I was really excited to drive the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid, but that feeling wore off after spending 10 minutes with the car. I was perfectly willing to trade performance for gas mileage and luxury for affordability, but in the Civic Hybrid I didn't get much for my trade.
The Civic Hybrid gets an estimated 40/45 mpg city/highway, but I couldn't average 30 mpg during my test week of both city and highway driving. Civic Hybrid drivers who rated their cars at FuelEconomy.gov are averaging 46 mpg. Yes, I live in the mountains, and there's a definite technique to maximizing mileage that I clearly have not mastered, but I expected more from the Civic Hybrid.
Driving the Civic Hybrid was just boring. Obviously, a hybrid isn't exactly going to leap into action when you push the gas pedal, but going uphill in this hybrid was almost embarrassing. I don't floor the gas pedal often in cars, but I had to make an exception in the Civic Hybrid. I also expect hybrids to be quiet on the road, but that only applies when the car is running on its electric motor. Most of the time, the Civic was running on its gas engine, which was obvious because of all the engine noise. While the ride quality was decent, if on the hard side, tackling the twisty roads where I live was less than fun on the little 15-inch alloy wheels that come on the Civic Hybrid.
Honda tries to bring some luxury into the Civic Hybrid, with leather and technology upgrades, but none of it's particularly impressive. The Civic used to be Honda's entry-level car, but that slot's been filled by the Fit, and at nearly $28K the Civic Hybrid is no econo-box. I tried to love the Civic Hybrid, but in the end I was perfectly happy to see it go.
For 2009, the Civic Hybrid received an update that included a minor face-lift. The front grille and bumper were redesigned, and from the front the Civic is pretty cute-looking. A chrome strip suspends the Honda logo above the grille, and a low faceplate keeps things sporty. The headlights sit horizontally on the outside corners, which make the Civic seem a bit wider than it really is.
From the side, the Civic Hybrid is generic-looking. Its rounded silhouette only has a small rear spoiler to add some personality. The Civic Hybrid's rims are a lightweight alloy, which are intended to improve the car's mileage, but unless they making a huge difference I'd rather see the standard ones. Why? Well, these rims are ugly! To me, they look like a pizza.
The Civic Hybrid's rear taillights now have a clear turn-signal lens with a colored bulb. The near-vertical tail is also familiar, but it's updated with a new chrome strip above the license plate. Thankfully, Honda didn't feel the need to plaster the car with "hybrid" badges. Instead, there's a small badge on the rear and another on the car's right-hand side.
The Civic Hybrid's doors open and close easily, which made my rushed mornings with the kids a bit easier. My kids had no problems getting in and out by themselves or managing the doors. In deference to weight and economy, the Civic Hybrid isn't available with a sunroof, but I didn't miss it.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some
Honda gave the 2009 Civic Hybrid its very own interior, which is intended to reinforce the environmental friendliness of this hybrid sedan. It's blue. Yep, blue. The leather seats are navy blue. The dash is navy blue, and it all ties in with the bluish lighting in the instruments. A beige version is also available.
The driver's seat and instrumentation are set up to feel like a racecar cockpit, with race-inspired gauges and a three-point steering wheel. It's kind of silly, considering the car, but it looks cool. The steering wheel has audio and phone controls, as well as cruise control. It's covered in perforated leather that's sporty-looking and comfortable to grip.
The large touch-screen in the center stack houses most of the Civic Hybrid's controls, including audio functions and the optional navigation system. The navigation system is easy to use and easy to read. With the optional leather seating, you also get heated front seats. Some hybrids don't come with heated seats because they're such a power drain, but the Civic Hybrid kept my tushy warm on a rainy day. Happy tushy = happy mommy!
The center console in the Civic Hybrid is functional but not overly spacious. In addition to the cubby below the touch-screen, there are two cupholders, a small bin for change and a good-sized bin under the armrest. That bin can house an optional USB-iPod interface that charges your iPod while you play it through the car's audio system. It's a great idea, and usually a great feature, but this particular setup makes it really hard to navigate through your iPod's menus and playlists. It's not something to play with while driving. Two power outlets up front keep all your other electronics charged up and ready to go.
In the backseat, things are kept clean and simple. Three school-age kids fit nicely in the backseat, even if there's a booster seat or two in the picture. Three booster seats won't fit, though. My kid's booster seat sat nicely on the mostly flat backseat. The seat belt receptacles are a bit floppy, but my kids were able to manage them. When using a booster seat, the seat belt receptacle gets pinned in place, and it's even easier for little fingers to manage. Not as manageable was the lack of storage in the backseat. Although there are two seatback pockets and two small bins on the doors, there are no cupholders in the backseat. None. Not one. How is a mommy supposed to control the multiplying sippy cups and juice boxes without any cupholders?
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The Civic Hybrid has front, side-impact and side curtain airbags. Its active front head restraints help protect adults against whiplash-like injuries, and the front seat belts are height-adjustable to give everyone the right fit.
For the first time, the Civic Hybrid has standard electronic stability control as well as traction control to help keep the car on the road. The antilock brakes come with brake assist, which senses panic braking and applies available brake power.
On the downside, the Latch connectors are buried in the backseat. Usually I can use one hand to expose the Latch points, but it was a two-handed job in the Civic Hybrid. It made me really glad my kids are out of child-safety seats.
In Diapers: It's not easy to install child-safety seats with the buried Latch connectors.
In School: Doors and seat belts are easy to manage, which makes the Civic Hybrid great for school-age kids.
Teens: Teens will like the technology but might complain about legroom.