Honda Civic, 2004 (Hybrid): The Weekly Driver Car Review

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The first time I came to a stoplight, the car was so quiet I thought the engine had stalled. I tried to restart the car, but the 2004 Honda Civic hybrid’s engine was already on, and I advanced when the light changed in my favor.

But the same thing happened at the next spotlight and again at the third red light I reached.

It wasn’t like I was driving a “high-tech” vehicle and didn’t know how properly operate it. Rather, it was “only” Honda Civic Hybrid — the first hybrid I’ve had as a weekly test drive.

But finally I got it. The “little” Honda Civic hybrid is more technically advanced than I imagined. In fact, the engine “idle stops.” It’s the new system for the 2004 model that shuts off three of the Civic’s four cylinders as the car is decelerating or coasting.

It’s part of the vehicle’s multi-dimensional appeal.

As a hybrid, it utilizes gasoline-electric technology. The vehicle’s electric motor assists a 1.3-liter gasoline engine. The batteries recharge when the vehicle is coasting or slowing down.

While at a stop sign or stoplight, engine and electric monitor bars on the instrument panel tell the driver the vehicle is switching from one engine option to the other. If the air conditioner is running, however, the vehicle will not transfer automatically to the electric motor at stops.

The hybrid also features a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which means it provides a near-endless number of gear ratios. As such, its fuel rating of 47 mph in the city and 48 mph on the highway is impressive.

The Civic hybrid is also impressive in many other ways. My naive thinking was that because is was a hybrid, it would accelerate inadequately and that other areas of vehicle would have been neglected.

On the contrary, the hybrid’s standard features include air conditioning, power windows, mirrors and locks, AM/FM/CD system, cruise control and floor mats. Antilock brakes, front and side airbags, emergency trunk opener and remote keyless entry are among standard safety features.

And while it certainly couldn’t be considered swift, the Civic hybrid accelerates satisfactorily, particularly considering it has 93 horsepower and an eight-valve, four-cylinder engine.

My test vehicle had a magnesium metallic exterior and nicely complemented gray interior and for 2004, the vehicle has a redesigned, nicely contoured body style.

The instrumentation, armrest and beverage holder are also nicely situated, and the various dials are easy to read and nicely illuminated in night driving. The interior room is adequate,but since the hybrid needs room for its battery packs, the trunk space is reduced by nearly three cubic feet and the 60-40 back seat split available on other Civic models is eliminated.

Similar to my initial reaction, several friends remarked how quiet the hybrid Civic operates and how efficiently and seemingly effortlessly its gasoline-electric systems operates.

I also mentioned to one friend that the Hybrid Civic only has only an 11.88 gallon fuel tank. We both nearly simultaneously remarked, “At nearly 50 mph, that’s nearly the length of California on one tank of gas.”

Which, of course, is exactly the point.

Safety Features — Driver’s and passenger’s front and side airbags, ABS brakes, emergency trunk opener, front and rear crumple zones.

Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 47 mpg (city), 48 mpg (highway).

Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; corrosion, 5 years, unlimited mileage.

Base Price — $20,550.

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