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2019 Honda Insight 3gen First Drive Thoughts

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Hybrids are still selling, though these days it’s going to take a lot more than that to get the attention of customers. The top gas electric models don’t just focus on their powertrain as they also put emphasis on improved fuel economy. A good example of this is the 2019 Honda Insight.

Design

The 2019 Insight is a true hybrid with a 52 mpg EPA fuel economy rating. That’s a solid number, but the Insight is more than that it is also a comfortable and solidly designed sedan. Style wise the Insight takes its cue from the Civic down to the dimensions. However its interior and exterior are more stylish compared to the Civic.

The rear and front styling complements the sheetmetal contours, and inside there is good ambiance.  The Insight does away with the typical transmission set up with the traction motor geared onto the drive wheels. At regular load and speed the mechanism works like a regular hybrid. The engine activates the generator and powers the motor by working with the battery.

If the speed is moderate and load is low, the engine is directly hooked up to the drive wheels. If there is a full load the engine is going to get help from the battery charge and the traction motor. The point is Honda did a good job with its no transmission design.

Engine and Motors

This sedan is powered by an Atkinson-cycle 1.5-liter inline-four, giving it 99 lb ft of torque and 107 horsepower. Thermal efficiency is at 40.5% and it is equipped with a 1.1 kWh battery.

The Insight traction motor has been configured for less torque. The tuning is at 197 lb ft and 129 hp for a total of 151 hp output. A close inspection of this hybrid’s internal motor, clutch and other components are based on the Honda Accord. That’s not a bad thing given that design is one of the best for any hybrid system.

Drive and Performance

Driving around the Insight is effortless and fun. The motor generates the momentum forward so the response to accelerator prodding is quick. Even if acceleration isn’t at top speed the engine does not need to rev a lot to match the demand for power.

At low speeds, i.e. 20 mph, the sedan can go up to a mile without having the engine running. The driver just needs to tap the EV mode button and the Insight will set engine off as top priority. This does mean the engine has to generate more energy later so it will come at the expense of less efficient mpg.

Driving along the highway is smooth especially if you’re not heavy on the accelerator. When you’re at cruising speed the tractor motor starts tagging and the gas clutches on the wheels. If you’re not maintaining speed steadily the engine produces a droning sound. You’ll also feel a bit of the engine as it vibrates on the steering wheel, but not to the point it makes driving uncomfortable.

Sport Mode and Braking

Yes there’s a sport mode for the Honda Insight which seems odd given the design. In any case when you select this mode you’ll notice an increase in the accelerator pedal sensitivity. The power source also shifts to the battery from the generator. A pull at the left paddle produces 3 step braking.

Sound Level

Going back to the engine noise, one possible reason for this the Insight does a terrific job of keeping noise down in the cabin. Road noise is reduced thanks to extra noise insulation and acoustic insulating glass. There are also structural modifications made that improve ride quality while minimizing noise. Compared to the Civic it’s quieter here.

The Active Noise Control also plays a huge role in reducing noise. What it does is use the sedan’s speakers to further limit noise. This same control also augments the engine sound when you switch to Sport mode.

Interior

The front seats are comfy and nice. The Touring is especially good for tall, long legged people, and you can tilt the seats until you’re comfortable. The head room in the back seat isn’t as generous as on other sedans but you do get more leg room.

The trunk is large and set on a flat surface for convenience. The seatbacks can be folded (split is 60/40 for the Touring and EX) so flexibility won’t be an issue. Both the Touring and EX have an 8 inch infotainment system. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included as well as USB ports, 450W audio system and voice recognition.

Bottom Line

With its well thought out interior, quiet performance and comfortable riding experience, the Insight is another winner from Honda. The company has made it clear gas electric cars are the future, and with vehicles like the Insight they’re taken another important step towards it.

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