2019 Honda Insight—A 5,000-mile review

I live in my own little world

Jim and I traded in our 2017 cars (Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla) in July. He got a 2019 Honda Civic in cosmic blue (an awesome color) and I got a 2019 Honda Insight hybrid in black.

I have been out in the desert chasing trains for the last week, which means putting mileage on the car to get where the trains are. I passed the 5,000-mile mark on the Insight, so I thought it would be time for a review.

On a scale of 1 to 10, this car gets a 5.

On a scale of 5 stars, this car gets 2½ stars.

On a scale of 5 diamonds, 2½ diamonds.

2019 Honda Insight

This car has potential. I can see that, but Honda has some work to do. In my wise and unmatched wisdom, a car should not be this difficult to drive. It’s so difficult that it is almost dangerous.

In it’s defense, I believe something happened to the computer and/or software somewhere around the 2,300-mile mark. At 3,000 miles, I took it in for servicing, told them about the weird problems that had been occurring since 2,300 miles, and asked them to do a factory reset on the computer.

They claimed they did.

I don’t think so.

I have been working in and on computers since 1976, and never have I seen a factory reset that kept the customer’s custom settings. None of my custom settings were changed, which means that it was not a factory reset.

The first 2,300 miles were a pleasure to drive, even though I had some adjusting to do to understand how a hybrid works and how to drive it most efficiently.

EPA gas mileage rating is 55 in the city, 49 on the highway. At first that seemed weird since highway mileage always is more than city mileage since one is not wasting gas sitting at traffic lights. However, in the case of the hybrid, one can sit at traffic lights while in electric vehicle (EV) mode, so no gas is being used. Ergo, higher gas mileage in the city.

Once I understood that, it was very easy to get 50+ mileage in the city and 47+ on the highway. The best I ever did was 53.8 in the city and 49.1 on the highway. That was before the 2,300-mile mark (B2300).

Since then, I have never gotten better than 48.3 mpg in the city and 45.7 on the highway. Here are some other things that seem to have changed at the 2,300-mile mark (A2300):

    1. I live at the top of a hill. B2300, I could coast the mile down the hill in EV mode. A2300, it’s rare that I can back out of the garage in EV mode, much less coast down the hill, even if the battery charge is 50% or more.
    2. EV mode B2300 was always available with 3 bars on the battery charge gauge. A2300, it’s a 50/50 chance of being able to use EV mode with 3 bars on the battery charge gauge.
    3. The car B2300 was great at telling me when I could switch to EV mode, and it was consistent. A2300, it’s just plain weird. B2300, if I parked the car with 3 bars on the charge gauge, I would always be in EV mode when I started the car and started moving. A2300, hit or miss. No rhyme or reason. I hate inconsistency.
    4. B2300, I could always coast down a hill in EV mode. A2300, hit or miss again, even if the charge gauge says I have a full charge!
    5. Coasting down a hill B2300 always charged the battery. A2300, maybe yes, maybe no.
    6. B2300, I could not be in EV mode if hard acceleration requested. I grew up in the Muscle Car generation. I know what hard acceleration is, and Insight confirmed that B2300. A2300, I’m being kicked out of EV mode while coasting down a hill due to hard acceleration requested. Uh, no.
    7. B2300, I could not be in EV mode if engine too cold. A2300, I can have driven 500 miles, parked the car for a minute in EV mode while I reset Google Maps for my next destination, have a 50% charge on the battery, but can’t enter EV mode due to engine too cold. I don’t think so.
    8. B2300, I could not be in EV mode if cabin being heated. I was able to easily determine that cabin being heated was defined as turning the heat up to 71°F. Everything was fine at 70°F or lower. A2300, I have been able to be in EV mode with the heat set at 83°F. That’s cool, so to speak. However, A2300, I also have been kicked out of EV model due to cabin being heated but the heat was set at 66°F. Drat.
    9. B2300, I sometimes got the message EV mode not available. A most useless message. A2300, it got worse. I get the message while in cruise control, while coasting, while sitting at a traffic signal. Makes no sense whatsoever.
    10. B2300, I had great confidence in the computer’s estimate of mileage range. A2300, not so much. See #18 below.
    11. B2300, I had great confidence in the mileage. A2300, not so much. See #18 below.
    12. B2300, I had great confidence in the speed. A2300, not so much. See #18 below.
    13. B2300, I had great confidence in the miles per gallon. A2300, not so much. See #18 below.
    14. B2300, I could use EV mode while in cruise control. A2300, not necessarily.
    15. B2300, I has able to determine that EV mode was not available at speeds higher than 76 mph. A2300, I have used EV mode at 87 mph (this is California highway driving!) but at another time, at 43 mph, I was informed that EV model not available. Speed too high. WTF?
    16. B2300, hard braking, or even semi-hard braking, would recharge the battery, even if I was braking in EV mode. A2300, 90% of the time any kind of hard braking will cancel EV mode. Consequently, it’s more difficult to keep the battery charged when driving around the city, and much more difficult to get that 55 mpg EPA estimate!
    17. B2300, I had great confidence in the gas gauge. A2300, not so much. See #18 and #19 below.
    18. At 4,382 miles, the computer system crashed.
      I was driving home on the freeway, and even in stop-and-go rush-hour traffic, which is where EV mode really is useful on the highway, the speedometer always said I was doing 70 mph. I could not use EV mode in that stop-and-go traffic, which is where it’s really useful, even though I had about a 75% charge on the battery. Thus, I was using gas, but the range was stuck at 481 miles, even though I drove about 160 miles. I drove through my neighborhood at 5-10 mph but the speedometer still said I was doing 70 mph. I parked in the garage at 70 mph. Not sure how I got the car to stop in 450 feet at that speed….
      During this trip, the mpg was stuck on 43.1 mpg. Even if true, that’s poor mpg for a car rated at 49/55, and believe me, I’m a very conservative driver at my age, not like even 20 years ago when I had a 1998 Pontiac Trans Am with 308 HP.
      I was so angry at the vehicle that I simply put it in park, turned it off, and went inside. Didn’t even unload all my camera equipment and such. The next morning when I needed to go to the grocery store, everything seemed to be working again, at least in the A2300 mode. Still couldn’t coast down the hill like I did B2300.
    19. B2300, I found the range estimate to be quite accurate. A2300, not so much. The car holds at least 10.66 gallons of gas. I like to run my cars until there is very little gas left in the tank. That was difficult to do in the ’70s, and I did run out of gas a few times. Always had 5 gallons in the trunk, though. In today’s world, with computers telling us the mpg and the estimated range remaining, it’s pretty easy. In one instance I had 8 miles range left. That was the time that I put 10.66 gallons of gas in the car. Recently, A2300, I had 7 miles range left. I was only able to put 8.791 gallons of gas in the car. Hmmmm. Something’s not right.

