2007 Honda Civic Hybrid Review

We recently picked up our new Honda Civic Hybrid, to replace our out-of-lease Audi A3. The short answer is, it seems to be a great car.

When you first get in it feels quite spacious, although the front dash is kind of large and imposing. At first I thought this was to accommodate batteries, but they are actually behind the rear seat (meaning in the hybrid you can not lay the seats down). It has plenty of hidey-holes to store stuff, most of which have a pull-over cover.

The drivers position is quite fine, although visibility probably isn't as good as in the older Audi. The steering wheel seems a little small, but the built-in controls are good. One thing I miss from the Audi is a space on the right of the accelerator to rest your foot, which is especially good for long periods on cruise control. The digital speedo is above the other controls and quite large, and is very visible to all your passengers (maybe this is an added safety feature!).

There is annoyingly little actual information about the "Integrated Motor Assist" system, other than it assists the motor and charges when you brake. There is a little indicator that tells you how much assistance it is giving, and conversely how much it is charing when you coast or brake. When you brake to a halt it goes into "auto stop" mode, where everything is off. The electric motor seems to take you from standing for about 2 seconds, presumably whilst the petrol engine starts up. It is quite smart about keeping the engine ticking on hills, but it does roll backwards just slightly.

When coasting, it seems that the engine goes idle, or at least the current fuel consumption gauge goes to zero. When the engine flicks back to charge mode there is a little whirring noise from somewhere under the dash, and when starting on electric the car does have a sort of subtle shudder; other than you wouldn't really notice.

The CV transmission is fantastic, and makes for a very smooth ride, especially on cruise control which doesn't have to hunt for gears. It is quite strange putting your foot down and just having the car accelerate with no noticeable gear changes. It has plenty of power for getting around town, and goes OK in the above 100km/h range. Even carrying 5 people it didn't seem to struggle. It gets around car parks just fine, and the steering is very, very smooth (new tyres probably help, however).

For some reason you can't shut of the two innermost air-conditioning vents, but otherwise the climate control works great. At least in Australia the interior has a touch of the Henry Ford about it: you can have it in any colour as long at is it beige. The rims are standard too, but look quite nice and modern.

Minor annoyances are lack of a switch-blade style key (they take up less pocket room) and, more annoyingly, lack of a remote boot unlock feature. This is something that comes in very handy when you have hands full of shopping, or a trombone and related paraphernalia. I also like the Audi hydraulic arm that kept the bonnet open, not that I plan to be under there much. Not that you'd want to touch anything, the two large red cables from the 158V batteries look like they could pack quite a punch.

It has a few less flashy features than the Prius, but it by no means feels like like a cheaper car. And the satisfaction you get from sitting in traffic (a fact of life in Sydney) using zero petrol is pretty good!

Update : We've just returned from a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne and back, covering 2170km. This was essentially all highway driving on cruise control at around 100-110km/h, with full boot of luggage. The trip computer tells us we averaged 5.8L/100km, which is a fair way off the 4.6L/100km claimed in the Green Vehicle Guide. A new 1.4L petrol Fiat Punto travelling with us on the way down also was running at under 6L/100km. In normal inner-Sydney driving we average 6.8L/100km, and the lowest we have achieved is 5.4L/100km whilst driving around the M2-M7-M5 loop when the new Lane Cove tunnel opened, which was often at lower speeds (80-90km/h) than open highway driving.