Bigger, Classier Honda Insight to Bow in Prototype Form in Detroit

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
bigger classier honda insight to bow in prototype form in detroit

Sitting at the summit of the Honda vehicle range is the Acura NSX — a complex, advanced hybrid two-seater that goes like stink but can’t seem to find many takers. At the bottom, at least until 2014 models dried up sometime in 2015, was the Insight.

Ah, the Insight. The model best remembered as the teardrop-shaped two-seater that gave North America its first taste of hybrid motoring in December 1999 was soon eclipsed in sales by the Toyota Prius. Its main rival never looked back.

After a four-year gap, a second-generation Insight powered back onto the hybrid scene for the 2010 model year. Boasting room for five passengers and a significantly lower fuel economy rating, the follow-up Insight didn’t sent Honda’s sales charts aflame. Volume in 2010 was one-seventh that of the Prius, dropping quickly thereafter.

With a third-generation 2019 model on the way, Honda seems determined to mimic The Little Engine That Could. It’s a bigger and better Insight, the company claims, but will the third time be a charm?

Honda sure hopes so. Not ready for production just yet, the Insight bound for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month is a prototype stand-in for the 2019 model launching early next year.

No longer is the nameplate destined to sit at the bottom of the lineup. Honda describes the new Insight as “an upscale, stylish five-passenger sedan positioned above the Civic in Honda’s passenger car lineup.” Past Insights went the hatch route, with the second-gen model billed as the industry’s cheapest hybrid.

Selling conventional hybrids isn’t an easy task these days, but it seems Honda learned some harsh lessons from the public’s reaction to earlier Insights. For one thing, it’s bigger. It adopts the company’s design direction, avoiding alienation from its siblings and an oddball status on the market. And, perhaps most importantly, it offers premium or near-premium buyers — the ones most likely to consider and purchase an electrified vehicle — something to consider.

With this Insight, Honda claims it took “an entirely new approach with the styling, packaging, premium features and performance desired by mainstream car buyers.” The word “mainstream” is key. With the exception of Toyota, automakers no longer feel the need to call attention to a green model with wacky styling.

“You won’t have to be an electrification advocate to appreciate the new Insight,” said Henio Arcangeli, Jr., general manager of American Honda Motor Company’s Honda division, “it’s a great car in its own right, independent of what’s happening under the hood.”

Powered by the company’s two-motor hybrid system, a setup you’ll find in the Accord Hybrid, the 2019 Insight calls Honda’s Greensburg, Indiana plant home. We’ll see the car in its entirety in Detroit on January 15th.

[Image: Honda]

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4 of 17 comments
  • Kyree Kyree on Dec 19, 2017

    I don't understand how Honda can simultaneously have the Civic, Accord, Accord Hybrid, Insight, Clarity EV, Clarity Plug-In Hybrid and Clarity FCV. That seems like too many cars. Then again, that's a lot of cars that are of above-average fuel economy, which should be great for corporate numbers if they can find sales. But, hey, if it works for them. I can already tell this Clarity will wear better styling than both the Ioniq and the Prius. Hopefully, despite the sedan shape, it's a liftback like the Volt. In fact, that may be what they're targeting with the size and styling. And that's a good place in which to set one's sights. The current Volt looks handsome and different, but not weird or ostentatious.

    • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Dec 20, 2017

      I’m still trying to figure out where the Clarity Hybrid “fits” into this scheme!

  • 300zx_guy 300zx_guy on Dec 20, 2017

    two things would really help put this car on my radar: hatchback instead of trunk, and power passenger seat with height adjustment (lumbar would be a bonus). So far Honda will only begrudgingly electrify their passenger seats, with only 4-way adjustments. I understand why the passenger might not need 18-way adjustability, but no height adjustment? Even on the Accord, on the fully loaded model, just 4-way. Hyundai and Kia have started doing better than that, hopefully other makers jump in too.

    • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Dec 20, 2017

      Hell, it can’t cost that much more to add memory to the power seats! If you’re a Civic buyer, you’re going to be fiddling with the seat for a week after the smallest porter or service person at the dealer drives your car come service time! (Or if 6’3” you shares the car with your 5’5” spouse!)

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