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If you are in the market for a fuel-efficient yet fun vehicle, you might want to look into Honda's sedans. The 2021 Honda Civic is their smalls sedan, and the 2021 Honda Insight is a hybrid-only sedan. So, as you might expect, these two vehicles offer different things. But each, at its core, is absolutely a Honda vehicle. And that is definitely not a bad thing to be by any stretch of the imagination.
New for 2021 on the Honda Civic is the dropping of both the Si trim level and the Coupe body style. The Si will be rejoining the line-up in 2022 for the much-anticipated debut release of the Civic's 11th generation. So if you are dead-set on getting the Si, you will need to wait until the 2022 line-up rolls out. However, you can get the uniquely decal-ed Type R Limited Edition this year, which comes with special wheels and tires and a more aerodynamic, lightweight design. The steering and suspension are tweaked for a sportier performance than the typical Civic.
The Civic has a lot of good things going for it even though it is in its last year of the current generation. The turbocharged engine is one of the best you can get in terms of a balance between fuel economy and a spunky performance. The base 2.0-L engine is nothing too terrible to drive on, but the turbo 1.5-L 4-cylinder offers up 174 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque, making it a nice - and justifiable - upgrade. And that is not to mention the way that the ride quality balances out athleticism and comfort. In addition to that, you get a roomy cabin that is decked out in high quality materials and a plethora of standard infotainment and safety features.
On the downside, though, the Civic has some issues with its advanced driver aids. The blind spot camera is not as user-friendly as your average blind spot monitoring system, and adaptive cruise control is slow to respond. On top of that, the forward collision warning is a little too vigilant and offers too many false warnings. With some tweaks, Honda could smooth these issues out, but they are noticeable.
So, how does the 2021 Honda Insight stack up against the Civic? New for 2021 are blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert on the EX and Touring trim levels, as well as more standard features for the Touring (such as dual-zone climate control, leather upholstered seats, and built-in navigation). The Insight offers some remarkably high fuel economy numbers, getting you somewhere around 50 miles per gallon combined. And, for being a hybrid, it has snappy acceleration that gives it an edge over much of the competition. Its spacious and refined interior speaks to Honda's high standards for design.
The only real drawback we can think of is that the Insight's gas engine can sound coarse at times. That is mostly when you put the vehicle into full throttle. Around town, expect it to be quiet, just like the Civic.
Size and Styling
In its sedan format, the 2021 Honda Civic looks similar to the Insight. Since the Coupe body style is gone from the line-up, the Civic now comes as either a sedan, hatchback (the Type R), and the performance-oriented Si. You do get a few different engine options to choose from, and they are based on which trim level you decide to buy. They can be equipped on any of the given body styles.
The Insight is a little more straightforward, offering just one body style - a sedan. It is a four-door that, size-wise, slides right in between the smaller Civic and larger Accord. So it occupies this odd space in Honda's line-up that somehow makes total sense.
Honda delivers on powerful yet fuel efficient engines, both on the Civic and Insight. The 2021 Honda Civic starts you off with a 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine on the LX and Sport trim levels. This engine generates a power output of 158 hp and 138 lb-ft of torque and is paired up with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). That CVT directs power to the front wheels. On the higher trim levels, you can get the turbo 1.5-L 4-cylinder engine, which ups the power output to 174 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. This also comes with the CVT and front-wheel drive.
If you go for the optional 1.5-L turbo engine, you get some snappy acceleration but do not lose out on an excellent fuel economy. Making the jump up to the EX trim level for it is one that is easy to justify given how strong this engine performs. In fact, it only needs about 6.7 seconds to get from 0 to 60 miles per hour. With an easily modulated brake pedal, capable handling, and well-weighted steering, the Honda Civic is an all-around enjoyable daily driver. You can have fun rounding through turns and speeding up on the highway.
If you go above the LX trim level, you get a slew of standard infotainment features, including smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 7-inch touchscreen display gives a readout of the graphics but is a touch outdated and somewhat slow to respond to inputs. If you upgrade to the Touring trim level, you get treated to a sharp-sounding 10-speaker premium sound system and user-friendly built-in navigation system.
