Car of the Year Car Reviews

Honda Insight: 2019 MotorTrend Car of the Year Finalist

Finally, a hybrid that doesn't look like one

Finally, a hybrid that doesn't look like one

WE LIKE Smart style and packaging, excellent ride, lane centering technology

WE DON’T LIKE The roaring, thrashy powertrain


With the Insight, Honda makes the bold statement that an affordable, smartly packaged hybrid need not look dorky (ahem, Clarity). But our judges were puzzled by the decision to bring back this nameplate and not just badge this five-seat sedan—with its cleverly hidden batteries and proper-sized trunk—a Civic Hybrid. After all, the two clearly share a lot more than identical wheelbases.

“I really like the interior,” Christian Seabaugh said. “It’s a Civic’s for sure, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” He was also among the judges who commended the Insight for its other Civic characteristics: thoughtful style and storage solutions, seamless/silent adaptive cruise control performance, and beautiful road manners. “The way it gently, silently floated through town in EV mode was a unique experience. It made rippled, uneven pavement disappear; this car perhaps has the best ride and ability to soak up impacts in the finalist group.”

So why isn’t it our winner? Rousing the hybrid from EV mode reveals its Achilles’ heel.

Frank Markus applauds Honda for not faking CVT gear ratios and just letting the engine hang at its power peak, but all of the judges noted the clatter of this process, and most denounced it.

“Simply put, the calibration of the CVT is unacceptable,” Chris Theodore said. “Honda’s engineers need to sacrifice some efficiency and recalibrate for the customer’s peace of mind.” Added Angus MacKenzie: “The CVT transmission calibration has it roaring at high rpm under relatively modest acceleration events such as hill climbing and freeway merging and passing. It’s loud, grainy, and obtrusive enough to annoy even the least discerning customer.”



2019 Honda Insight Touring
Base Price/As tested $28,985/$28,985
Power (SAE net) 152 hp @ 6,000 rpm (gas)/129 hp (elec)/152 hp (comb)
Torque (SAE net) 99 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm (gas)/197 lb-ft (elec)
Accel, 0-60 mph 7.7 sec
Quarter-mile 16.0 sec @ 85.4 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 121 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.80 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.2 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 51/45/48 mpg
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE/TRANSMISSION 1.5L Atkinson-cycle DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus front electric motor/1-speed auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,068 lb (61/39%)
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 183.6 x 71.6 x 55.6 in
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 66/75 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.40 lb/mile