mpg. This figure puts it below the Prius’ 56 mpg and the Ioniq’s 58 mpg, but above the Volt’s 46 mpg.
Motivation is provided by Honda’s third-gen two-motor hybrid system, which includes a 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle engine and lithium-ion battery pack. Specs aren’t yet available, but I’ll be back with an update from the 2018 Detroit Auto Show.
Pricing is still a mystery right now and it’s been too long since Honda had an Insight model in showroom to attempt an estimate. But it’s safe to assume that it won’t be significantly more expensive than the Toyota Prius and the Hyundai Ioniq. With the two priced from $23,475 and $22,200, respectively, the Honda Insight should fetch less than $25,000 before incentives and options.
Introduced for the 2016 model year, the latest-generation Toyota Prius is already almost three years old. And unlike the Insight, it still sports a unique design that sets it apart from any other Toyota out there. And it’s still a hatchback by design. The interior looks pretty high-tech too, and the centered instrument cluster enhances this feeling. The Prius uses the same 1.8-liter, Atkinson-cycle as its predecessor, but the unit is now more efficient thanks to numerous upgrades. It also features a new exhaust gas recirculation system, an active grille shutter, and reduced friction. The four-cylinder is paired with a new electric motor and a battery pack. The gas mill cranks out 95 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque, while the electric motor generates 71 horses and 120 pound-feet. Total system output is rated at 121 horsepower. Fuel efficiency has increased by 10 percent in the new model, which returns up to 58 mpg city, 53 mpg highway, and 56 mpg combined. Pricing starts at $23,475.
Read our full story on the 2017 Toyota Prius.
The Ioniq was born out of Hyundai’s desire to give the Prius a run for its money. And, on paper, it seems that the Korean brand did a good job. Design-wise, the Ioniq isn’t as "weird" as the Prius, but it has a similar notchback layout and plenty of sporty cues. It looks surprisingly exciting for a hybrid, especially when compared to the old Prius and Insight. Inside, you’ll find a modern layout with soft touch surfaces, a decently large infotainment display, and loads of tech. Under the hood, the Ioniq brings together a 1.6-liter Kappa GDi gasoline engine with an electric motor and a six-speed, dual-clutch transmission (unlike the Prius, which uses a CVT). The gas engine is rated at 104 horsepower and 108 pound-feet of torque, while the electric motor adds an extra 43 horses. Total output is rated at 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet, more than you get from the Toyota Prius. As far as efficiency goes, the Ioniq can return up to 54 mpg in the city. Pricing starts at $22,000, making it the most affordable proposition on this list.
Read our full review of the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq.
Redesigned for the 2016 model year, the second-generation Volt gaining a much more attractive exterior design and a surprisingly premium interior with standard rear-vision camera and a heap of safety features, including lane keep assist with lane departure warning, side blind zone alert with lane change alert, rear cross traffic alert, front automatic braking, and advanced park assist with front and rear park assist. However, the Volt is a bit different in how its drivetrain operates because it uses a small gasoline engine as a range-extending generator. The electric motors generate 149 horsepower and 294 pound-feet of torque and return an all-electric range of 50 miles. When the battery is depleted, the 101-horsepower, 1.5-liter engine kicks in to extend the range. Overall mileage, including fully charged batteries and a full tank of fuel, is estimated at an impressive 420 miles. But there is a downside to the Volt: it’s significantly more expensive than the competition, retailing from $33,220 before Government rebates. However, if you’re eligible for the full incentive, the sticker for a base model can drop to as low as $26,000.
Read our full story on the 2017 Chevrolet Volt.
Needless to say, Honda’s strategy for the Insight has been rather awkward up until now. While Toyota built the Prius continuously since its introduction in 1997, Honda discontinued the Insight twice. But the Japanese hybrid returned with massive improvements the first time and it seems that the second revival is again a significant departure from its predecessor. It’s too early to draw a conclusion with the production model still a few months (if not a year) away, but the Detroit Auto Show should provide more information on this Toyota Prius competitor. Stay tuned!
Read our full review on the 2000-2006 Honda Insight.
Read our full review on the 2010 Honda Insight.
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