We don’t mind much, there’s plenty of leg room.
The Insight rides comfortably without urgency and returns impressive fuel economy, even with our heavy right feet. Starting from an average score, we deduct a point for its lack of pep but give it right back for a competent ride. It earns a 5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
By the numbers, the Insight is powered by a 1.5-liter inline-4 that makes 107 horsepower paired to a 129-hp electric motor. The combined output is 151 hp and 197 pound-feet of torque, although Honda’s approach to hybrid powertrains may be somewhat new to shoppers.
The so-called “two-motor hybrid” system primarily uses the electric motor and battery for propulsion, not the gasoline engine. Under certain circumstances, the battery-electric motor can power the Insight without the gasoline engine at all, or all three can clutch together to drive the front wheels.
That arrangement mostly skips the need for any kind of conventional transmission—automatic or continuously variable automatic—and largely relegates the gasoline engine to work as an electric generator under most circumstances.
The noticeable difference for most drivers may be that acceleration and the gas engine activity may not be directly proportional. At times, the engine could be busier than expected, working hard to provide regenerate power to the hybrid system. At other times, the engine may seem overly relaxed; the hybrid system has enough power to operate without the inline-4.
In any respect, the Insight is a tick slower than other cars on the road, roughly in line with other affordable hybrids such as the Toyota Prius. Our informal testing pegged 0-60 mph acceleration around 10 seconds, but 0-30 mph is a little more impressive around town than that figure would indicate.
In passing or climbs, the Insight is more leisurely—rural, two-lane highway passes may require some advance planning.
The Insight is equipped with EV, Sport, and Econ modes that predictably impact performance, although Sport mode feels out of place here. In our testing, tipping the Insight into Sport made the throttle peppier and the engine rev higher (not to mention pipe in some unnecessary engine sounds into the cabin) but didn’t make the car any faster. Switching over to Econ mode relaxes the throttle response, but didn’t seem to push the car into all-electric mode any more than normal.
We’ve found that the Insight is best when operated without micromanaging; start the car up and go. Honda introduced a heavier-than-normal “kickdown switch”—about 25 percent of the throttle is past a heavy detent that seemed awkward—so a relaxed attitude is best with the Insight.
Insight ride and handling
The Insight benefits by sharing most of its structural components with the Honda Civic, including a MacPherson front suspension setup and multi-link rear suspension.
The Insight gets the top-shelf fluid-filled bushings from the Civic that tempers road behavior in a way that other compact cars largely don’t have budget for.
Base and EX trim levels get 16-inch wheels with bigger sidewalls that have more give, but our turns behind the wheel of Touring versions with 17-inch wheels were far from fussy.
The Insight steers well, although its chunky steering wheel hints at a sportier mission than the car delivers.
Big, 11.1-inch rotors up front arrest the Insight confidently, seamlessly switching between friction and regenerative braking without issue. Honda engineers have found a somewhat interesting use for the Civic’s steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters: they click through three levels of regenerative braking force in the Insight in a puzzling way. Dialed in to their most aggressive regen setting, the Insight still won’t be a one-pedal driver for most owners. That may be disappointing to some seasoned green-car shoppers.
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