Yes, we know that this is akin to flogging a dead horse, however, as is the norm, vehicles which have been there in India and still are relatively easy to obtain from their owners, we review them. How many of the cars have we covered in our review section or atleast in the test drive section. To count, there are many. The Honda Civic Hybrid was in 2009 phased out, atleast in India. This car was introduced to the Indian market in 2009 and it was phased out in the same year since low demand for the product means that eventually there is no use bringing it in the market and then seeing it rot with the dealer. The Honda Civic Hybrid in India was more of a brand building exercise as also a toll for the company to showcase their prowess in the hybrid arena. Moreover, if arch rival is bringing in the Prius to India, then why not Honda with their star, the Civic Hybrid. Acquiring the car and stuff was a simple thing since some one we knew knows someone who in turn knows someone who actually brought one of this cars. Here is a test drive or review report of the Civic Hybrid.
Check on Road Price
Here, there is no major difference except for all those quirky stickers proclaiming it to be a hybrid. It looked more like a demo vehicle than the real one and when enquired, the owner said that it was part of the demo car that was sent to a certain dealership and upon request was sold to him at a discount. As it is Honda had to retort to 40 percent price cuts to get the Civic hybrids off the shelf. The look of the head lamps, the chrome grille and air intake is all the same. Moving over to the sides show that this one has got a wheel cap. No wait, it has got different alloy wheels which proclaim that they are something special. Something about the paint quality also said that it was somewhat better than what is there on the regular Civic. Is it the tyres or this car just has a lower ground clearance? Well, Civics usually have a lower ground clearance and this one seems to be made for it. The owner confirmed that this one has got a lower ride height than the normal Civic. So, we have to be extra careful over the speed breakers. At the rear, towards the right side, there is a small moniker proclaiming it to be a Civic Hybrid. Good, otherwise, the regular onlooker would definitely think that this is a regular Civic on the road with demo car pretensions. The set of sporty exhaust tips poke put as usual and even after all this years, they haven’t lost out on their novelty factor.
The Honda Civic Hybrid in India is available with only auto transmission. The steering wheel, the dashboard alignment and everything else also seems the same now from the regular Civic. The only thing is that towards the left side of the blue in white tachometer, there is a battery life shown as also the fact whether it is actually assisting one in the drive or just playing second fiddle. Even the Hybrid Civic has got a slight tilt towards the driver and we all thought that the Civic hybrid was for those who just wanted some more mileage figures and in the process also earn the tag of saving the environment by leaving less of a carbon footprint. Sadly enough, unlike the Prius, this one doesn’t carry around a sun roof. The seats are comfortable both in the front and the back, were it not for the below par underthigh support for taller passengers. There is no transmission tunnel hump cutting across for the middle seat passenger and this only amplifies the space. Moreover, Honda has provided under the seat leg palm coolers and the rear seat passenger has to just slide his feet under the front seats to see or more appropriately feel the effect. The battery pack for the hybrids is stored in the boot and this leads to a reduced boot space. 376 liter is what the boot space of the hybrid version is. However, unlike the first generation Honda City which was bereft of cubby holes, this one has got plenty of them. Ingress and egress problem still remains in this car and while the younger lot would appreciate the enthusiasm needed to get in and out, the elderly lot would definitely abhor the feeling.
