Honda's eco offensive continues into the Civic _ at a price, as ever
The Civic becomes the second mainstream Honda to go hybrid in Thailand. But unlike the Jazz Hybrid which uses a nickel-metal hydride battery to store electricity, the Civic Hybrid utilises the more modern lithium-ion type.
The Civic's hybrid principle is basically like that in the Jazz Hybrid (and in the imported CR-Z coupe): an electric motor assists the internal combustion engine whenever more power is needed.
The Civic Hybrid is not be confused as a rival to the Toyota Prius, which has a more sophisticated hybrid with greater electric-driving capabilities.
In the case of the Civic Hybrid, the motor is a 91hp 1.5-litre inline-four petrol coupled with a 23hp electric motor and the gearbox is a CVT automatic.
The Civic Hybrid retails at 1.035 million baht, while a navigation system costs an additional 60,000 baht. This comes even in spite of a special 10% excise tax for hybrid-powered cars in Thailand, as opposed to the 23% rate applied on the E85-capable Civic 1.8 and 2.0.
Differentiating the Civic Hybrid from its conventionally powered siblings are LED lights, garish front grille and aerodynamic-friendly wheels.
Honda engineers have refused to quote an official fuel economy figure for the Civic Hybrid in Thailand. The only hint they gave is it being 49% better than the Civic 1.8.
Whatever the figure is supposed to be, Life managed around 16kpl on average. This compares to the 12.5kpl rating we recorded in the Civic 1.8 last year, which means that the Civic Hybrid is certainly more economical than the Civic in 1.8-litre form.
Due to the CVT automatic, the Civic Hybrid performs in a smoother manner than in both the Civic 1.8 and 2.0, both using a normal five-speed auto.
People are likely to question the Civic Hybrid's 1 million baht prices. But when it comes to specifications, the Civic Hybrid isn't inferior to the Civic 2.0, which sells at a slightly higher 1.13 million baht _ 35k more.
Despite the electric components and battery, the Civic Hybrid doesn't appear to suffer a significant weight penalty over the normal Civics. Thus, handling is fairly easy and good for driving in general conditions.
As well, the battery pack, placed in the boot, doesn't seem to rob much usable space, pointing to the merits of the smaller yet more powerful lithium-ion tech.
Anyone acquainted with the spirited performance of both the 141hp 1.8 and 155hp 2.0 can't expect the same experience in the Civic Hybrid, which is slower and less responsive.
Even though Honda claims that the Civic Hybrid can occasionally drive purely on electricity at low speeds, we never came across the chance to do so. The only hints of the Civic Hybrid running a semi-electric drivetrain are the small power assistance (when there's enough juice) the electric motor gives in the low- to mid-ranges and the ability to turn off the petrol engine at standstill while still providing power to the air conditioner, as such.
A few other inherent downsides include a driver's seat with excessive lumbar support, pronounced road noise at speed and a design that really can't be considered inspirational.
BUY OR BYE?
If you're looking for a Civic that does minimal monetary damage, this hybrid version is definitely not the answer for its commands a 200,000 baht premium over the cheapest Civic 1.8.
In other words, you need to forward a lot of money before you can start to enjoy the savings from the Civic Hybrid's superior fuel economy which, according to our calculations, could come after 140,000km of driving.
However, if you have been attracted to the Civic 2.0's safety and convenience items _ and not its performance _ the Civic Hybrid could be an option. But you really wouldn't, on second thoughts.
Because of this, the Civic Hybrid is not about financial sanity and is more about a green ethos _ just like in the Jazz Hybrid. You choose.
Interior features on par with those of Civic 2.0.
About the author
- Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor