And there were no visible clues to the clever technology beneath the latest Civic, apart from a very green press pack made from (no, honestly) elephant dung.
We started up and drove off just as normal with a sporty growl from the free-revving 1,300cc engine. At traffic lights, the engine stopped altogether, leaving us silent and carbon-neutral until we pulled away and the engine cut in again. When I put my foot down, the electric motor boosted us up Bristol’s steepest hills with unexpected briskness; more Alfa than milk float, reminding me that Honda also builds some of the world’s fastest high-quality motorcycles.
On faster rural driving it was intrusively buzzy and felt slack. Handling felt solid, though on neglected urban tarmac the extra battery weight made us lurch over potholes. The handbrake grip reminded me irresistibly of a zimmer frame.
Build quality is tough and discreet. The inbuilt radio looks theft-proof, and the boot opens by a lever from inside. But I could not see the edges of the car easily, and wished I had parking radar. It is only available as a saloon, and I find the versatility of hatchbacks more appealing.
The Hybrid’s 109g/km CO2 emissions would save a tonne of C02 per year compared to an average car: that is the lifetime effect of one new tree.
I’d buy one if I lived without children inside a congestion zone. But for family and motorway runs I might prefer an Audi diesel hatch for my £16,000. If you really want to be green, buy a push bike.
Dr Stefan Cembrowicz is a GP in Bristol