The Honda Insight: King of Small Car Safety and Hybrid Fuel Economy too?
Quite simply, the 2019-20 Honda Insight is an amazing value for safety. Starting at a street price of around $22K ($23,725 MSRP in LX trim), Consumer Reports said that the all-new Insight is their fuel-economy champ for vehicles that don’t have a plug. We find it equally impressive that the Insight earns a Top Safety Pick “Plus” award from the IIHS AND a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA. More impressive is that it gets the top results of Good/Superior in ALL nine IIHS crash test and safety ratings and a 5-star result in ALL eight NHTSA safety evaluations as well. That accomplishment is matched by only a handful of vehicles at any price. Most impressive is that ALL these top ratings apply to ALL Insights in ALL trim levels. That’s a rarity among vehicles, I believe the only one for 2019 at the time of this publication* including luxury models! That’s mainly because many other models with top crash test results only earn an IIHS award on top trim levels that have the best headlight system and/or a tech options package with automatic emergency braking.
For kids, the Insight is still a small vehicle and like all compact SUVs and sedans, it’s relatively narrow and that compromises what you can put in the narrow middle seat. While the outboard rear seats are fairly friendly to car seats in general, there will be challenges if you need to put two carseats next to each other or three-across. The only unusual issue is the presence of fixed rear head restraints. These protrude forward enough that they could be problematic for some taller forward-facing carseats and high back boosters, so you do need to check your carseat owner’s manual if the head restraint pushes your carseat forward or prevents the carseat from being adjusted high enough. Some models I installed like the Graco Nautilus SnugLock and Britax Frontier did not have this issue. The Frontier, however, can be difficult to adjust to the tallest height setting due to the roof. Also, with the raised seat hump and slightly lower head restraint, taller passengers may not get adequate protection from whiplash in the center seat. Headroom is already limited, so taller people may not be comfortable in the middle anyway. On the other hand, Insight has a few inches more rear legroom than its competitors, handy not only for adults but also for rear-facing carseats.
The completely new ’19 Insight is in its first model year since the previous generation was retired in 2014. As such, all-new model quality and reliability issues may be a concern along with various other quibbles and omissions. For example, there is no available blind spot warning or rear cross-traffic alert system at all. The Honda LaneWatch camera helps, but only on the right side. The backup camera does have a very wide-angle mode that covers nearly 180 degrees, so at least you can see both ways down the sidewalk as you are backing. When you consider the fuel economy and safety you get on every single Insight on a dealer’s lot, many of these quibbles seem quite livable. Plus, the Insight is much nicer to drive compared to others in the segment and adds to its crash safety with superior braking, handling and visibility. Kudos to Honda for earning the highest safety ratings with features standard on even the lowest trim level of an economy hybrid sedan that gets an EPA rating of 55 mpg city. I managed just over 60 mpg around town but only around 50 mpg on highway trips in the slightly less efficient Touring trim. It’s not as efficient at highway speeds as a Toyota Prius or Hyundai Ioniq, in my experience, but similar fuel economy overall.
- IIHS Top Safety Pick+ in ALL Trim Levels
- NHTSA 5-stars overall & in ALL evaluations
- Handling, Braking & Acceleration good for class
- Good visibility and a wide-angle rear camera
- No crossover of seatbelts in back
- Headlight & fog light (Touring trim) coverage
- Smooth suspension with a comfortable ride
- Better than expected fuel economy so far
- Regenerative braking paddles are handy
- Better rear-seat legroom than others in class
- Nice sport sedan styling inside and out
- Reasonable trunk space for a compact sedan
- Relatively quiet cabin except during high throttle
- Decent premium sound system in Touring model
- Handy cell phone spot but no wireless charging
- LX and EX trims are impressive values for safety
- Narrow center rear seat limits car seat selection
- No Blind Spot Monitor or Rear Cross Traffic Alert
- LaneWatch doesn’t cover driver’s side blind spot
- Rear head restraints not adjustable or removable
- Low seats can be difficult to get in and out
- Highly contoured front seats can affect comfort
- Funky push button shifter, but you get used to it
- Small knobs, no tuning knob for audio system
- Power seats lack lumbar adjustment & memory
- Touring trim leather is perforated but still hot in summer; no ventilation option
- Inferior tire pressure monitoring system with no individual tire readings
- No USB ports in back seat. LX trim gets only a single feeble 1.0 Amp USB port in front
- Lacks sunglasses holder, heated steering wheel, light in glovebox
With great hybrid fuel economy, the 2019/2020 Honda Insight is ideal for any commuter, especially in city and suburban driving. In my opinion, it is a step above the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Ioniq not only for safety in all trim levels but also for acceleration, handling, braking, ride comfort and styling. For fitment of carseats it does present some challenges typical among hybrid compact cars. Overall, it is a very safe choice for a small family and for teen drivers as well. In the LX trim, Insight is a great value to keep your family both safe and environmentally sound. The nicely equipped EX trim adds LaneWatch, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, two higher power USB ports, a 60/40 split folding rear seat, remote start and more for just over $1000 extra. Despite some new model quibbles, the Insight earns a 2019 Editors’ Pick award from CarseatBlog for outstanding safety and performance in its class, standard on every trim level.
*The 2019 Tesla Model 3 earned similar safety ratings 3 months after this publication
Honda did not provide any compensation or a vehicle loan for the 2019 Honda Insight Touring used in this review. All opinions are my own.