What would be the best combination of solutions for someone on a budget who needs to drive a lot, but doesn't want to damage the environment in the process? The answer could come from Honda, one of the first companies to offer an alternative to the standard gasoline powered car or truck.
Honda's subcompact Civic has become a small sized staple among American car buyers. In a gas stingy hybrid version since 2002, it has become more planet friendly as well.
The Civic hybrid's smaller, in-line four cylinder engine, generating 110-HP, works as a single power-generating unit with the hybrid's small electric motor as an always-on driving combination. Energy from the friction of braking is captured and fed back to drive the electric motor. For 2007, Honda adds a bonus for going hybrid, with the announcement of federal tax credits of about $2,100 for the year when the hybrid Civic was purchased. (The natural gas-powered Civic GX sold in California and New York gets a $4,000 tax credit.)
A 2006 redesign added a svelter image, with sleeker, trendier look and a load of amenities including side curtain airbags.
It will cost more to buy a Civic hybrid initially, with the base price at $22,600, or $24,350 when outfitted with a navigation system and XM satellite radio. Both are well above the base Civic DX sedan's $15,010 price of admission. But the 49/51 miles per gallon for the hybrid trounces any other Civic on the lot. (All models add a $595 destination charge.)
If there's a downside to driving a hybrid version, it could be three-fold. The hybrid loses a little flexibility, with rear seating over the battery housing that doesn't flat for expanded cargo room. Since hybrids are relatively new technology, it's unclear how their value will hold up long term, especially at resale time. And long-range battery life on any hybrid is still uncertain. But for today's drivers who go into "deer in the headlights" mode every time gas prices jump 10 cents overnight, a Civic's greatest talent simply could be the peace of mind that comes from knowing it won't empty the wallet en route.