2012 Honda Civic Hybrid Sedan Road Test Review
by Martha Hindes
2012 Green Car Buyer's Guide - Top 10 Picks
If there's safety in numbers, Honda's compact Civic auto must certainly represent the feeling. Case in point: One Midwestern apartment complex recently had no fewer than five in various neutral shades lined up in a row in the parking lot. Add to that Honda's redone 2012 Civic Hybrid sedan, and the chances of that row of autos expanding grows exponentially.
Many of those parking lot Civics were owned by health care workers, one group that Honda cites as gravitating to the Civic for its reputation for dependability, economy and long-term value. Others include business professionals, educators, environmentalists and -- yes -- driving enthusiasts. Think fun, not funky. For despite its sometimes vilified understated demeanor, the Civic Hybrid hides a wealth of technical prowess under its skin.
As originator of the Insight, the first -- now exiting -- and highly recognizable, jellybean-shaped production hybrid to hit U.S. roadways in the 1990s in numbers great enough to count, Honda knows something about building a combined gasoline-electric powered auto. Transition to 2012 and the newest, refreshed Civic hybrid gains some significant technical advances, including a switch to a lighter weight lithion-ion battery pack and improved powertrain.
The guts of this next generation "ultimate economy" (quoting Honda) hybrid is Honda's larger 1.5-liter i-VTEC SOHC inline four engine that produces 110 horsepower. That's when combined with the current, larger electric motor responsible for 23 of that horsepower. Honda cites across-the-board EPA fuel economy numbers at an impressive 44/44/44, its best ever performance.
And it's not hard to understand why. During a test of the Civic Hybrid on a chilly Northern fall day, it offered exactly what was needed to pump out the most efficient performance without compromise. The Civic is truly a small
auto, and benefits from drive-by-wire and size constraints that keep weight and bulk to a minimum, handling and performance to its max. The sterling, typical Civic performance offered virtually no perception of the hybrid system underneath beyond quiet stops where the engine briefly shut down to save energy. A smooth, continuously variable transmission lets the system squeeze out every ounce of available energy into driving power that always combines engine and electric motor.
The Civic, which lives in more budget-priced hybrid territory than some competitors ($24,050 base, pre-destination, but with two upgrade versions available), doesn't pretend to offer splashy amenities in that equation. The simple and functional interior of my test model was a subdued light gray without the abundance of upmarket electronics that can boost a hybrid into essentially pricey "high bred" territory. A wide eyebrow over the gauges behind the steering wheel kept glare and sunlight from interfering with a readout of important information, such as driving performance especially in ECON mode, shown in little plant sprout icons. Trunk room, as expected, was compromised by the necessary battery pack.
If one takes a leap of faith by buying a hybrid auto, the Honda Civic Hybrid would be a good place to start. It has to be nice to know all those previous generations of hybrid family history offer a pretty secure safety blanket in the process.
For more information on the Honda Civic Hybrid Sedan,