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In the Driver's Seat

2019 Insight is an efficient, economical choice

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Take a look at the Honda Insight. Man, has it grown. The first-generation Insight was a two-door hatchback that was just under 13 feet long. Today’s Insight is a four-door sedan that is over 15 feet long. So when I was asked what platform — Civic or Accord — the Insight is based on, I really wasn’t sure. (It shares some dimensions with the Civic.)

The Insight Touring I drove was a stunning Cosmic Blue (I like blue). I’m not sure about the exterior styling, but to each their own.

Bruce Hotchkiss

Bruce Hotchkiss

The whole point of the Insight is that it is a hybrid and it gets excellent fuel economy. And, like many hybrids, the city mileage (51 mpg for the Touring, 55 for the LX and EX) is rated higher than the highway (45 mpg Touring, 49 for the others). The theory is that when you’re driving around town, the Insight uses battery power a majority of the time. This is true as long as you drive like there is the proverbial raw egg under the accelerator pedal. If you drive like so many in Tracy, I suspect the fuel economy would be much less. When I drive in my “fuel saving mode” — gentle on the accelerator, drive the speed limit, etc. — it seems like I’m driving a Model T in the Daytona 500!

Make no mistake, the Insight is no slouch. If pressed, the Insight can do 0-60 mph in 7.7 seconds. Think about that for a minute. A vehicle designed and built for economy and low emissions is quicker than many performance cars of 20 years ago. Not bad.

The Insight is a five-passenger, four-door sedan. Yes, three adults will fit in the back seat, but not three of me. (I’m 6 feet and weigh — well, let’s just say I could stand to lose 30-40 pounds.) The front seats are very comfy.

Under the hood are an engine (gasoline) and a motor (electric). The 1.5-liter, four-cylinder makes 107 horsepower and 99 pound-feet of torque. The electric motor makes 129 horsepower and 197 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is a continuously variable transmission.

2019 Honda Insight

I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the array of transmission and parking brake push buttons. In the spot where you might find a gearshift lever, there are buttons for (from the top) Park, Reverse and Drive, and then the electric parking brake button. The buttons respond differently too – some you push down on, while others it’s kind of like you pull back and up. It just seems overly complicated to me.

Three buttons to the right of the parking brake button — Econ, Sport and EV — change the drive mode. Normally it was in Econ, which is programmed to give economy — no surprise there. Sport, to me, seemed superfluous; I mean, this is a hybrid and is meant to give superior economy. You want sport? Buy a Civic Si. EV puts the Insight in full electric mode.

While I had the Insight, the low tire pressure warning came on. Now, normally you can shuffle through information screens to see what the tire pressures are, but I could not find that screen. I got out the owner’s manual and it told me that if the warning came on (and I’m paraphrasing) I should either put on the spare tire (if a tire was flat) or drive to the dealer. What? I kept an eye on the tires and none went flat. It looked like maybe the right front was low, so I adjusted all the tires to the same pressure. But the warning light wouldn’t go off. I searched through the manual and couldn’t find out how to turn it off. So I did what we all do now — I Googled it. Voila, there were instructions on how to recalibrate the tire pressure monitoring system.

Enough carping. Overall, I enjoyed the Insight. I mean, it’s a Honda, so what’s not to like? It drives well and is comfortable. If fuel economy is paramount to you, especially around town, then the Insight should be considered.

Pricewise, the Insight is only $3,480 more than a Civic (base price to base price). The Insight’s city economy is 20 mpg better than the base Civic. That’s a big difference.

The test Insight Touring had a price of $28,090; add on the destination and handling and it came to $28,985. In this day and age, that’s a good price for a very nicely equipped four-door sedan.

Tracy resident Bruce Hotchkiss has been writing car reviews and news about the automotive world since 1984 for newspapers across publications in Canada, California and Nevada. Check out his blog at www.brucehotchkiss.net. Comments and questions can be sent to bruce.hotchkiss@gmail.com.

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