Just a few years ago if you wanted a fuel efficient vehicle, you had to make some performance sacrifices with a downsized engine or hybrid powertrain. Now, new technologies are making it possible to get great gas mileage without the need for an electric motor, lithium-ion batteries or other costly parts. Honda is proving this with the introduction of the all-new 2016 Honda Civic, which is now so fuel efficient that Honda doesn’t even need to continue making a hybrid version.
A few years ago, models like the Toyota Prius made waves when gas prices skyrocketed by getting anywhere from 45 mpg to 55 mpg. At that time it seemed that the gasoline combustion engine’s days were numbered, but fast forward to today, and you can see evidence of traditional combustion engines making attempts at competing with non-gas technology. Proof in point: the 2016 Civic is now one of the most fuel efficient compact sedans you can buy, even without the assistance of an electric motor, and it has been nominated as one of the finalists for this year’s Green Car of the Year award.
Now in its tenth-generation, the Civic has always been popular for being a fuel efficient, reliable and fun to drive compact sedan. Back in the 1980’s some Civics even got in the high 40-50 mpg range way before the world even knew what a Prius or Honda Insight was. As the years passed Honda continued to look for ways to make the Civic fuel efficient, which saw the introduction of the Civic Hybrid in the early 2000’s. Three generations after the first Civic Hybrid was introduced, Honda has now decided to do away with the complex hybrid powertrain and in its place, we now have the Civic Turbo, which packs a lot more power and fun than the outgoing hybrid powertrain and at the same time gets a very hybrid like 42 mpg on the highway. The Civic Turbo’s fuel efficiency isn’t has high as the outgoing Civic Hybrid, but at 42 mpg it is higher than the compact Lexus CT hybrid gets on the highway.
Almost every automaker has seen the gains that can be achieved with downsized turbocharged engines and now Honda has introduced its first turbocharged engine in the 2016 Civic. It’s a small engine at only 1.5 liters, but with 174 horsepower and 162 lb-ft. of torque on tap, the small engine packs quite a punch. During my time with it, it was a blast to drive around the back country roads of New York and Connecticut. Most buyers, including myself have stayed away from hybrids because of the performance compromise that you have to make for the sake of saving a fuel bucks at the pump. But the Civic Turbo now proves that you can have both, great fuel efficiency and even a bit of fun when you want it. During our short drive we did notice that the real time mpg was in the high 30 – low 40 mpg, even when we pushed it hard on some of the back roads around Connecticut. Those numbers are even higher than a Sonata Hybrid that I recently spent time with.
Does the departure of the Civic Hybrid mean that Honda has given up on electric and hybrid models? Thankfully no. Honda has already confirmed plans to introduce a new fully electric vehicle, which will be great for fans that miss the Fit EV. Also Honda is working on a new hybrid powertrain and if Honda can get this kind of gas mileage out of a standard four-cylinder engine, the next-generation hybrid powertrain should be a show stopper.
All images © Marc Carter for Inhabitat and Honda