Honda Civic Hybrid Review & Road Test

Rating: 7.0
$19,250 Mrlp
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Discretion is the better part of valour

Model Tested:

  • 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid; 1.3-litre, four-cylinder, petrol-electric hybrid; continuously variable automatic; sedan - $35,990*

Options (As Fitted):

  • Metallic Paint $475 (Neutron Blue)

CarAdvice Rating:

When you drive a hybrid car then like it or not you automatically assume the position of poster boy for green motoring fanaticism, a rolling billboard if you will, on show for all the world to see.

So, what if you don't want that well-meaning environmental sentiment you harbour to be do too ostentatious? What if instead you'd prefer to "do your bit" without standing out like the proverbial sore thumb?

If this sounds like you then chances are a Honda Civic Hybrid may fit the bill, for as well as being a reputable vehicle with strong green credentials, it will see you driving your way toward saving the world while simultaneously maintaining your sense of dignity.

Civic Hybrid sits proudly atop Honda's small sedan range not only in terms of environmental esteem, but all important price as well, and although this may seem an illogical argument to those with a fervent zeal toward saving the planet, it's worth keeping in mind that $35,990 is a heck of a lot of Chai lattes.

At a glance the hybrid variant is virtually identical to its conventionally powered counterpart, excluding of course those coin-like alloy wheels (which are designed to help protect the regenerative braking system from road debris) and discreet hybrid badge, which on the plus side mean fewer looks from those not yet converted to the lighter side of motoring.

The cabin is, with a few small exceptions, typical to that of any other car on the road and offers a light decor - thanks primarily to the extensive use of beige - to elevate the ambiance of your surrounds so that you might better enjoy the comfortable seating, decent stereo, excellent visibility and diligent single-zone climate control.

The Civic's trademark two-tier instrument panel and abundant offering of lidded storage compartments make the car both ergonomically and practically sensible, while from a driver's standpoint, the pilot position is both relaxed and supportive to offer even the tallest tree-hugger a driving experience that's mellow, informative and accommodating.

So as to not completely isolate the concerned environmentalist from the car's hybridity the instrumentation system is enabled with diagnostics orientated toward keeping you abreast of such critical concerns as peak fuel economy, battery charge levels or as to whether the petrol engine has taken a nap at the lights - a technology that's remarkably seamless I might add.

It's a somewhat novel, if not redundant array of measures, but I suppose it's a separation point from those petrol powered underlings.

And of that all important motivator that propels all this green goodness from one place to another you'll find that, much like the car itself, the power on offer from the petrol-electric offering is ubiquitously ample, admirably adequate and altogether acceptable managing to keep pace with quick flowing urban traffic or even that of the open highway whilst also achieving fuel economy figures on par with that of current turbo-diesels, albeit with fewer CO2 emissions.

In driving the front wheels Honda's Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic is undeniably smooth and manages a steady performance in maintaining that ideal blend of economy and readiness beneath your right foot.

The ride on offer is as equally smooth and compliant though does see a lessened ability in terms of handling with the hybrid's additional weight - and moreover the weight's high placement - seeing the Civic Hybrid carry a lot more lateral inertia through corners than its petrol-powered sibling.

This fact, coupled to steering that is far too lightly weighted about centre, can see Civic Hybrid perform a little nervously on the open road and will unsteady your line through corners if you're in any way overly ambitious, though I'm sure there aren't too many potential hyrbid buyers willing to partake in such wanton anti-green enthusiasm.

One small peculiarity you will however notice is an inconsistent brake pedal feel due primarily to KERS (or kinetic energy recovery system) sucking some of your braking energy to recharge the battery and secondly from the loss of vacuum pressure as the engine switches off just prior to stopping (about 15km/h) - worth remembering in close quarter stop-start traffic.

But in the spirit of driving the car as it's intended the Civic Hybrid is indeed a pleasure and combined with a peaceful cabin (68dB @ 100km/h) on the open road makes it an easy car to live with.

Up the back Civic Hybrid loses some of the practicality offered of the standard sedan in omitting the 60:40 split fold rear seat, a move necessary to facilitate the placement of the car's rather large NmCH battery, which leaves a respectable 360 litres of cargo space (standard Civic offers 376 litres).

Four-star safety comes compliments of dual front, side and curtain airbags, electronic stability control with traction control, as well as four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock braking, brake force distribution and emergency brake assist.

In keeping the price down Civic Hybrid does come sans a few items you'd almost expect as standard in a car of this price with leather upholstery, rain sensing wipers, auto headlamps, Bluetooth connectivity, auto dimming mirror and parking sensors not to be found in the standard feature list, though you may include some of these as dealer fit accessories.

Despite my inherent sarcasm towards hybrid motoring I will admit the Civic Hybrid is a laudable effort to the cause, for not only offering a touch of normality to the push for greener motoring, but for maintaining its common sense along the way.

It's a great car for what it is and is just as easy to live with day-to-day as a regular Civic, though perhaps just not as sharp in character.


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