Honda brought the first mass-produced hybrid to Australia early in 2001. The Honda Insight was something out of the ordinary, not only in its petrol-electric powertrain but also in its radical styling.
Hindsight says Insight didn’t make a lot of sense in our somewhat conservative market and sales were slow. Its $50,000 price tag didn’t help either. You could get into a mid-range Honda Civic for less than half of that.
Honda quickly learned its lesson so from 2004 began to import Civic hybrids rather than Insights. These have been moderately successful in the sales race over the years.
With the new-model Civic hybrid for 2012, Honda is making a strong sales and marketing push. It gave several motoring journalists the opportunity to live with a Civic hybrid for six months. We are halfway through that period and are thoroughly enjoying the experience.
Major changes have been made to the electric motor and it’s now powered by a lithium-ion battery in place of the nickel-metal-hydride of the previous model. This gives the Civic hybrid added torque off the line and it has plenty of performance for day-to-day driving.
Having covered almost 2000 kilometres to date, we have found the Honda Civic hybrid using fuel in the range of 5.6 to 6.2 litres per hundred kilometres in commuter driving in town. This can be pulled down to the high fours on motorways. A mixture of city and country driving usually had the fuel meter sitting in the low to mid fives.
Owners of turbo-diesel cars will point out that they can achieve similarly low fuel figures. However, diesels put out significantly more CO2 than petrol-hybrids. The Honda Civic hybrid is rated at 104 grams per kilometre in the Green Vehicle Guide, whereas diesel cars of this size typically push out 150 to 160 grams — a huge difference.
The Civic hybrid loses a little boot space to house its battery.
Prices start at $35,990, not including government or dealer delivery charges.