DETROIT - We were a little disappointed that our Honda Civic Hybrid sedan was a 2007 model rather than a new 2008. But that was the only thing about our test vehicle we found disappointing.
Our Civic Hybrid sedan was powered by a 1.3-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine and a 20 horsepower electric motor produce a combined 110-horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 123 lb-ft. torque @ 1000-2500 rpm.
The powerplant was mated to a continuously variable transmission that was so quiet that we didn't realize it was a CVT until we read the sticker.
We took the Civic on an overnight run to Chicago and found it Interstate capable. Our Civic was able to cruise effortlessly at just a notch or two below 80 mph. It was comfortable, rode smoothly and was a pretty easy drive.
The only time we had to put any effort into driving was when it got really windy on the western side of Michigan. But we really won't gripe about that. After all, the Civic is really close to a subcompact car.
But it never drove that way. Our test vehicle handled more like a midsize sedan. That's important because once we got to Chicago the streets and expressways were really clogged with traffic. But we never felt overwhelmed or underpowered.
That probably had much to do with what Honda calls Integrated Motor Assist.
According the Civic's press materials, The primary IMA components consist of a 15 kilowatt, 2.8-inch-wide (70 mm) electric motor, positioned between the engine and the transmission, an Intelligent Power Unit (IPU) that controls the flow of electricity to and from the electric motor, and a compact nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery pack.
During acceleration, the gasoline engine and electric motor work together to propel the vehicle. During cruising, the gasoline engine and/or the electric motor can propel the vehicle. In certain steady-state cruising situations, the IMA system can deactivate all four of the engine's cylinders and operate using only the electric motor.
During regenerative braking, the gasoline engine deactivates and the electric motor acts as generator to replenish the battery pack. At a stop, the engine can enter an idle stop mode to save fuel and reduce emissions by turning off the engine until the brake pedal is released. While in idle stop mode, the hybrid air conditioning compressor can maintain operation while the engine is off.
That's a lot of during but the bottom line is the Civic is a gas sipper. Our test vehicle had a 49 mpg in the city and 51 mpg on the highway EPA rating depending on driving habits. We don't think it got anywhere near that.
But our real world use got 750 miles off 1.5 tanks of gasoline. We took that and were happy pump prices hovering around three-bucks per gallon.
Our test vehicle also had some creature comforts that included satellite radio, a navigation system with voice controls, a single disc CD player with MP3 and WMA capability and an audio auxiliary jack.
Standard equipment included a tilt/telescoping steering wheels, automatic climate control system, exterior temperature gauge and 15-inch alloy wheels.
For $24,945, we thought the Civic Hybrid sedan was an exceptional deal.