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2019 Honda Insight is your Civic Hybrid replacement, America

Honda's latest Insight hybrid will debut at the Detroit Auto Show looking different and ready to battle Toyota's Prius.

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Chris Paukert Former executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
Chris Paukert
3 min read
2019 Honda Insight Prototype
Chris Paukert/Roadshow

The Honda Insight hybrid is back, looks more premium than ever, and is promising a heady 50-plus miles per gallon. A prototype of the compact four-door is set to debut at next week's Detroit Auto Show, and Honda is hoping that the third time is finally the charm for this star-crossed nameplate.

To be honest, it's a bit of a surprise that the moniker is back at all. As a model, the Insight has never been particularly successful, yet the Japanese automaker is clearly hoping that a dramatically different design will click with consumers. This time out, the 2019 model isn't a slipstream, technically brilliant eco-miser like the original Insight. Nor is it a "Greener than Thou" Toyota-Prius-aping five-door like the second gen. Instead, Honda is betting that a conventional -- if sleekly upscale -- five-seat sedan is what the market wants.

Why did Honda dump the hatch and go with a more conventional body style? That's probably because the Insight won't only be picking up where its predecessor left off when it went out of production in 2014, it'll be tasked with picking up the mantle for the Civic Hybrid, too. That latter has been absent from the company's lineup since 2015, leaving the company without a clear rival to the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid.

2019 Honda Insight Prototype
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2019 Honda Insight Prototype

Insight offers mpg-minded buyers a more polished look than Toyota's wackily styled Prius.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

No matter why the new Insight is here, we're glad to see it. It's a mature and handsome design that reads more like a seventh/eighth-scale Accord than it does for a model something with Civic roots. The front end styling, in particular, mimics that of its big brother, complete with similar gimlet-eyed LED headlamps bookending a forward-leaning grille, plus there's its surprisingly rakish roofline. 

At least for now, Honda isn't revealing a great deal about the new Insight's genetic makeup, let alone providing much in the way of performance specs. The company says that the engine will function as a generator in nearly all circumstances, enabling a version of its well-regarded 1.5-liter four backed by a new two-motor hybrid system will deliver a city/highway EPA fuel economy rating in excess of 50 miles per gallon. That's an impressive number that will put it right in the hunt against its Toyota nemesis, all wrapped up in a less-divisive-looking package with "best-in-class passenger volume." 

Despite the presence of the lithium-ion battery pack underneath the rear seats, Honda promises split-folding seatbacks will be available.

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Speaking of cabin space, the Insight will be available with an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with customizable apps, and it'll offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration. Like some new Accord and Odyssey models, the system allows for Wi-Fi-enabled over-the-air updates. Other upscale touches include perforated leather seats with heating and cooling, as well as a multifunction 7-inch LCD in the gauge cluster.

The Indiana-built Insight will feature a passel of advanced driver assist technologies, including standard auto-brake, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, and a new traffic sign recognition system. 

Honda's love-or-hate LaneWatch passenger-side blind-spot camera system will be standard on EX models and above, but if it's anything like other models, it will be defeatable.

2019 Honda Insight interior rendering
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2019 Honda Insight interior rendering

An 8-inch touchscreen in a floating mount has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility.

Honda

Pricing has not yet been released, but Honda says it will position the Insight "as a premium compact above the Civic," so expect MSRPs to start with a number "2" and not a "1." More to the point, a 2018 Prius starts at $24,370, and Hyundai's Ioniq asks at least $23,085, so the smart money suggests the Insight will land in the same ballpark.

Slated to arrive in dealers later in 2018, the Insight will be the fifth new electrified vehicle brought to market by Honda in a year. The company's trio of Clarity models (Fuel Cell, EV and PHEV) are already reaching showrooms, and the 2018 Accord Hybrid will land on lots soon.

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