Will Third Time Be a Charm for the Insight?
Honda has revealed that its third-generation Insight hybrid will make its world debut next Monday, Jan. 15 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Called the “Insight Prototype,” the company says the all-new car will be positioned above the Civic as a “premium compact,” offering a roomy interior and civilized road manners.
It’s easy to forget that the Insight name started the hybrid era in the U.S. back in December 1999. The tiny, tear-drop-shaped two-passenger with flared rear wheels boasted an EPA fuel economy rating of 61-mpg city/70 highway/65 mpg combined. (Converted to present standard, the EPA reckons it at 49 city/61 highway/53 combined.)
Then, in June 2000 the Plain Jane four-door Prius arrived and took the wind out of the Insight’s sails. To fight back, Honda introduced a second-generation Insight in 2009, a four-door compact hatchback that looked a bit like a Prius but didn’t approach the Toyota’s fuel economy. Honda touted it as the “least expensive hybrid,” but it never caught on with buyers and was discontinued in 2014.
This new third-generation model apparently takes the place of the Civic Hybrid, which was dropped from the lineup with the compact car’s latest edition in 2015.
“The new 2019 Honda Insight signals we are entering a new era of electrification with a new generation of Honda products that offer customers the benefits of advanced powertrain technology without the traditional trade-offs in design, premium features or packaging,” said Henio Arcangeli, Jr., senior vice president of automobile sales and general manager of the Honda Division, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “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.”
“In Excess of EPA 50 MPG”
Honda says the new Insight is expected to receive an EPA fuel economy combined rating “in excess of 50 mpg,” competitive with other compact hybrid offerings. Just to keep pace with competitors’ hybrid offerings, the Insight will need to deliver 56 or 58 mpg to top the highest-mileage versions of the Toyota Prius Liftback and the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, respectively.
To meet or beat the competition’s fuel economy, the Insight will be powered by a version of Honda’s third-generation two-motor hybrid system and multimode direct-drive transmission, the same as found in the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid. It features a highly efficient 1.5-liter Atkinson cycle engine, a powerful electric propulsion motor and lithium-ion battery pack. In most conditions, the new car will operate on electric power only, drawing energy from the battery pack or, if depleted, starting up the gas engine to act as a mobile generator.
Looks Like a Civic
While Honda hasn’t disclosed what is under the sheet metal, the Insight has a distinct Civic look. It is long and low, with an aerodynamically tapering roof line that echoes a four-door coupe that appears to be optimized for aerodynamic efficiency. It features LED lighting in the front and rear, and its grill shares the “flying wing” styling with other cars in the Honda lineup. Its long wheelbase translates to roominess for the five passengers, according to Honda.
Inside, the Insight appears to be more upscale than the Civic with a seven-inch digital gauge cluster, a larger, eight-inch central touchscreen with volume knob and the push-button shifter found in several other Honda products. A host of premium features includes available perforated leather seating, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and Wi-Fi-enabled over-the-air system updates.
It will also incorporate the Honda Sensing suite of active-safety features. Those include adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure alert, and a new traffic-sign recognition feature. Honda’s LaneWatch blind-spot-camera system will be offered on EX and above trims.
Where Does the Insight Fit into The Honda Lineup?
When it arrives this summer, the Insight’s EPA rating and sticker price will be key to the new version’s success, but those won’t be known until next week at the Detroit show at the earliest. What also may be clear with more info is how this new hybrid fits into Honda’s lineup range. The company has just finished launching the Honda Clarity series, a trio which includes the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid along with battery-electric and fuel cell-electric models. On top of that, the larger 2018 Accord Hybrid is also set to go on sale in the next couple of months.
Like fuel economy and price, we will have to wait and see.
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