Honda tackles green issue

Honda is on a mission.

It reckons that many British drivers do not know what a hybrid car is, let alone understand any financial or environmental benefits they might offer.  

It hopes the new Civic Hybrid will enlighten the masses. It is the latest model to use Honda’s IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) technology: a combination of a small petrol engine, augmented by an electric motor.  

At low speed you can potter around on just electric power; under acceleration the two power sources work in tandem, while once up to cruising speed the petrol engine takes over.  

Combined with a slippery shape, the result is an official average of 61.4mpg and carbon dioxide emissions of just 109g/km. Low fuel and company car tax bills are the big advantages, but it is also exempt from the congestion charge and road tax is minimal.  

So where’s the catch? Well, at £16,300 it is pricey compared with a conventionally powered Civic hatch, even if it is well-equipped and £1,200 less than the Toyota Prius, its main rival.  

However, while the saloon-only body provides excellent space for five, and a decent boot, it cannot match the hatchback for versatility and it looks plain inside and out.  

Performance is solid enough, but the continuously variable transmission gearbox sends the revs soaring when you prod the throttle hard and the noise from the 1.3 petrol engine becomes harsh. There is also a jerk as the petrol engine cuts in around town, while the Hybrid is not as accomplished a drive as the hatchback. It handles well enough, but the ride is firm and road noise is an issue at speed.  

Report and group tests originally published in WhatCar? June 2006  

Honda Civic Hybrid  

Price:      £16,265  

Engine:     1.3 i-VTEC Hybrid  

Acceleration:     0–62mph 12.1 seconds  

Top speed:  115mph  

Insurance group:  7  

MPG:  61.4  

WhatCar? rating:  ´´´´´  

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