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Honda Insight EX Long-Term Verdict: What Kind of Fuel Economy Did We See After a Year?

As Prius-fighters go, this one is close to perfect

We put 20,378 miles on our 2019 Honda Insight in an eventful 377 days, a notable achievement given that the primary driver commutes less than 3 miles from home to work. This was very much a MotorTrend team effort that involved long commutes from Orange County to Los Angeles and back, and several road trips to the San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Nevada mountains, and high deserts of California.

Our Insight saw rain, snow, and lots of hot, congested California freeways. It moved an entire apartment in two trips, carted surfboards to and from Manhattan Beach on countless occasions, and even chauffeured Top Gear America host Jethro Bovingdon—and maybe a Shiba Inu named Matcha.

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Our Insight was always faithful and reliable, never complained or turned a wheel wrong. Was it perfect? No, but in the end there is a lot we loved and will definitely miss.

First is the cost of ownership. At approximately the 12,000 mile mark, we got pinged for the first (and only) oil change of our time with the car. That, a tire rotation, and a general vehicle inspection cost us exactly $96.05. This was the only expense outside of gas and car washes for the year.

We used 445.45 gallons of pricey California gas (approximately $4 per gallon) at a total cost of $1,797.34 to cover the 20,378 miles. That rounds to $0.09 per mile. Given that the Federal reimbursement rate for a car driven for business purposes is $0.58 per mile, we think this is pretty good, even if the Insight's real-world fuel economy proved to be disappointing.

The EPA estimates the 2019 Insight's fuel economy at 55/49/52 mpg city/highway/combined. In the real world we saw an average fuel economy of 46.1 mpg. A spot check of 10 of fill-ups (of the 64 total) in the logbook shows only one that broke the 50-mpg barrier. The rest hovered around the 46-47 mpg mark.

A quick cross check of Fuelly.com, a site that tracks owner-supplied fuel economy data, reveals that 228 owners of the 2019 Insight logged 2.4 million miles and 6,798 fuel-ups, for an average of 47.8 mpg at the time of this writing. That's in line with our finding but a full 4.2 mpg off the EPA's combined estimate, which was surprising.

Why? Because the Insight's fuel tank has a maximum capacity of 10.6 gallons, so normal fill-ups occurred around the 7-8-gallon mark. For that amount of fuel, we would regularly see trip meter readings of 350 miles or more. Fill-ups of less than 10 gallons and under $30 are rare in the MT fleet (especially with all the trucks and SUVs), so if you don't stop to do the math, the Insight feels like it's overdelivering on mpg and value.

Our Cosmic Blue Insight EX had an MSRP of $24,995. It came with no options aside from dealer-supplied all-season floormats ($159) and trunk tray ($115) for a total price of $25,229.

We specifically requested a cloth interior, out of nostalgia for the 1996 Honda Odyssey the Loh family still has (!) and to see how it would hold up over a year. The verdict? Pretty good. The ivory-colored synthetic cloth was comfortable to sit on, warm in the winter, and cool in summer. It was clearly treated with some sort of stain-resistant coating, but even so, it picked up a dark spot on the driver's seat cushion and in a couple places on the rear seats, thanks to the paws of Matcha. The driver's-side door handle, arguably the most-touched cloth in the car, also got a bit dingy over the year.

A few days before turning it back in, we attempted to remove these discolorations with a damp sponge and diluted Simple Green. All but the darkest spot on the driver's seat came out easily—and even the remaining spot left but a light discoloration. Would we order the cloth seating surfaces again? Sure, but if we intended to keep the vehicle for its entire life, leather would probably be the better option.

At the end of its time in the MotorTrend Garage, we're sad to see the Insight go. It's legitimately handsome as compact cars go, practically Brad Pitt to the Pee-Wee Herman Prius. Yes, the engine is thrashy with the gas pedal on the floor, but that's only for highway merging or uphill climbs. In stop-and-go city driving, the Insight excels. You need no more than the weight of your big toe on the throttle, if you're manually driving at all. We spent a surprising amount of time engaging the adaptive cruise control system, complete with lane keep assist, even for short drives around the city. This system was quick to engage, via three button pushes under the right thumb, and intuitive in use.

