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2006 Honda Civic Hybrid

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San Francisco: Honda was the first manufacturer to introduce a car with a hybrid engine technology to the American market, with the tiny Insight in 1999. Honda has been building efficient automobiles for decades, so making a hybrid version of the Civic seems like a great idea.

With a complete redesign for 2006, the new Civic is now a multi award winner, too. The Civic Hybrid has just won the World Car of the Year for greenest car. Motor Trend magazine already gave the entire Civic line its prestigious Car of the Year award. Looking at the roadways, the 2006 car is obviously a winner with the driving public as well.

Hybrids get better fuel mileage, because they use gas engines and electric motors together. Beyond that, it starts to get technical. The Civic Hybrid's Integrated Motor Assist system (IMA) pairs a small, highly efficient gasoline engine with a compact electric motor to produce enough power to propel the 2,875 pound sedan in a satisfyingly quick manner. The electric motor runs on power that is generated whenever the brakes are applied, so the car never needs to be plugged in, as a matter of fact, you can't plug it in.

The Civic Hybrid's 1.3-liter four cylinder gas engine produces 110 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 123 lb.-ft of torque. The electric motor generates 20 horsepower at a low 2,000 rpm and a substantial 76 lb.-ft. of torque at 1-1,160 rpm. The engine and motor, as you can see, complement each other. With a combined 130 horsepower and 199 lb.-ft. of torque, the Civic Hybrid never feels like a slug.

Previous Civic Hybrids used their gasoline engines all the time, with the electric motor chiming in when needed for acceleration, climbing hills, and so on. For 2006, the engine shuts down during certain cruising situations.  The car normally shuts off at stops to conserve gas, turning on automatically as soon as you release the brake pedal.

Honda's philosophy of hybrids is to make the cars efficient for high mileage commuters, so the EPA mileage figures are almost exactly the same for city and highway driving, at 49 mpg and 51 mpg respectively.

I had the good fortune to drive an Alabaster Silver 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid during some rare nice weather this spring. I took a 224 mile round trip from my home to Monterey. On my way down, I averaged 43 miles per gallon, and for the total trip, it improved to 45.9 mpg. At the 200 mile mark, before commute traffic set in, I hit my peak average of 53.0 miles per gallon. Now that's good! The overall mileage for the 486.3 mile week dropped to 38.0 mpg, which is a still quite an achievement.

The Civic is a very comfortable, pleasant car to drive. The new larger shape, which rises from nose to rooftop and tapers back to the tail in one grand sweep, conveys a spacious feeling inside. The front pillar, with its little window inside, gives a mini minivan feeling up front.

The progressive new body styling permeates into the slick interior, with sweeping, dramatic curves and textures blending together. An ingenious double bent brake lever takes up much less space. Most impressive is the split gauge panel, which shows essential information such as speed and fuel as digital readouts just below the windshield glass. The analog tachometer and warning lights live inside the steering wheel rim, in a more traditional dash. The whole thing has a bit of a video game feel, especially at night with the colorful panel illumination.

My car came with a voice recognition system. I was able to set the navigation destination, although it required some repeats. I turned the audio system on and off. I asked the time and it told me. I turned on the rear defroster, played CDs, and raised and lowered the temperature. I asked the device to find me the nearest gas station and it listed several, with the nearest at the top. If I selected one, it would be glad to guide me there. The system didn't always understand me. I asked for Chevron stations and got shoe stores. But my favorite command was, How far to the destination? The voice promptly told me.

The Civic Hybrid costs more than the other Civics, but it has much to recommend it. Besides the obvious fuel savings, in California you can drive in the carpool lane with a single driver, if you're willing to apply some homely decals. There are some one-time tax advantages too (see your accountant).

Expect to pay $24,200, including destination charges, for the Civic Hybrid with the navigation system, $22,700 without. For comparison, the top level Civic EX non-hybrid sedan, with automatic, retails for $19,710.

Can you ever recoup the additional price of the Hybrid with the better mileage it delivers? It depends on how much you drive, how efficiently you drive, how long you own it, and how much gas is going to cost. But there are other good reasons for driving a hybrid car, such as saving the planet. The best thing is, it takes no extra effort to drive one, and Hondas are known for quality and reliability.   By Steve Schaefer   AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name: 
 There are good reasons for driving a hybrid car
 The 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid
Word Count:  
Photo Caption: 
 The 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid
Photo Credits:  
Honda Internet Media
Series #:   2006 - 23

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