Try and try until you succeed. After not achieving the expected success with the first and second generation of the Honda Insight hybrid, the Japanese carmaker will once again try to resurrect the nameplate associated with its hybrid technology. But before the third generation of the hybrid vehicle is released for the 2019 model year, a prototype version is getting unveiled early next year at Detroit.
The Japan-based company will be unveiling the new Honda Insight Prototype to the global public on January 15 at the 2018 North American International Auto Show (Detroit Auto Show). According to Honda, the prototype version will be the forerunner to the all-new 2019 Honda Insight. Essentially the prototype provides a glimpse into the final production version of the next-gen Honda Insight, although it is expected that there will be a number of differences between the two models.
When launched, the 2019 model will be latest of the three generations of the Honda Insight, although all of these iterations are different cars. Nonetheless, all of them are hybrid vehicles; with the first two Insight generations employing Honda's hybrid car technology, Integrated Motor Assist (IMA). Honda introduced the first generation of the Honda Insight in 1999 for the 2000 model year. This is the first Honda model to employ the IMA system and is the first hybrid vehicle in the United States. It was one of the most efficient gasoline-powered vehicles – as certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – a distinction made possible by its hybrid system, its lightweight aluminum structure and its optimized aerodynamics.
However, the reception of the first-gen Honda Insight wasn’t as the carmaker expected. Honda had predicted to sell 6,500 units of the Insight every year, but the actual numbers were way below that figure. This was seen as the main reason to stop production of the first-gen Insight in 2006. In total, Honda only sold more than 17,000 units globally and cumulatively.
Honda revived the Insight nameplate in 2009 for the 2010 model year. This time, the second generation of the Insight was a five-passenger, five-door hatchback that was longer and higher than the previous generation, but still employs the IMA hybrid system. This meant more space and higher levels of utility compared to the first-gen Insight. Honda planned for the Insight to be a more popular and less expensive hybrid alternative to the Prius. However, the price gap between the Insight and Prius wasn’t that significant and Toyota’s hybrid offering is churning out much better fuel efficiency numbers. As a result, Honda axed the second-gen Insight after the 2014 model year.
Now, Honda is digging the Insight nameplate from the grave and is reviving the hybrid model as an upscale, stylish five-passenger sedan positioned just above the Civic in its passenger car lineup. Unlike the first two generations of the Insight, the third generation will not employ the IMA system. This is primarily because the IMA system, while compact and efficient, doesn’t offer a pure electric mode. Instead, the next-gen Insight will use the latest generation of Honda's two-motor hybrid system. In the Honda Accord Hybrid, this new hybrid drive allows for all-electric and hybrid modes as well as a mode that employs engine power to move the wheels – all done without a transmission.
The Japanese carmaker intends to commence sales of the 2019 Honda Insight in the summer of 2018, with production to be done at Honda's assembly site in Greensburg, Indiana.