When we did drive, we found handling to be tidy, light, and even a bit sporty. Only on road trips longer than 5 or 6 hours did we find driving to be a chore, as the flattish seats made for sore backsides. There was a rattle in the dash that came and went (with properly filled tires), and a creak started to develop in the driver's seat back just as we handed in the car, so if you're shopping used, be mindful of those areas.

We got great use out of the 60/40 split folding rear seats and heavy-duty rubber mats (especially in the trunk) that proved great sand and seawater catchers. Surfboards up to 6-foot-2 could be transported if slid in diagonally—just watch the exposed metal loop on the folded seat back, brah.

In the end, the Insight proved to be good, not great, on gas, surprisingly capable, and even fun to drive, provided you have a light touch. If you can't stand the Prius, embrace the more handsome and equally value-laden Honda Insight.

Read more about our 2019 Honda Insight EX long-termer:

Our Car
SERVICE LIFE 12 mo / 20,378 mi
BASE PRICE $23,850
OPTIONS None
PRICE AS TESTED $25,390
AVG ECON/CO2 46.1 mpg / 0.42 lb/mi
PROBLEM AREAS None
MAINTENANCE COST $96.05 (oil change, tire rotation, inspection)
NORMAL-WEAR COST $0
3-YEAR RESIDUAL VALUE* $15,800 (62%)
RECALLS None
*IntelliChoice data; assumes 42,000 miles at the end of 3-years
2019 Honda Insight (EX)
POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS
DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD
ENGINE TYPE Atkinson cycle I-4, alum block/head, plus permanent-magnet AC-synchronous electric motor
VALVETRAIN DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
DISPLACEMENT 91.4 cu in/1,498 cc
COMPRESSION RATIO 13.5:1
POWER (SAE NET) 107 hp @ 6,000 rpm (gas), plus 129 hp (elec); 152 hp comb
TORQUE (SAE NET) 99 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm (gas), plus 197 lb-ft (elec)
REDLINE 6,600 rpm
WEIGHT TO POWER 19.7 lb/hp
TRANSMISSION 1-speed automatic
AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO 3.42:1/8.39:1 (elec), 2.75:1 (gas)
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar
STEERING RATIO 12.6:1
TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK 2.5
BRAKES, F; R 11.1-in vented disc; 10.2-in disc, ABS
WHEELS 7.0 x 16-in, cast aluminum
TIRES 215/55R16 93V (M+S) Michelin Energy Saver A/S
DIMENSIONS
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
TRACK, F/R 60.9/61.6 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 183.6 x 71.6 x 55.6 in
TURNING CIRCLE 35.7 ft
CURB WEIGHT 2,992 lb
WEIGHT DIST, F/R 61/39%
SEATING CAPACITY 5
HEADROOM, F/R 37.5/36.6 in
LEGROOM, F/R 42.3/37.4 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/R 56.9/55.0 in
CARGO VOLUME 14.7 cu ft
TEST DATA
ACCELERATION TO MPH 
0-30 2.6 sec
0-40 3.7
0-50 5.3
0-60 7.3
0-70 9.8
0-80 13.5
0-90 18.9
0-100
PASSING, 45-65 MPH 4.0
QUARTER MILE 15.8 sec @ 84.6 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 122 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.87 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.5 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH 6,900 rpm (electric motor)
CONSUMER INFO
BASE PRICE $23,850
PRICE AS TESTED $25,390
STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROL Yes/Yes
AIRBAGS 6: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain
BASIC WARRANTY 3 yrs/36,000 miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 5 yrs/60,000 miles (8 yrs/100,000 miles hybrid+battery systems)
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE 3 yrs/36,000 miles
FUEL CAPACITY 10.6 gal + 1.1-kWh Lithium-ion battery
REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB 61.5/52.7/57.2 mpg
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON 55/49/52 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 61/69 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.37 lb/mile
RECOMMENDED FUEL Unleaded regular
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