2019 Honda Insight official: 55mpg premium hybrid

Honda has taken the wraps off its latest hybrid, the 2019 Honda Insight, having teased the upscale gas-sipper in concept form last year. Making its official debut at the New York International Auto Show 2018 this coming week, the new 2019 Insight slots in between the Civic and Accord, and uses Honda's third-generation hybrid gas-electric drivetrain.

That, dubbed the two-motor hybrid system, has – unsurprisingly – two motors to keep size and weight down. The gas motor is a 1.5-liter Atkinson cycle engine, selected for its high efficiency. It's paired with an electric propulsion motor, and a lithium ion battery pack with 60 cells. The gas engine acts as a generator most of the time, either supplying electricity directly to the propulsion motor or to the battery for later use.

Total hoseepower from the system is 151 HP, along with 197 lb-ft of torque. Honda has three driving modes that Insight owners will be able to choose between: Normal, Econ, and Sport. Controls on the steering wheel, meanwhile, switch between three levels of regenerative braking: depending on which you have it set to, the car will slow by differing amounts when you lift your foot off the accelerator (but without hitting the brakes).

The goal isn't really pure-electric driving, mind. In Normal mode, for instance, Honda says that the Insight will only drive for around a mile on electric power alone. However, what the architecture does open the door to is highly efficient hybrid operation. For example, since there's no automatic transmission, the electric propulsion motor can directly power the drive axles. At higher speeds, a lock-up clutch can connect the engine to the drive axles for the most efficient mode.

Honda certainly hasn't been stinting on electrification lately, with five such new models announced over the past year, and the 2019 Insight slots into a fairly crowded range of EVs and hybrids. It's larger than the Civic, but smaller than the Accord Hybrid. It'll be a premium compact, Honda says, so smaller too than the Clarity range. Of course, what we really want to know is just how frugal it can be: so far, all Honda is saying is that its own testing saw up to 55 mpg on the city driving cycle.

Outside, there are hints of all three siblings. The sizable "flying wing" grille Honda has been using in recent models is flanked by low-profile LED headlamps; there are matching LED taillights on the rear. The wheelbase is 106.3 inches, and there's a 15.1 cu-ft trunk and 37.4 inch rear legroom. Since Honda puts the li-ion batteries under the rear seats, they can still have folding backs; the EX and Touring trims of the car have a 60/40 split there, too.

As for the front seats, they sit in front of a new dashboard with a 7-inch digital driver display, and an optional 8-inch Display Audio touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Heated and leather-finished seats are optional. Base spec cars get a lesser infotainment system, but the Insight EX adds in the better version along with SiriusXM and Smart Entry.

2019 Insight Touring cars get 17-inch alloy wheels, a power moonroof, LED fog lamps and rain-sensing wipers, power front seats, and dual-zone climate control. They also have a 4G LTE radio with WiFi for mobile hotspot use, navigation, and leather seats.

Honda Sensing is fitted as standard, with adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, and lane departure warnings and assistance. They also get forward collision warnings, collision mitigation braking, and road departure mitigation. Insight EX and Touring cars throw in Honda LaneWatch.

The 2019 Honda Insight is expected to show up at dealerships in the early summer this year. Pricing will be announced closer to that point.