As odd as it might sound, the Honda Insight has always held a special place in my heart. Early in my career, I watched as the tadpole-shaped first-gen Insight morphed from slippery econodork coupe to the 9-second darling of the niche of a niche front-wheel-drive, all-motor import drag racing scene. (If you think I’m kidding, check out “Norris Prayoonto Insight” on YouTube.)
When the second-gen Insight arrived in 2009, I raised my hand for the launch in Arizona, hoping for an update on the fresh, forward-thinking first gen. You can see my initial thoughts (and long sideburns and dated DKNY sunglasses) in this cringey video done for the early days of our YouTube channel.
Unfortunately, Gen 2 turned out to be a lame attempt at aping the wildly popular Toyota Prius, from interior packaging to high-booty silhouette. Honda aimed this Insight squarely at America and missed. Despite being the lowest-priced hybrid in all the land, sales were lackluster, and the Insight was shelved after only five years in 2013.
Fast-forward six years, and the Insight is back—really and truly. Gone is the Prius-biting style; the third-gen Insight is genuinely good-looking, if easily mistaken for platform-mate Civic (no bad thing). The hard lines and Kammback profile have been replaced by a traditional three-box sedan profile with soft, sanded edges.
Impressed by its styling, interior packaging, standard tech features, and surprisingly sweet handling, I was one of the Insight’s strongest proponents during our 2019 Car of the Year program. Its Achilles’ heel (a loud and obnoxious mechanical drone from the one-speed transmission at wide-open throttle) fully torpedoed its chances of winning COTY, but one of the missions of our yearlong loan is to figure out how much of a deal breaker that actually is in the real world. My opening impressions: not much.
We’ve read and internalized the feedback we get from you, dear reader, and in an attempt to represent more of what people actually drive and to lower the average price of our MT Garage, I did not opt for the fully loaded Touring model, but instead ordered up the midgrade EX trim from Honda’s PR department.
I requested a standard EX in Cosmic Blue with the ivory-colored cloth interior and no additional options. The only accessories I added were the all-season rubber floormats ($195) and trunk tray ($115) because surfing is my jam.
The 2019 Insight EX has an MSRP of $24,060 and destination/handling charges of $895. Add in the mats, and our total ended up at $25,229. What did we get? Critically, a split-folding rear seat! This is the first feature I check for in every loaner car I drive; hybrids often put batteries in the back, making a fold-down seat—and surfboard portage—impossible.
I was also curious to live with two of the most impressive features in Honda’s suite of safety systems: adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow and lane keeping assist (which we also profiled in Brian Vance’s yearlong loan with the Honda CR-V). These Honda Sensing systems (along with Nissan’s ProPilot assist) are some of the most affordable ways to get a glimpse into the future of driver assistance (some say semi-autonomous driving) technologies. With the system engaged on the two-and-a-half-hour, stop-and-go drive back from COTY last year, I touched the brakes but a handful of times.
Other cool standard features: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, remote engine start (which likely won’t get used in sunny Southern California), and a smart key that locks the doors automatically when I walk away.
What standard features did I pass up by not going for the higher Touring grade (which starts at $29,085)? Not much I care for: heated, leather-trimmed front seats, a power moonroof, and the ability to use the Insight as a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot.
We took delivery of the Insight with just over 400 miles on the odometer, so it needs to get fully broken in before our we slap the Vbox on it and put it through its paces. Look for those results and more Insight insights in the first update.
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