Ahead of Honda’s planned EVs offensive for the United States, the automaker has announced a deluge of hybrid variants of existing products. However these new vehicles will come at the expense of the Insight, which the company had just confirmed will be discontinued after 2022. In its stead will be new hybrid trips for the CR-V, Accord, and Civic — the latter of which served as the template for the passing model.
Count Honda among the dwindling number of automakers that believe a sudden market shift to electric drive technology is little more than a pipe dream. As you read yesterday, the company’s CEO, Takahiro Hachigo, is on the record as saying, “I do not believe there will be a dramatic increase in demand for battery vehicles, and I believe this situation is true globally.”
While rival automakers like Toyota, Mazda, and Subaru have teamed up to advance their electrified ambitions, Honda chose to take it slow and go its own way. Its efforts have already born fruit, and continue to do so. Honda was the first automaker with a mass-market hybrid, but the ensuing two decades has seen the automaker temper its expectations of a fickle, gas-loving public. The brand’s product reflects its outlook.
So, how’s that product doing?
A few months ago, I wrote about the Honda Clarity PHEV, saying it’s a fine but unremarkable fuel-saver sedan and commuter car.
Prepare for déjà vu.
You see, Honda has brought forth another Insight hybrid for 2019. And my take on this Civic-related sedan is much like that of the Clarity – well-built, great for commuters, and remarkably unremarkable.
I say “Civic-related” because the Insight does share bones with the Civic, but there are key differences, especially with its skin. Yet Honda also sets it up as the “mature” compact sedan in its lineup. More on that later.
The first-generation Honda Insight was a rare false-start for the company, marketed as a hatchback that had more doors than seats (three and two, respectively). Its atomic-egg styling enveloped a 67 horsepower 1.0-liter gasoline engine paired to a 10kW electric motor. The second-gen model, a more conventional car in terms of its styling and capacity, also fell a bit flat compared to the segment-leading Prius.
Honda’s betting the third time’s the charm, kicking off the mass production start of the all-new 2019 Honda Insight today at its plant in Indiana. Will this Insight electrify buyers or fizzle out? At first glance, it would at least appear they’ve got the styling right this time. Not everyone wants to shout that they’re driving a hybrid.
Fifty-one miles per gallon city. Forty-eight miles per gallon highway. Still the best numbers in the industry for nearly a decade now.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m referring to the Toyota Prius, which is a 5-door hatchback that looks a bit like an egg mated with a shopping cart. It’s been a decade since the Prius came out in hatchback form, and a decade since it achieved those impressive fuel economy figures: 51 miles per gallon city. 48 miles per gallon highway. And still, no one has unseated the Prius.
More than two years after American Honda last produced meaningful sales volume with its first Insight, a second Insight arrived to tackle the Toyota Prius head-on.
Only it didn’t, because it couldn’t.
The Insight’s death was reported here at the end of last month. There was no accompanying shock, surprise or horror.
Though it has competed with a much lower base MSRP than the core Prius model, the Insight is a 42 mpg car fighting against the hybrid, a 50 mpg Prius.
Since we started out this week with a relatively late-model Junkyard Find, I’m going to jump into the 21st century and share the first Honda Insight I’ve ever found in a high-inventory-turnover, self-service wrecking yard. I’ve seen a few thoroughly stripped early Priuses and didn’t think they were worth photographing, but the tiny two-seater first-gen Insight made the Prius look like a fuel-swilling pig and that makes it a much more interesting car to me. 61 highway miles per gallon, all sorts of advanced aluminum components, and a coefficient of drag of just 0.25… and yet this one couldn’t stay clear of The Crusher.
If you were ever interested in the second coming of the Honda Insight, now may be the time to pull the trigger on that lease, for there may not be a 2015 model in the showroom come next year.
I must have been a kibbutznik in a past life. Whenever I buy something of value, I never have the urge to keep it for myself.
Perhaps it’s due to too many bouts of suburbia. A neighborhood with twenty lawnmowers. Thirty The Lion King videos, and fifty to seventy vehicles. All this redundancy seems to be a bit much for a guy who hates to see things unused by my family 98+% of the time.
Yeah. I know that most folks aren’t willing to share their ride. Some won’t even loan you Simba. But if I lived in a place where we all put a smaller chunk of our change into a ride, I wouldn’t go cheap . . . except for possibly an old Volvo wagon.
These would be my top picks. All used of course!
The first generation Insight was a commercial failure. Eight years yielded fewer than 20,000 unit sold and a lingering doubt about the genuine interest in two seat commuter cars.
Honda tried again with the CR-Z, and apparently George Orwell’s early Animal Farm analogy about ‘four being better than two’ may be all too true for the American automotive marketplace.
Nobody wants an uber-frugal commuter car with two seats. It’s either four or no sale.
This 2009 BMW 535i has 45,000 miles and looks absolutely drop dead gorgeous. It offers nearly the same acceleration as a 550i, and far more space than the 335i, which is more sought after in the enthusiast world.
To me, if you’re a true keeper, all of this is good news. The better news? It’s a lemon!
Hybrids are flying off the lots in Japan, with Toyota’s Prius leading the charts for the 12th month in a row. Before, that spot was taken by another hybrid, the Honda Insight. In the Battle of the Hybrids, Honda introduces a fighter that hits below the belt, at the wallet: Honda will launch a hybrid in Japan that will cost around $17,000 in today’s dollars, “making it the most affordable hybrid in Japan,” The Nikkei [sub] says. The Nikkei sees a hybrid price war erupting in Japan.
Honda’s half-hearted approach to hybrids is about to be shaken up, possibly leading to the development of a hybrid system that goes beyond Honda’s traditional integrated motor assist (IMA) system. Automotive News [sub] reports that Honda CEO, Takanobu Ito has told his Research and Development staff to develop a hybrid which beats the Toyota Prius in fuel economy. Or else. This development probably has something to do the failure of the Honda Insight (Prius sales in 2009 were 139,682. Insight sales for the same period: 20,572); as Honda Executive VP, John Mendel said “Are we happy with how sales are going? No, we’re not happy.” Mr Ito made it clear that Honda’s hybrid line up is a top priority. “We want to develop and expand our hybrids,” said Ito. “We made some major sacrifices to shift people and resources to do that.”
Ok, it’s not exactly a new phenomena: car company shows a low and slick concept, and the final product looks like an obese baby seal. We took GM to task with its Volt bait-and-switch routine. And now we take on Honda, although probably not quite so ferociously; given that the gap between the CR-Z concept and production version is a tad bit narrower than the Volt Grand (Lie) Canyon. But the Volt was always intended to be a four-seater; not the CR-Z. Therein lies the Honda lie: it’s ok to just chop off the back of a sedan and call it…not good.
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