New 2019 Honda Insight combines hybrid MPG with sleek looks

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Honda is bringing back the hybrid Insight for a third time in an effort to compete with Toyota's mighty Prius. (KABC)

Is the "third time the charm"? Maybe, for the Honda Insight. The third time as a new hybrid model.

That name might sound familiar. Honda brought the first Insight to market back in 1999 as a 2000 model, when most people had never heard the term hybrid car. The small two-seater's MPG numbers were downright amazing, but its small size and lack of a back seat limited its appeal.

So Honda went back to the drawing board in 2010, for a new kind of Insight. Much larger than the original Insight, it looked vaguely like the Toyota Prius due to an ideal aerodynamic shape.

But it just couldn't touch the hot-selling Toyota model in terms of volume, and it quietly went away in 2014.

Now, there's an all-new 2019 Honda Insight, a clean-sheet design. The first thing you might notice about it is that it looks really normal, a first, as the name had been associated with somewhat odd designs for so long.

The new stylish shape definitely resembles Honda's Accord and Civic sedans. So it doesn't look like a quirky hybrid, but it puts up hybrid numbers for sure. It offers 52 MPG combined for the LX and EX models, which is the same figure as the Toyota Prius. The upscale Touring model loses a few miles per gallon due to extra weight and different tires.

Honda decided to not only go for a high level of fuel efficiency with the Insight, but a high level of safety. The standard Honda Sensing suite of assist technology will help you avoid trouble while driving, by helping you stay in your lane and avoid a collision.

The efficient 1.5-liter four cylinder engine doesn't necessarily move the car, but it makes electricity to move the car, by generating power. You can glide along on stored battery power for short bursts, then the engine kicks in when needed. At full throttle, the engine engages directly and combines with the electric motor to provide quick acceleration.

The system works really well. In several days of very normal driving - with the air conditioning going all the time during our recent heat wave - I managed to get around 45 miles per gallon out of the Touring model. That was pretty close to the Touring's official EPA rating of 48 MPG combined.

The new Insight gets great mileage, and yet it doesn't look "weird." That could be the magic formula to lure buyers. And this could finally be the Insight that makes a dent in sales of the mighty Toyota Prius.
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