Honda has been an active player in the hybrid vehicle market for quite some time now. The original Honda Insight was launched in North America back in 1999, a few months before the first Toyota Prius. The Japanese brand followed up with two generations of the Civic Hybrid, two generations of the Accord Hybrid, a second-generation Insight as well as the Honda CR-Z. None of them came close to the successful Prius.
Yet Honda isn’t giving up on its hybrid powertrain technologies. The Honda Electrification Initiative announced by the automaker promises that most all new models launched in 2018 and 2019 will be electrified, and the company’s two-motor hybrid system will find its way into both cars and trucks. By 2030, Honda expects two-thirds of all sales will consist of electrified vehicles.
After launching the 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid with the latest version of the two-motor hybrid system, the brand recently released the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid in Canada, while in the United States, hydrogen fuel cell and fully electric versions of the The Clarity are offered as well.
The five-passenger 2019 Honda Insight is the company’s new dedicated hybrid model, set to rival the Toyota Prius, the Kia Niro and the Hyundai Ioniq, although it seems heavily based on the Honda Civic’s bones. Besides unique front and rear fascia with standard LED headlights and taillights, the compact-sized Insight borrows the profile design and doors of the Civic sedan. Which means it should share its 2700-millimetre wheelbase. A prototype version will debut at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, but when Honda calls their show cars “prototypes,” it usually means they’re a few details shy of a production model.
Inside, the third-generation Insight will be available with perforated leather upholstery, an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration as well as Wi-Fi over-the-air system updates. Honda boasts class-leading passenger space. Since the battery pack is located under the rear seats, the Insight’s trunk should be similar in volume to the Civic’s (rated at 428 litres) and 60/40-split folding seatbacks will be standard as well.
Under the hood will be an Atkinson-cycle, 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. In most driving conditions, the car will drive on electric power alone, with the gasoline engine acting as a generator, just like in the Clarity PHEV—but without the plug-in option. In the Clarity, this powertrain delivers a combined output of 212 horsepower—103 hp from the gas engine and 181 from the electric motor—but the Insight could hierarchically be slightly less powerful. We’re thinking about 150 to 160 hp, which would be higher than its rivals.
Honda Canada expects the Insight to consume an average of 4.7 L/100 km based on NRCan test procedures. In comparison, the Ioniq consumes as low as 4.1 L/100 km while the Prius’ combined rating is set at 4.5 L/100 km and the Niro’s is 4.7 L/100 km and up.
The 2019 Honda Insight will also feature the brand’s latest advanced driving aids, such as Honda LaneWatch passenger-side blind spot monitoring, and the Honda Sensing suite that rounds up adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow and traffic sign recognition, a collision mitigation system, lane departure warning and road departure mitigation.
The new Insight will be built in Greensburg, Indiana, and will be on sale later in 2018. No pricing has been announced yet, but we’re expecting a base MSRP of about $26,000, right between the Ioniq and the Prius.