If at first you don’t succeed. ...

Honda will introduce an all-new, third-generation Insight hybrid at the Detroit Auto Show — and it’s a long way from the Gen-1 and Gen-2 green geek-mobiles that showed up at the car prom from 1999 to 2014. The stylish, 2019 Insight features a roomy, Civic-based chassis, available leather interior, and 50 mpg-plus fuel efficiency.

“The new 2019 Honda Insight signals we are entering a new era of electrification without the traditional trade-offs in design, premium features or packaging,” said Honda America boss Henio Arcangeli, Jr., in a not unsubtle swipe at previous Insight wallflowers.

Arcangeli says the Insight is part of a wave of battery-powered vehicles that will make up two-thirds of Honda’s product lineup by 2030. Based on the nimble, award-winning Civic platform, the Insight echoes Honda’s new mantra that it will make “great cars that happened to be electrified.”

The first Insight, introduced for the 1999 model year, was a cramped soap bar with distinctive wheel-well covers for better aerodynamics. When green rival Toyota Prius thumped Honda’s hybrid at the box office, Insight was re-introduced in 2009 as a Prius lookalike. Despite its affordable, under-$25k sticker, it too failed to gain traction.

So determined is Honda to erase past Insight memories that it borrows its design cues not from the boyish Civic with its boomerang taillights, but from the more sophisticated, mid-size Honda Accord. The taillights are traditional, the front end etched with elegant chrome instead of the black plastic mascara that cakes Insight’s youthful Civic cousins.

The hybrid’s upscale pretensions are more than skin deep. An Audi-like, upright, infotainment tablet — echoing Accord — dominates the dash. Honda says the new sedan will achieve class-leading interior room. Better to enjoy the Honda’s suite of amenities which include customizable, touchscreen app tiles and home-screen shortcuts, smartphone app connectivity, and a suite of standard safety systems including lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.

The Insight will be powered by a 1.5-liter inline-4 cylinder with lithium ion-battery assist. It will be outfitted at Honda’s Indiana manufacturing facility, alongside Civic. Arriving on dealer lots in late 2018, the hybrid will join the rest of Honda’s electrified lineup: the Clarity series (Clarity Fuel Cell, Clarity Electric and Clarity Plug-in Hybrid) and Accord Hybrid.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-1 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

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