Handling and ride quality
Honda has been quoting about it in their brochures that this car has got a different alloy wheel arrangement so that fuel efficiency as also a lower drag coefficient are achieved. Like the regular Civic, even this one has got a very light steering wheel which makes it easy to maneuver around in traffic. However first timers definitely would have a problem with the Civic hybrid’s cab forward design which places the windscreen at a different length than what they would be used to earlier. Noticeably enough, while Honda has softened the dampers a bit more in the front for the Civic Hybrid, they aren’t overtly soft and hence ride quality suffers as a result. The low speed ride quality is nothing to speak about and we frequently got thrown around. Once the speeds reached respectable but within decent limits, the ride quality noticeably improved. The first part of speed breakers playing an important picture in the driving dynamics of this car comes into play. We were extra cautious to ensure that the owner of the car didn’t have any extra gray hair to patch up with his dye. The handling was a bit on the sloppier side even with the heavy battery pack at the rear. It seemed like it was ready to break free from the front end and just get ahead with being called just the Honda Jazz. The general NVH was much on the quieter side, just like the regular Civic. However, once the engine was revved, the difference became apparent. This engine definitely doesn’t like to be revved. Simply because it was always configured to be used primarily in the city where its planet saving attributes come to the forth.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
The Civic on paper definitely disappoints with its 95 Bhp power output and torque of 122 Nm. Moreover, this comes from a 1.3 liter engine which is laced with the Vtec feature. This 1.3 liter mill is ably assisted by the IMA or Integrated Motor Assist. It is basically a electric motor which is present in the hub of the car and in total makes a power figure of 16 Bhp. It’s a known fact that electric motors make their torque right from 0 rpm. Hence the hybrid Civic didn’t feel much ponderous from starts than the regular one. Honda has made us of CVT technology to help the engine put down its power to the road. Three modes are available on it and those are the likes of L, D and S. L is to be used when one is climbing or descending gradients. It brings in more of the engine braking power here. The CVT in the Civic doesn’t come with any more technical gimmicks and it is best adjusted to this engine setup wherein fuel efficiency and less of carbon deposits is the primary goal. Also, while most of the time, the engine feels relaxed in its D mode, there is a time when the driver will get bored of this setup and slot the lever into S mode. Now, this is where things get ugly and the CVT effect is maximized. The car doesn’t seem to be gaining much ground inspite of the accelerator being prodded to more than half its travel and the engine seems to be making all kinds of noises. The white tacho needle shows that it has made the piston block to be at its maximum position and that is when the car decides to surge a bit forward contrary to expectations.
Well, the Civic hybrid is to be driven in a certain way and as demonstrated by the owner, it has to be kept at low revs most of the time. Braking results in the batteries getting charged. In traffic conditions where most of the time brakes are used instead of the accelerator, the hybrid Civic engine is at its peak efficiency. The technology is such that when we halt for the lights to turn green, the motor stops itself. Its only when the foot is removed off the brakes, that the car springs back to life. During all this, the music system as also the AC weren’t interrupted from their operations. When the engine is in idle mode or even when it is turned off, the transition is utterly smooth. Sometimes bordering on the limits of being eerie.
For an auto car, usually the brakes are very powerful as most of the times they are the only saving grace. In the hybrid’s case, it was also true. Moreover with kinetic energy regeneration system fitted onto the brakes, they worked wonderfully. ABS was also dialed into the equation which made panic stops seem very easy. As far as the safety part is concerned, Honda have put in 4 airbags should things turn out to be nasty.
Fuel efficiency that we recorded was not far off the mark set by the only petrol fuelled Honda Civic. So in city driving resulted in 11.4 kmpl, which is a marked improvement of 0.4 kmpl over the “only petrol” variant, the highway figure of 15.3 kmpl was a dampener since the regular variant manages to eke out .1 kmpl more. In all, the more one coasts using the hybrid Civic, the more he manages to gain in terms of fuel efficiency. Moreover, frequent stop starts is what the Civic likes provided there is enough reserve left in the batteries.
There shouldn’t be one since the Civic Hybrid is no longer brought in by Honda. Honda had to resort to a massive price cut of somewhere in the regions of Rs 8 lakhs to clear the stocks. Its only recently that Honda realized that most of their products are overpriced in India and the amounts slashed from the prices of the Jazz and City only reflect this. Some relaxations in the norms of CBUs might see Honda bringing back this Hybrid variant for sale again. Till then, the Honda Civic Hybrid in India isn’t that impressive vehicle as we would have liked it to be. The Toyota Prius would be a much more better proposition since it offers much more equipment levels than the Civic hybrid. This springs an idea to compare the two and we would definitely be doing it within a short while. The original Honda Civic Hybrid price in India bordered around the Rs 23 lakhs mark, ex-show room. However this certain gentlemen procured it post the price cut and also managed to gather some more discounts since it was a demo vehicle. He got it for the price of the top end Civic petrol model. Aftersales service was initially a bit of an issue with certain Honda show rooms not entirely sure of the servicing procedure for this car, but then after he became a regular, things definitely felt easier. The fact that the company didn’t promote this car so much is what leaves us perplexed. All we heard for the Civic Hybrid was its launch date and then the subsequent price cuts. Maybe, this had a big thing to do with the sales figures of this car. Not that we would say it deserved to do better but still ….