Build quality is typical Honda, which is a banal way of saying that most other cars would jump at the chance to be this well put together. Body panel gaps are nice and even, interior materials and workmanship are first rate, and there isn’t a rattle or squeak to be heard. Interior noise levels on the whole are quite low, especially when cruising on the freeway. About the only real flaw are some buttons and switches that feel a bit cheap and fragile to the touch. For those concerned about safety, the Civic Hybrid comes with a full array of airbags, including side curtain airbags, and now also features vehicle stability control to complement the anti-lock brakes.
Slide inside the Civic Hybrid and you’ll be amazed that the Civic is still a compact car. The bubble shaped exterior, shallowly raked windshield, and extended dash all help open up the interior and give a feeling of spaciousness. Actual seating room is also excellent, with plenty of leg and headroom. The only real interior disappointment is that the rear seats don’t fold down, making for limited cargo capacity. Anything that doesn’t fit in the trunk or across the rear seats will have to be left at home.
The Civic features a somewhat unconventional instrument panel that is split into two displays, with one sitting on top of and behind the other. Although it seems a bit odd at first, the arrangement actually makes a lot of sense and it gives the dashboard a modern, high-tech look. A smallish, sporty looking steering wheel with faux-aluminum trim adds to the cockpit-like appearance. One ergonomically strange choice is the placement of the parking brake lever right next to the shift lever, causing it to jut out and possibly interfere with the driver’s right leg.
Our test car came fully loaded, with a luxurious beige leather interior and heated seats, although the seat adjustments are still manual. In an elegant solution to the cluttered dashboards that are so common these days, Honda has combined the navigation and stereo system in a single 4” by 6” module, which also neatly retracts for loading CDs. The touch-screen display and navigation software work superbly, although some of the audio controls are a bit small and hard to read.
Although the Civic still looks very modern and up-to-date, the current design is 3 years old and the small car segment has become very competitive in the last few years. So, to keep things fresh Honda has given the 2009 Civic a mild exterior makeover, which most noticeably includes a more aggressive front end that helps give the overall design a bit more edge. Folks clamoring for hybrid street cred will be disappointed that the only thing setting the Civic Hybrid apart from its conventional siblings are a few small badges and unique alloy wheels. For true hybrid status consumers will have to wait until the Honda Insight is re-launched as a hybrid only sedan sometime in 2010.
Value / Who Should Buy It
The Civic Hybrid is a solid effort and a legitimate contender in the fuel-efficiency race, but falls a bit short of being the ultimate no compromises sedan. Acceleration needs a boost to be competitive and with an MSRP of $26,750, a fully loaded Civic Hybrid is less than a great value. The much bigger Camry Hybrid can be had for the same price, or you could buy a fully loaded regular Civic and pocket the $3000 difference. Plus, the price of gas is dropping rapidly, so it will take years to gain any significant fuel cost savings over the already efficient Civic. Still, if it’s a hybrid you’re looking for and you’re partial to Honda, the Civic Hybrid won’t disappoint.
|American Honda Motor Company website: automobiles.honda.com|