I have to take my eyes off the road way too often and too much to check to see if I can switch to EV mode. If I can’t, I have to read the message to see what I am doing wrong. The EV mode button is in the middle console, next to the Economy mode button and the Sport mode button.

However, the positioning of the three buttons is all wrong. The button that one uses the most should be the closest to the driver. In this case, it’s Economy button, Sport button, and EV button. The Economy button needs to be pushed only once to be in Economy mode all the time. The Sport button needs to be pushed only once to be in Sport mode.

If one enters Sport mode, one has to push the Sport button again to exit Sport mode and then has to push the Economy button to get back in Economy mode. I can handle that, since I’m rarely out of Economy mode and rarely in Sport mode. The EV button, however, needs to be pushed so many times during a simple 5-mile trip that it should be closest to me, perhaps even with a button on the steering wheel instead of some of the other non-needed controls located there.

I find it interesting that the car B2300 was so smart that it could tell me everything about itself and was super duper at disengaging from EV mode when things weren’t right. Since I’m somewhat conversant in computers and computer software—I know what can be done, especially since we’re on the verge of artificial intelligence—it seems to me that this car would be much safer if the software engineers would program the car to be smart enough to switch to EV mode whenever possible, leaving me to pay attention to what’s happening on the highways and streets….

I don’t know if other hybrids have these idiosyncracies, but the next time Honda sends me a letter telling me WE NEED YOUR USED CAR! I think I’m going to take them up on it and at least check out the newest version of the Insight.

Meanwhile, though, I am quite addicted to the hybrid lifestyle, notwithstanding all the inconsistencies and problems, that I think I shall check out other companies’ hybrids and see what they are like.

If you have an insight (pun intended) into other hybrids, please let me know in a comment. As an aside, I definitely am not interested in an electric vehicle at this point. Since I do a lot of driving out in the southwestern deserts, I need the 550-mile range that this Insight gives me without needing to plug it in somewhere.

8 thoughts on “2019 Honda Insight—A 5,000-mile review

  1. TamrahJo

    No insights here on Insights or hybrid ownership but suspect the dealer chose “stubborn ole mule/ass” reset instead of just restoring to last transportation model of “model and year factory reset” but I could be wrong. Lol

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. TamrahJo

    #500 – long ago, u could reset the computer yourself by disconnecting the battery cables for 24 hours or so. I am told there are now hand held devices to accomplish the same on modern vehicles but such things usually bend sprain or break and warranty options. 🙃

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
      1. TamrahJo

        Hmm “may cause memory loss”. Absolute pits to have a stubborn e mule with dementia….. that said when I was told to do so after buying a used car and so the run through (oil plugs belts brake shoes filters) it ran like crap until the reset. But it was a 1982 Toyota. The other one that seemed to work on was a 1986 laser though i think it required hook up at dealers to be righted completely. Heres hoping a simple hook up at dealer main frame will set it to rights and not indicative of 5000 miles being the new extended warranty 🙂

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