2011 Honda Civic Hybrid
2011 Honda Civic Hybrid side
2011 Honda Civic Hybrid rear
2011 Honda Civic Hybrid rear view
2011 Honda Civic Hybrid front
Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 09:36:53
2011 Honda Civic Hybrid - Why Mess With Success?
Let's face it, other than upgrading the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system for the fourth time in the last 11 or so years it has been available, there's very little that has changed between the 2010 Honda Civic
Hybrid and the 2011.
When it was restyled in 2006 the reaction to the Honda Civic
line was one of two: you either loved it or you thought it should have been left in the back room. Actually, I'm from the first school, I loved the restyling so why should Honda monkey around with success and, other than a tweak here and a tweak there, the styling has remained the same for the last six model years. It's great for continuity even as the Accord has undergone at least one major restyle - it seems every couple of years - during the same period. (The 2006 Accord was a perfectly good design so why Honda decided it needed freshening for 2007 I'll never know. I'm only speculating here, but, maybe they had one or two designers with more than a little time on their hands and so they just had to do something or other.)
That it was a good the only changes to the Civic have been technological or mechanical is a given here as the lines of the 2011 are just about the same lines that Honda launched in the 2006 restyle. From what I've seen, though, there are some slight differences in the sharpness of the lines and the front and rear seem to be more integrated, but, other than that the design is pretty much the same. The public seems to like it as Civic still remains a top seller so I guess Honda knows enough not to fix what isn't broken.
More to the point, though, with the Hybrid, they've made some changes that have resulted in vehicle that gets 40 mpg in the city and 43 on the highway - just about the same numbers you'll find in the Insight and Toyota Prius
, but for a tad less money.
Overall, the IMA system is outstanding as it manages to extract maximum use out of the gasoline it uses to help power the Civic Hybrid or when it is in generation mode and extracts the maximum power it needs to replace in the 158-volt NiMh battery system. That's one thing I did notice, Honda, rather than go with the newer Lithium-Ion battery technology has opted to retain the slightly less efficient NiMh system. It certainly doesn't hurt matters though, does it, as the mileage figures show.
Indeed, since the 1.3-liter four and 20 horsepower electric motor work in parallel when the Civic is under acceleration, the performance is pretty good. No, it isn't as good as the standard gasoline-driven Civic's acceleration but I never expected it to be. You really can't ask a small engine and electric motor to perform as well as a gasoline engine, can you? And, it doesn't, but it still returns great mileage.
The mileage is assisted not only the the IMA system but also by the Civic's regenerative braking system that enables the vehicle to pickup the power wasted by braking and turn it into power to charge the battery sled that's underneath the Civic. Indeed, when the IMA and regenerative braking system allow the Civic Hybrid to reach full charge something funny happens at traffic lights, the car appears dead. It just stops, no motor, no noise of any sort, and it makes you wonder if something's broke, but, fear not, just tap the accelerator the Hybrid comes back to life and proceeds on as if nothing has happened. Indeed, when you're just cruising along the highway and Hybrid reaches a full charge, the engine goes quiet as the fuel supply is shut down (it never really shuts off) and you cruise along on the battery pack and the 20-horsepower electric motor in almost total silence.
It's really nice when you this happens as you know that the technology Honda is using doing its job.
If it seems as if I like the Honda Civic
Hybrid, you are right. I like the styling as the small front cross-section flows from the low front end through the sloping hood and the sharply raked windshield and the rounded roofline through the sloping rear end. The fenders are and headlights are nicely integrated as are the rear lights. The trunk provides a surprising amount of space.
The interior, like all Hondas, is designed around people and while I still can't get totally used to the two-level display of speed and the tachometer, I found that all of the other key controls and switches are an easy, intuitive reach away. There are controls on the steering wheel or on stalks at either side of the wheel. The console contains controls for climate control and entertainment system and are well placed.
The seats are firm and supportive and like all Hondas the ride and handling are excellent.
So, what does it all mean? It means simply that if you find the Prius too expensive and the Honda Insight
with too little rear headroom, then a look at the Civic Hybrid may be just what you need.