2019 Honda Insight: A Better Civic?

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After spending a week with a 2019 Honda Insight, and returning it, I’ve come to understand that it is the hidden gem in Honda’s compact car line-up. I loved it!

The Honda Civic is the best-selling car in Canada and will, without a doubt, continue to be for years to come. The Civic’s value and reputation precede it and make it one of the best options in the crowded and highly competitive compact car segment. What Honda won’t tell you is that the best Civic is not a Civic, if only in name.

2019 Honda Insight
2019 Honda Insight | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

AKA, the Civic Hybrid

The new 2019 Honda Insight is a Civic Hybrid, but better. If Honda had decided to slap the Civic name on the car, they would have been limited design-wise and possibly even where content is concerned. By keeping the name “Insight” name alive, they might lose some potential customers but for those not fazed by a name, will discover a fantastic car that sooner rather than later, will make them forget that it’s not a Civic

The first element to benefit from the Insight name is the car’s styling. And it begins with the front end. The newest Honda Accord’s fascia has not drawn the kindest of comments since its introduction. Even so, we generally like the Accord’s chrome brow and it looks right at home at the Insight’s helm. The 4-door coupe profile is alive and well on the Insight and culminates into a cleaner subtler rear end. The Civic’s “C” shape taillights are distinct but overstated. The Insight’s cleaner better-integrated tails are far classier.

2019 Honda Insight
2019 Honda Insight | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

High-end accoutrements for the right price

The 2019 Honda Insight’s cabin is nearly identical to the Civic’s with a few noticeable differences. The first is the steering which in the Insight is lifted from the Accord, as is the shift selector panel. The other are the gauges which once more look premium by comparison. In fact, the whole of the Insight’s interior quarters are very Accord/Acura-like – there’s a clear emphasis on luxury in this car. The other brilliant aspect to the cabin is its vastness!

Feature and technology levels for the base Insight slot somewhere between the Civic Sport and Touring. The Sport retails for $25,490 while the Touring matches the base Insight dollar for dollar at $27,990. A 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, HondaLink and WIFI tethering are included.

Specifically, the Civic Touring includes the turbocharged 1.5-litre engine, SiriusXM, a premium audio system, leather seats, wireless charging and navigation over the Insight. Between us, none of these elements are deal-breakers against the Insight.

2019 Honda Insight
2019 Honda Insight | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Insight is good to drive

The 2019 Honda Insight is powered by an Atkinson Cycle 1.5-litre engine that, when combined with the electric motor, provides a total system output of 151-horsepower. The real pleasure comes from the electric motor’s prodigious torque, set at 197 lb.-ft. from 0 to 3,000 rpm. The only transmission offered is an electric-continuously variable transmission (E-CVT) which suffers the same fate as the majority of all CVTs – it drones heavily when pushed.

Otherwise, the Insight is pleasing to the point of never regretting the slight performance advantage that one would get from the 1.5T. The Sport Drive button awakens hidden powers that will ultimately negatively affect fuel consumption but, on this point, even I managed some impressive numbers.

2019 Honda Insight
2019 Honda Insight | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Good, and easy at the pumps!

The Honda Insight is rated at 4.6 city, 5.3 highway for a combined average of 4.9L/100km. I sneaked in an even 6L/100 km in many centimeters of snow, with much wheelspin and frigid temperatures. Now that’s impressive.

The driving experience is equally impressive. The car is smooth, comfortable and quiet. The only somewhat negative aspect I can come up with the use of the paddle shifters. More precisely, the manual settings for the regenerative braking system; the selected braking intensity should remain set for the duration of the drive and not default back to normal. I explain it further in my video.

The provided power is good, if not surprising in Sport. Normal Drive mode, or non-ECO or Sport is the best of all worlds for the car. To drive this car is impressively relaxing.

2019 Honda Insight
2019 Honda Insight | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Insight, a bargain?

The 2019 Honda Insight surprised me most with its value. The list of features, the quality of material and integrated technologies had me thinking of a $35,000+ list price. For $31,890, the Insight Touring has everything in save for a heated steering wheel, which is included in my currently evaluated Honda Accord hybrid. I smell its addition as part of a mid-cycle refresh…

If you are in the market for a Honda Civic, particularly Sport trim and up, you owe it to yourself to check out the Insight.

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