I know we're supposed to be talking about the Hybrid HOV today, but Honda just gave us a great opportunity…the chance to preview the new 2006 Civic model line, including the new Civic Hybrid. I’ve got lots to report, and not just on the Hybrid, but it’s a good place to start.
Overall, I’m impressed. Honda has increased the fuel economy of the Civic Hybrid by about five percent to get 50 mpg on both EPA city and highway ratings. Honda’s numbers even suggest that the Civic Hybrid and the Prius get pretty close to the same fuel economy in real world driving, but we’ll need to wait and see what happens when people get ahold of them.
In addition to increased fuel economy, every Civic Hybrid sold in the United States will meet the cleanest emissions standard on the books (other than zero). In other words, they’ll meet or beat the emissions performance of any gasoline car on the road. This is a good move on Honda’s part, since some of the 2005 Civic Hybrids were so dirty that they wouldn’t even be eligible for the new federal tax credit for hybrid vehicles.
My only real concern is that Honda is aiming too low on Civic Hybrid sales. With gas prices as high as they are, a vehicle that performs like this one and that is based on one of the most popular compact cars in the country, will be a huge seller. But Honda is only planning 28,000 for next year. “Only 28,000?” I asked. They think that’s all they can sell, but think about it: I know they are out there, but how often do you see a Honda commercial for a hybrid? The things have been mostly selling themselves so far, but a little advertising might go a long way--especially now that they have a product that can reasonably compete with the Prius on safety, emissions, and mileage for every model around the country.
When I test drove a 2005 Civic Hybrid last year, my only (minor) concern was that it was a bit sluggish compared to the Prius, which performed just like your average car. In redesigning the Civic Hybrid, Honda has increasd both power and torque by almost 20 percent (gas engine + electric motor combined). With that, the new Civic Hybrid has a least as much pickup as a Prius, and if anything its CVT responded faster than the Prius’s when I stepped on the gas, making passing easier. Overall, the Civic’s engine felt smooth and handled great Look for full specs on the new Civic Hybrid in the HybridCenter Consumer Center soon.
With the 06 model, Honda is now offering only one Civic Hybrid, just the CVT version. That means no more manual transmission and no more of the relatively dirty lean burn models. In terms of other features, the Hybrid is closest to the well-equipped conventional Civic EX – about the only thing it’s missing is a moonroof. I know, I know, the moonroof hurts fuel economy a bit, but I like my moonroof, damn it! Like the EX, the Hybrid is available with a voice-activated navigation system.
One feature that I like on the Prius but is missing from the Civic Hybrid is a fuel economy gauge. The Civic Hybrid displays your estimated real-time fuel economy, but the gauge is difficult to read and it would be more meaningful to have something that tracks your average fuel economy over a longer period of time.
Honda wouldn’t tell us exactly how much the new models will be selling for, but the Hybrid should be roughly in the range of $20,000 - $22,000, versus $18,000 - $20,000 for the conventional Civic EX. When you figure that the Hybrid should be eligible for a federal tax credit of $2,100 - $2,350 after January 1, it looks pretty attractive. Exact prices will be available once the vehicles are on sale, which will be September 15 for the conventional models and October 5 for the Hybrid.
There’s more to discuss on the new Civic Hybrid, so I’ll put together a fuller review as soon as I can and put it in the HybridCenter review section. I'll do a quick blog to let everyone know when its up there.
Posted by: Don