Honda’s Civic Hybrid was treated to a small nip and tuck earlier in the year. Ian Robertson puts it to the test
If you were expecting to see a report on a funky, space-age styled hatchback, with a hybrid powertrain, you’re going to be disappointed. Regrettably, Honda’s petrol-electric hybrid Civic comes in four-door saloon, booted guise, rather than wearing the clothes of its slipperier sister. And instead of being built in the UK factory in Swindon, it is imported into the UK, utilising the same sedan body that equips Japanese and American specification saloon versions.
The Civic Hybrid has been on sale since 2006 in its current form, powered by a 1,339cc engine, developing 94bhp and coupled to a 20bhp electric motor. Earlier this year, Honda treated the Hybrid to a sportier front bumper with fog lights, together with new headlights and a redesigned grille. Inside, there are better quality fabrics, and on the outside, new exterior colours. Fresh rear lights and a different design of alloy wheel complete the new look. Despite the exterior of the Civic looking quite sober, the interior is rather different. The dashboard design is pretty funky, with bold digital instruments that dominate the binnacle. It’s a shame that the inside hasn’t been treated to soft-touch plastics, as this would lift the perception of quality enormously. As it is, it feels plasticky with all of the surfaces hard to the touch. The leather seats fitted to the test car were comfortable, if lacking a little in lateral support. There’s plenty of adjustment from both the seats and steering column, though, to aid the driver in getting a comfortable driving position. Interior space is generous for the size of the car, with plenty of leg and headroom, both front and rear. At 350 litres, the boot could be larger, as it trails behind most of its saloon rivals. A hatchback alternative would offer greater levels of versatility.
As with most Hybrid vehicles, the Civic comes equipped with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and this is one of the Civics weak points. In normal town driving, the combination of engine and transmission is a quiet and refined one, but drive with any real spirit or verve, and the gearbox becomes out of its depth. The revs rise, and this results in above average levels of noise from the engine. The petrol engine is aided by the electric motor during acceleration to reduce fuel consumption. In addition, at idle – for instance when in traffic – the electric motor runs on its own, producing zero emissions. The battery itself is charged up by way of regenerative braking, and therefore never needs to be recharged by plugging it in to an electric source. By using a combination of the two power sources, the Civic Hybrid is capable of achieving 61.4mpg on the combined cycle, while producing CO2 emissions of just 109g/km.
At £20,450, the Civic Hybrid isn’t cheap by any means, but compares well with its main rival, the Toyota Prius T4 which weighs in at £20,710, despite offering lower equipment levels. In EX trim, the Civic includes 15-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, Bluetooth hands free system, satellite navigation, leather seats and a raft of safety equipment all as standard.
Engine: 1339cc, 4-cylinder, petrol with electric motor
Gearbox: CVt automatic
Max power engine: 94bhp at 6,000rpm
Max torque engine: 90lb ft at 4,600rpm
Max power battery: 20bhp
Max torque battery: 76lb ft
Max towing weight: n/a
Max speed: 115mph
Combined consumption: 61.4mpg
CO2 emissions (taxband):109g/km (b)
Insurance group: 7
PROS: Eco-friendliness, good fuel economy, low emissions, well equipped, funky dash
CONS: Expensive compared to diesel rivals, CVT out of its depth when extended, boot space meagre
RIVALS: Honda InsIgHt 1.3 IMa Es-t, toyota PRIus HybRId t4 1.8 VVt-i