The Honda Insight is a hybrid with great fuel economy that looks and drives mostly like a conventional compact sedan. It shares many components with the popular Honda Civic sedan, and delivers a similarly pleasant driving experience and roomy, practical interior. The crucial difference is the Insight’s combination of a gasoline engine and electric motors, which supply power in a non-traditional way in the name of efficiency. The hybrid system is seamless during everyday driving but can occasionally be noisy when accelerating hard. But the Insight’s minimal price premium over the Civic and superb fuel economy make it a smart buy.
What’s New for 2021?
Instead of the LaneWatch rear-facing camera system previously available on EX and Touring models, the 2021 Insight now has a conventional blind-spot monitoring system. It illuminates a warning light when it senses something in the car’s blind spot on either side, while the old LaneWatch system only provided a blind-spot view on the passenger’s side. There’s also a new color called Radiant Red metallic.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Insight does a better job than most hybrids of balancing spry acceleration with miserly fuel economy. It’s about as quick as many conventionally powered compact cars—and way quicker than the hybrid competitors we’ve tested. Its combination of a gas engine and electric motors provides a combined 151 horsepower, which motivates the Insight from zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds. It can run on its electric motor alone for roughly one mile at lower speeds but request brisk acceleration and the gasoline engine will kick-in seamlessly. You might notice the engine getting loud under hard acceleration, but the Insight’s powertrain is otherwise quiet and refined. The Insight is an exceedingly pleasant vehicle to drive. It is quiet, comfortable, and refined, and it handles confidently. That’s no wonder, considering it’s in many ways mechanically similar to the Civic sedan, which shares those attributes. Although it’s not overtly sporty, the Insight has a nicely controlled ride and solid handling. Its supple suspension soaks up bumps well, and its quick steering helps it change direction responsively. The predictable and progressive brake pedal in the Insight suffers from little of the clunkiness that plagues the brakes of other hybrids. The Insight’s brakes feel just as confident as a traditional, gas-powered vehicle’s.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Honda provides two separate EPA ratings for the Insight: 55 mpg city and 49 highway for the lighter LX and EX trims and 51 city and 45 highway for the Insight Touring, which is better-equipped and comes with larger wheels. All three Insight models fall a few miles per gallon short of the Toyota Prius and the Hyundai Ioniq’s EPA ratings. But the Insight Touring achieved 47 mpg on our real-world highway test, 2 mpg better than its EPA rating. Drivers who spend more time in stop-and-go driving can expect even better results; hybrids typically are more efficient in city driving conditions than on the highway.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The interior’s features and finishes occupy a well-judged middle ground between bargain basement and premium. The Insight feels a bit more upscale than the closely related Civic, and it measures up well to other hybrid competitors. A customizable digital gauge in the instrument panel can display a variety of information, from fuel-economy data to speed-limit info. You sit low in the Insight’s front seats, but there’s plenty of space to stretch out. Adjustable lumbar support is missing from the driver’s seat, however, which is disappointing. The rear seats have plenty of room for two adults. The Insight’s battery pack is located under the rear seat, so it doesn’t infringe on cargo capacity at all; the rear seats still fold mostly flat to accommodate larger items. Several of the Honda’s competitors are hatchbacks—the Insight is a conventional sedan with a separate trunk—which means they can hold more stuff and their large cargo areas are easier to load. The Insight does have a very useful and configurable center console that can hold tons of personal items. There are also a few bins in the cargo area.