Honda hybrid lives up to hype

Posted on 14 Sep 2006 at 4:48pm
By Casey Williams – Auto Reviewer

Enviro-conscious Civic delivers 45 MPG, and it looks pretty sleek, too



GREEN MACHINE: The Civic Hybrid can deactivate all its cylinders and operate by using only the electric motor.

It seems that hybrids don’t always to live up to their hype. Oftentimes they turn in much lower fuel economy ratings than window stickers indicate.

Honda claims the Civic Hybrid achieves 49/51-MPG city/highway. In Honda’s press materials, however, they add that “Fuel economy is based on 2007 EPA mileage estimates. Use for comparison purposes only. Actual mileage may vary.”
As my communications professor used to say, “Those are weasel words.”

For my own independent analysis, I drove a 2007 Civic Hybrid in the city through evening traffic and on a 300-mile Interstate run. Cruising between 75 and 80 mph (real world driving, but extra-legal and higher than EPA tests), the Civic Hybrid computed 45.6 MPG, making Honda’s numbers believable. Apparantley, the weasel words weren’t necessary.

To achieve those remarkable figures, the Civic Hybrid slips through the wind with a 1.3-litre 4-cylinder engine connected to a 20 horsepower electric motor/battery pack and continuously variable transmission (no gears).
Regenerative brakes capture energy from deceleration and stores it in the batteries. Combined horsepower totals 110, but feels more powerful and smoother than you might think. Not only does the Civic sip fuel, it also emits minimal pollutants and earns stringent Partial Zero Emission Vehicle status in all 50 states.

Besides all the technical wonderment, the Civic is delightful. Its body is aerodynamic and sleek. An arched roofline, as in the VW Beetle, provides plenty of headroom while cocooning up to five passengers in a strong body-shell. Loaded to its two-tier digital/analog instrument cluster, the test vehicle came with automatic climate control, voice-activated audio system, cruise control, in-dash navigation, power windows, trip computer and XM Satellite Radio. I love the future-think digital instruments, MPG gauge, battery monitor and what must be the world’s most intuitive navigation system. Unlike every other NAV system I’ve used, Honda’s can be easily programmed even while moving (although, you should probably do it while stopped).

From front to rear, the Honda Civic Hybrid is a revolution that brings incredible technology to the masses. You may want the car for its fuel economy, but you’ll fall in love with its style and convenience.

With a base price of $22,150 and $2,100 federal tax credit, you’ll also laugh all the way to the gas station. I should never have doubted Honda’s integrity the Civic Hybrid is better than promised. Competition includes the Toyota Prius, Ford Escape Hybrid, and upcoming Saturn Aura and Nissan Altima hybrids.



DRIVER’S SEAT

Who: April Prohaska

Occupation: Owner, The Pooch Patio & Paws Pet Services.

Current car: 2006 Toyota Sequoia.

Purchased from: Metroplex Toyota, Duncanville.

Were you a tough negotiator? Yes, to ensure I got the most for my trade-in. I actually shopped around on the Internet to get the best deal and Metroplex Toyota made it simple: They got the car I wanted, and then I went to take a look at it.

How much did you settle on? I actually walked out of the dealership with cash in hand and a very low payment. Based upon my experience, I’ll be a repeat customer.

Insurance agent: USAA

Monthly insurance rate: Approximately $150.

Why this car? It drives smoothly, and I can fit five dogs in the rear with no problem.

Favorite feature: Rear air conditioning for my pooches.

Have a buff sound system? No, just the standard one. But I do have a DVD player in the car.

Car nickname: “Zena the Warrior Princess” because I have a led foot and drive her like a 4×4.

Worst flat tire: At traffic hour on I-75 in the middle of August.

Worst intersection in Dallas: Oak Lawn Avenue at Maple Avenue.

Best road trip: Four college friends and I drove from Boulder to Santa Fe.
Most ridiculous car repair: Having to get a new lug nut.

Thought that races through my head when I’m going through a yellow light: Yellow means “proceed with caution.”

Best car memory: Driving back from the Cedar Springs strip after a night out with the top down on my convertible. Sorry, can’t share the other details.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, September 15, 2006.

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