What's it like to daily-drive Honda's Prius- and Ioniq-fighting sedan?
We’ve spent some serious quality time in the 2019 Honda Insight, a hybrid sedan that competes head to head with the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Ioniq. In EX trim, our Insight retails for $25,229 USD, which is quite affordable given the advanced driver-assistance systems included in that price.
Here are three quick insights on these active safety systems and another two on what it’s like to daily drive the Insight.
Smooth Adaptive Cruise
Under the Honda Sensing banner, the Insight is equipped with numerous driving safety and support features. Two of the best are adaptive cruise control (ACC) and Lane Keep Assist (LKA).
ACC is a more a sophisticated version of regular cruise control that monitors the relative position of the vehicle directly ahead and automatically adjusts the Insight’s following speed to create and maintain a safe gap. LKA uses the Insight’s forward-looking cameras to read road lines and employs the electronic power-assisted steering system to keep the vehicle centered in its lane. These advanced systems appeared in luxury cars years ago but were nowhere near as refined and affordable as they are today. Honda’s system is particularly impressive; the Insight will follow stop-and-go traffic down to a full stop and resume driving once traffic picks up again—provided the stop doesn’t last longer than a second or two. If it does, a quick dab of the throttle gets the car moving again.
Smart, Centered LKA
For use on curvy roads, Honda’s LKA system is pretty stellar. Whereas some systems can send the car pingponging down the road—following the right-side lane lines, then the left—Honda has figured out how to keep the Insight tracking true, even around corners. Only a couple of thumb presses are required to set ACC and engage LKA, and the system’s performance is so smooth, it’s tempting to let the car drive itself. Good thing the Insight doesn’t allow it. Let go of the wheel for more than few seconds, and a warning will flash in the instrument cluster before the systems shut down completely.
On the left side of the steering wheel, in easy reach of your thumb, is a home button and wheel that scrolls through the many different infographic displays in the instrument cluster—everything from the radio to the power consumption monitor. One of these modes is Driving Support, which gives the driver a simple, illustrated view of the road ahead, including faint lane lines and the back end of the car ahead (represented as a late-model Honda Accord). The distance between the car ahead and the Insight is shown in yards just below, thanks to the same camera used by the LKA system. Get too close without your foot on the brake, and the word BRAKE flashes in a large orange box. Smart, safe, and kinda fun to play with if you’re into gadgets or guesstimating range.
Insight Will Surf
Despite its compact size, hybrid powertrain, and traditional sedan shape, the Insight holds a surprising amount of stuff—including large, bulky items like surfboards. Split, 60/40 fold-down seats aren’t a big deal in most cars, but they’re not always standard in hybrids, especially older versions, because of the battery’s location in the rear bulkhead or trunk floor. The Insight we tested easily swallows up a 6-foot-2-inch surfboard, laid at an angle across the larger side of the fold-down seat. Another two boards could be laid on top, as well, meaning the Insight can shuttle three kooks to the beach.
Noisy if you have a Heavy Foot
At full throttle, the Insight’s 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle engine fires up and roars loudly. It’s quite jarring, especially if you’ve been tooling around in EV mode and needed a sudden burst of acceleration to pass or make a light. Thankfully, in everyday driving, it’s a sound you don’t hear very often. Throttle response is immediate, so as long as your input isn’t too violent, the Insight can accelerate under electric power at a pace that’s perfectly fine for city traffic.