The 2008 edition continues the second generation of the Honda Civic hybrid, which was introduced in 2006 and has maintained a strong share in the ever-expanding hybrid market. In fact, with the exception of the Toyota Prius, which dominated hybrid sales in the United States in 2007, the Civic hybrid is the country’s most popular hybrid.
Like I experienced when I first test drove the Civic hybrid in 2004, the current version in exceedingly quiet. During stops, for example, it seems the vehicle’s engine has stopped. Instead, it’s the engine operating solely on electric power.
The hybrid Civic is equipped with a 110-horsepower, 1.3-liter engine with two relatively new features largely known by acronyms, IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) and CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). A five-speed manual transmission was previously available, but now the hybrid is only offered with an automatic transmission.
The IMA, as previously mentioned, allows a vehicle to operate solely on electric power in certain situations. The CVT feature replaces conventional gears with a belt-and-pully system that continuously and automatically adjusts to provide a more efficient and nearly unlimited number of drive ratios.
Since its redesign in 2006 (the 33rd year of the vehicle’s distribution in the Unites States) the Civic no longer looks staid. It’s now a sporty, full-sized sedan that comfortably seats five.
The exterior features include: chrome front grille, angular front headlamps, a longer, slanted and near panoramic front window and expanded length and width. An the interior also has a long standard features list: 160-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers and steering wheel audio controls, power windows and locks, front map lights, cruise control, exterior temperature gauge and a navigation system with voice recognition.
The Civic hybrid also has automatic climate control and mirror-mounted turn signals, both not available in other Civics.
The near-futuristic instrumentation panel also provides all Civics with a unique visual. The odometer and speedometer cluster panel is narrow, horizontal and contoured for the driver’s vision just over the curved top of the steering wheel. It’s a unique look, and it works.
Some critics have categorized the hybrid Civic as underpowered, and its acceleration is slower than any of the 24 gas Civic models. But that doesn’t make the hybrid slow.
On the contrary, in several situations, mostly notably while merging during tight traffic, I accelerated ahead of other vehicles with ease.
The only potential issue with the Civic hybrid is its lack of a folding rear seat. The vehicle’s sizable battery is located behind the rear seats, so it can’t be folded.
Non-folding rear seats are rare in four-door sedans but the consolation is small considering the hybrid’s vast attributes — economy to design, functionality to comfort.
Safety Features — Dual front, front side and side curtain airbags
Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 40 mpg (city) 45 mpg (highway).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 10 years/100,000 miles, Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.
Base Price — $24,350.