Even though I had been interested in Hybrid cars for some time, I passed on the Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius since the Insight was only a 2 seater and Prius looked really weird and was kind of small.
When the Honda Civic Hybrid came out, I was impressed by the fact that it looked nearly identical to a regular Civic EX. I took it for a test drive and I was amazed by how comfortable and quiet the ride was and how much leg room this car had in the back. Eventually I decided to buy it.
I got a CVT model that has a continuously variable transmission since I do about half of my driving in the city, sometimes in stop and go traffic. I have been driving it for about 8 months now and so far I am extremely happy with it.
I have not been able to get the mpg that is advertised on the sticker (47 city / 48 highway) but 41.5 mpg is still pretty decent, especially considering that I was getting about 22mpg on my previous car. I am using nearly half as much gas as I used to a year ago even though I am doing pretty much the same driving!
The inside of the Hybrid Civic is pretty elegantly designed. Of course, no leather or wood, but it is pleasing to the eye. The front seats are relatively comfortable, the flat floor in front of the rear bench seat is a bonus, especially if you happen to have 3 passengers in the back. The Hybrid Civic does not have very many factory options, pretty much everything, including A/C, radio with CD player, remote entry, comes as standard.
Under the hood is a 1300cc gas engine that is on the same crank shaft as a small electric motor. There is a battery pack behind the back seat that reduces the trunk space by about 2", which is not a big deal. The electric motor provides some boost when you are accelerating or going up hill, otherwise, it is typically not used. When you slow down or when you are going downhill, the electric motor is used as an electrical generator. This not only helps with braking but also recharges the batteries. When the battery charge is really low, the car may also use the gas engine to recharge the battery slowly while you are driving. There is an indicator on the dashboard which shows you when the electric motor is using the battery and when it is charging the battery. There is also an instantaneous MPG indicator and two mileage counters that keep track of the MPG.
The CVT is really nice. I have mostly driven cars with manual transmissions so far and I never liked the "lack of feel" and "unpredictable shifting" you get with automatic transmissions. However, the CVT has a much better feel, and you never have to worry about when it shifts, since it never does. It simply tunes to the best transmission ratio to get the optimum performance from the engine. It is a little strange at first to see the engine staying at constant RPM as you are accelerating, but you quickly get used to it. The CVT is especially good if your commute involves a lot of city or stop-and-go driving. For those who mostly drive between 55-65mpg on highways, the manual version may be a better choice, it will also provide better fuel economy on the highway.
Given the small engine, the acceleration is surprisingly good at low speeds thanks to the assist from the electric motor, however, at high speeds, acceleration is only moderate. Of course, if you are looking for a zippy sports car, you probably should not be reading this review anyway.
Overall, this is a very good, fuel efficient, comfortable compact car that is perfect for commuters and small families.
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