Test Drive: 2012 Honda Civic HF

Fuel Efficiency Without Hybridization.

For 2012, customers have more variations of the Civic to choose from than ever before. There are five in fact: The Civic, Civic Natural Gas, Civic Hybrid, Civic Si, and the Civic HF or ?high efficiency.?

The Civic HF one of the newest additions to the Civic lineup for 2012. There?s a lot of confusion of what exactly the Civic HF is. Underneath, it?s the Civic LX. To make it distinctive and exceedingly fuel efficient, Honda has added the low-drag body panels of the Hybrid, four low rolling resistance tires, and the wheels from the last generation Civic Hybrid. Added together, the HF makes for a very affordable and fuel efficient mid-size sedan.

-Exterior

As we mentioned above, the Civic HF has been built to glide easily through the air without causing much drag.?The less a car has to work to push forward through the air, the less fuel it will consume. Invariably, with most aerodynamic vehicles, the Civic HF is not the most exciting looking car on the market. That?s not to say it?s boring or bad looking.

To be most aerodynamic, Honda has ironed out most of the visually appealing bodylines. However, what might otherwise be a drab body has been spiced up with a distinctive wheel set. We recognized the old Hybrid wheels on the HF but felt they looked more vintage Honda than their age would suggest. It?s these throwback wheels that make the HF feel special. They?re not only striking but they stand as a reminder of the inventive thinking behind the HF itself.

-Interior

The best way to describe the HF is interior to say that it?s ?regular.? We mean that in the best possible way. All too often automakers get caught up in overwhelming interiors. Packed with advanced technology, carbon fiber trim, and buttons. Many modern automotive interiors can make drivers feel claustrophobic. The Civic HF interior is anything but.

Though perhaps overly grey, the HF interior is simple and serves its purpose. It?s a sturdy, no frills automotive interior. All the bits are robust and well built. It doesn?t have any extraneous bits owners need to worry about ruining or breaking if they?re not careful. It?s the kind of interior buyers used to find in vehicles of yesteryear. One if left in the care of a rambunctious labradoodle would come through virtually unscathed.

The Civic HF isn?t a big car but delightfully the interior isn?t small. Even tall drivers will find it roomy and comfortable in every direction: truly rare in small, fuel-efficient vehicles of any kind.

-Economy

It was at the gas pump where the Civic HF really sold us. We?re a bit wary of the new fad of the hybridization of nearly every new car. Fitting them with a thousand pounds of lithium batteries and an electric motor in order to improve fuel economy ratings a bit doesn?t quite pass the smell test.

Aside from the extra cost associated with eventually replacing the massive battery packs, we?re not convinced that the harvest, refinement, and transport of precious earth metals is really a viable ecological solution to fossil fuel use. Instead, we?d rather see a rash of new, more fuel-efficient gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles like they have in Europe.

The EPA rates the Civic HF at 29-MPG city and 41-MPG highway.? Usually these EPA fuel economy numbers are about accessible as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. In the case of the Civic HF, however, they were easily achieved. Even our lead-footed drivers made 29 city and 39 highway with an average of 33 MPG overall. For us, this is a huge feat. So many companies claim fuel consumption numbers that are nowhere near attainable. Honda ingeniously maximized the raw power of every drop of gasoline.

-Driving Impressions

The efficiency of the HF is palpable. When you let off the gas, there is so little rolling resistance?thanks to the special tires and the aerodynamic body?the Civic HF actually feels as if it accelerates upon coasting. The Civic HF feels like it could roll forever, unencumbered by frictional forces. It is really quite a wondrous sensation.

Beyond that, the drive is quite mild. It?s an effortless car, this. There is no satnav to distract. There are no big flashy screens. You can?t even connect your phone for hands-free Bluetooth. You are left with a spare interior and a delightfully Zen driving experience.

Braking is forgiving but firm. The steering is light but exact. The climate control is laid out in a highly intuitive fashion. The drive train barely makes noise. And though it?s a very fuel-frugal vehicle, it?s got power to get up and go if you need.

-Close

Though automaker?s engine and fuel efficiency technology has rocketed forward in the last decade, new cars have been getting heavier with more computers and safety equipment. To answer this, the automotive industry has developed an inexplicable fetish for hybrids, overly complicating the issue.

The Civic HF on the other hand is exactly what fuel-efficient cars of the future should be: simple. Adding weight, technology, precious metals, and extra drivetrain components is like sewing Jessica Biel?s head to Charlize Theron?s left shoulder. It?s just not necessary. We know how to make fuel-efficient gas and diesel motors. So let?s do just that.

What?s even more brilliant about the Civic HF is that it?s not some stripped down trike built in someone?s shed. It?s a proper sedan from an automotive world power for only $20,225. It has six airbags, four doors, and a three-year warranty. And yet it?s able to achieve 41 mpg without resorting to (environmentally) dirty tricks.

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