The Civic is designed with utility in mind. Its 15.1 cubic feet of cargo space is one of the most generous numbers in the segment. Even though the rear seats do not fold down flat all the way, you still get enough space to pass some bulkier objects through. The center stack's two-tiered cubby hole system is helpful for stashing smaller items, and there are plenty of well-sized bins throughout the vehicle.
The 2021 Honda Insight is not a big vehicle by any means, but its space is cleverly utilized. Head room is a bit tight in the rear for taller folks, but up front, you get plenty of space overall. Overall, the Insight's cabin is well designed and oriented for functionality. The controls are appropriately sized and labeled. There are some blind spots on the sides that are sizable, so getting the blind spot camera can help.
The infotainment system itself is responsive and simple to use. Integrating your smartphone takes hardly any time, and you get a lot of shortcut buttons on the left side of the touchscreen.
The deep cargo area is 15 cubic feet in size, just about the same as the Civic. Pull a trunk-located level to release the 60/40-split folding rear seats if you need to use the pass-through space for bulkier items. Just do not expect the seats to fold down flat.
Comfort, Options, and Performance
If you know anything about Honda's mid-size Accord sedan, then you will notice how similar these two vehicles are in terms of design and comfort. The Civic is essentially a smaller version of the Accord. Its suspension is damped perfectly for absorbing all kinds of shocks, so nothing will cause vibrations within the cabin. The ride quality is compliant and smooth without getting too floaty. The dual-zone automatic climate control system works especially well at keeping the cabin at just the right temperature, evenly distributing air flow to the front and rear rows. The only qualm to be made is that a little bit of road noise makes its way in at higher rates of speed, but it is nothing intrusive.
The Civic might look small from the outside, but inside, it feels pleasantly spacious. Both front seats offer plenty of room, and the rear seats are also quite generous. The sloping roofline cuts down on head room, but this is only a problem if you are taller than 6 feet. The rear doors have wide openings, which makes entering and exiting fairly easy to average-sized adults and kids. Up front, controls are thoughtfully laid out along the dash and are clearly labeled for guesswork-free use. Drivers can find comfy seating positions with ease due to the adjustable driver's seat and tilting and telescoping steering wheel. The view out of the rear and side is clear enough.
The 2021 Honda Insight is equipped with a hybrid powertrain. This powertrain consists of a gas-powered 1.5-L 4-cylinder that serves as the primary source of power supply. Supporting it are the hybrid components: electric motors and a battery pack. On the highway, the gas-powered engine will take over for the hybrid parts, which dominate around town. Front-wheel drive is standard, and you get a combined 151 horsepower from this powertrain.
The Insight is a little more conservative in terms of its performance but it is, after all, a hybrid sedan. Still, for this segment, it is somewhat spirited. The electric motor generates enough torque around town, and you can get up to 60 miles per hour in just about 8.1 seconds. When applying the brakes from 60 mph for a panic stop, the Insight gets there in 123 feet, and the brakes are easy to modulate. The pedal does get a little disconnected in how it feels during hard braking though.
As far as comfort goes, the Insight is very much a Honda. The seats are well padded for comfort, although having adjustable lumbar support on the driver's seat would be nice. The Insight does get a little bumpy while going over uneven pavement, but the suspension immediately dispatches any single bump the wheels incur. As is the case with the Civic, the Insight's climate control system is excellent at maintaining a good air flow throughout the cabin. The Insight is a bit noisier than the Civic since the gas engine sometimes idles loudly and vibrates when the battery needs to be charged. Wind noise does get muted well, but road noise comes in at higher speeds.
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Honda equips all of its vehicles with Honda EyeSight, a bundle of standard advanced driver aids. This means that both the Civic and the Insight have it. Forward collision mitigation issues a warning when it detects a potential upcoming frontal crash and, in some situations, will apply the brakes for you in order to prevent it from happening. Adaptive cruise controls sets and adjusts to maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of your Honda. Lane departure mitigation will gently steer the Honda back into its intended driving lane if the system detects the vehicle straying over the line. Upgrading can get you a blind spot camera and dynamic guidelines for the rear-view camera.
Which Model to Choose?
While the 2021 Honda Civic and Honda Insight are both viable options, we tend to prefer the time-honored Civic. Even though it is just shy of kickstarting the next generation, Honda makes the 2021 Civic as jam-packed as possible with all sorts of handy features. It also gives you a great fuel economy from a gas-powered engine that shows a ton of spunk.