We recently had the chance to take the new Honda Civic Hybrid for a fall color tour through Michigan's brilliant October scenery. After driving a number of Honda hybrids and only achieving mileage slightly above the non-hybrid versions of the cars, we were honestly a little skeptical that this new Civic was anything more than a tip of the hat to hybrid technology. But we packed our gear and took off through the countryside to see how the Civic Hybrid performed in the country as well as in the city. Some hybrids such as the Toyota Prius are designed for start-stop city driving, while others like the Chevy Volt do much better over long distances at speed. Where does the Civic Hybrid fit in on the hybrid spectrum?
We were happy to discover that not only does the Civic Hybrid get good mileage at high and low speeds, but that it’s possible to beat the EPA estimated 44 miles per gallon fuel mileage rating without even trying. In fact, driving with the ECON button off made it even easier to cruise along at an average fuel economy of 48 miles per gallon without major adjustments in driving style. The ECON button maximizes the efficiency of the vehicle to theoretically improve gas mileage, but we found that it mostly reined in the power of the car in a way that simply required us to push the gas pedal down farther to get it to do what we needed it to do. So, ECON button happily turned off, we enjoyed the improved power and smoother acceleration.
Even 48 miles per gallon isn’t fantastic for a modern hybrid, especially considering that number can drop in cold weather and that the ordinary Civic already gets 31-39 mpg, but we found the Civic Hybrid to be a very comfortable middle of the road kind of hybrid–just what you would expect from Honda. The car has heated leather seats, digital HVAC controls, satellite radio with navigation, and a smooth ride. The only glitch came with braking. This hybrid doesn’t plug in, which means it recharges its battery from regenerative braking. Unfortunately we could really feel the system bearing down, even automatically slowing the car to nearly a stop as we cruised to stoplights with minimal pressure on the brakes. The system suddenly lets go at about 2 miles per hour, giving the driver a little lurch to compensate for as the car comes to a stop. This seems completely unnecessary as no other hybrid on the road has this awkward performance, including other Honda hybrids. Other than that, though, the Civic Hybrid was an extremely comfortable ride and could get more worthy fuel economy numbers if driven very carefully. Check out our gallery of photos from our test drive to learn more about the features and foibles of this upmarket little cruiser.