The first Honda Insight generated a lot of love, if you listen to its fawning owners. We believe them, and drool a little when a pristine example cruises down the highway. There’s something about the optimism about the future it embodied at a turning point in automotive history — and those wheel skirts — that just tickles certain dopamine receptors.
That’s why the second-generation Insight was such a letdown. It chased the Prius’ customers, trading funkiness for a little extra room, but completely losing its edge along with any semblance of personality or drivability. While Honda was making entertaining cars, including the plucky little CR-Z (which combined a hybrid powertrain with sporty overtones and the option of a fantastic manual transmission — your author loved it, if no one else did), the Insight seemed to share the least amount of brand DNA. We didn’t miss the second Insight when it left, but we sure hated what it’d done to the nameplate.
But now, things are different. The Clarity proves Honda is both dedicated to doing green cars the right way, and capable of excellent interiors. The Accord and Civic are fun to drive, and the new styling language translates well across the lineup; Honda found a look that works, and we’re pleased to see it proliferate. With the revamped Insight coming out right now, in the midst of a full-blown Honda revival, we had high hopes for this all-new version, which goes on sale on June 29.
The Insight has adequate oomph, but the gas engine drones at high revs under moderate acceleration. This is what we expect from a hybrid, but somehow we noticed it more here. Whether that’s because Honda hasn’t done as much to sonically isolate the gas engine, or a reflection of our expectations from a car that otherwise seemed refined, is fodder for future comparison. That droning, and road noise from the tires, are slight annoyances in an otherwise quiet car.
The 2019 Insight is a vast improvement of the last car to bear the nameplate. While it didn’t quite capture our imagination like the first Insight, it didn’t disappoint us like the second generation. Instead, we get a really efficient hybrid at a nice price that doesn’t completely sacrifice power, all packaged in a handsome, useable and honest-to-goodness comfortable package.