Test Drive: 2012 Honda IMA Civic Hybrid Sedan

?Honda?s New Civic Hybrid moves to a higher level on all fronts?

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Honda?s 9th generation Civic takes the 2012 Civic Hybrid to a higher plane with the latest version of Honda?s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) System. It now ranks as the most fuel-efficient sedan available in the U.S. with an estimated EPA rating of 44 mpg across the board including city, highway and combined mpg.

Nearly 9 million Civics have been sold over the last 40 years, with the first Hybrid appearing in the form of the Insight as a 2000 model. The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid with its improved IMA system actually serves as more of an electric assist for its larger gasoline engine than as a full hybrid. Referring to it as a mild hybrid though, really doesn?t do it justice, given the fuel economy rating. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor (up from the previous 1.3 liter engine) generates the same combined horsepower at 110 as its predecessor, but develops an additional 4 pound feet of torque at 127 lb.-ft. The new Hybrid now utilizes more efficient and lighter weight Lithium Ion batteries rather than the former Nickel Metal Hydride variety. The battery pack is mounted behind the rear seats, which do not fold down, leaving a useable 10.7 cubic feet of trunk space. The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid is the same length overall as last year?s model, but the wheelbase has been shortened to 105.1-inches.

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In terms of styling, in typical Honda fashion, changes for this latest iteration Hybrid are not exactly revolutionary. However, in a close study, there are very noticeable improvements that contribute to what Honda still refers to as a ?One Motion? mono-form theme. There?s now a rising character line and a deck-mounted rear spoiler that add to a somewhat sportier image. Up front, there is a unique hybrid grille design with blue accents, and within the streamlined headlight assemblies are blue bulb covers that provide additional distinction. Special five-spoke alloy wheels and LED brake lights further differentiate the Civic Hybrid from other Civic models.

The interior hasn?t changed dramatically either, but Honda?s IMID system provides more useful information than before with increased connectivity. Bluetooth? HandsFreeLink? system is standard enabling Civic Hybrid owners to make and receive mobile phone calls using the vehicle?s audio system and a compatible mobile phone. Audio streaming is also supported with compatible devices. Unfortunately, despite the attractive and functional layout, there still seems to be an excessive utilization of bland plastic elements.

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Power comes from a 1.5-liter (1497cc) SOHC 24-valve i-VTEC, gasoline?powered in-line four-cylinder engine that works in combination with a Permanent?Magnet Motor that develops 23 [email protected] rpm? along with 78 lb-ft [email protected] in a 108V-172V range. The Lithium Ion battery provides 20Kw?output/144V and a 4.5 Ah capacity rating. The front wheels are driven with motive?force delivered through a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), without a?manual mode. The Civic Hybrid rides on Bridgestone Ecopia EP20 ?P195/65R15 89S low-rolling resistance tires mounted on 5 hole/spoke lightweight?alloy wheels. The power-assisted brakes are discs up front and drums in the?rear, with ABS, EBD, VSA and TPMS.

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My test 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid was equipped with Honda?s navigation system and sported an Alabaster Silver metallic exterior finish complemented by a charcoal and gray toned interior with gray patterned cloth seating. The base sticker read $25,550. While the final total came to $26,300. After adding the Destination and Handling charge.

SUMMARY: The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid is attractive enough, if not emotionally inspiring, and it delivers a comfortable mode of transportation, if not luxurious. Handling is responsive, though certainly not as sporty as that of the CR-Z Hybrid. Pronounced body roll is apparent during spirited maneuvering, while the low-rolling resistance tires display admirable road holding properties. The Hybrid Civic provides considerably more useable interior space than the sportier but smaller CR-Z.

The Civic Hybrid offers an Eco Guide and Eco Scoring feature to help drivers track progress of efficient driving styles similar to the Honda Insight and CR-Z.

Driving the Hybrid version is like driving any other Civic, except it offers more choices in terms of performance characteristics. The Normal and Eco mode buttons deliver the responses one would expect by their designation. On a somewhat negative note, the engine Stop/Start feature seemed to be rougher or more abrupt than in pervious models, which could perhaps have been a vehicle specific issue.

The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid with Navi is an admirable and desirable hybrid albeit a mild-type that is incapable of running purely on electric power. For those consumers less concerned with their outward Eco-image, consider that the base Civic delivers an impressive fuel economy that?s only 1 or 2 mpg less than that delivered by the Hybrid, and for nearly $8,000 fewer dollars. Bottom-line, Honda offers a vehicle to suit nearly everyone?s tastes and needs.

All Civic Hybrid models are produced and assembled in the Honda Motor Co., Ltd., Suzuka, Japan manufacturing facility. The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid is covered by a 3-year/36,000-mile new car limited warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain limited warranty, and a 5-year/unlimited-mile corrosion limited warranty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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