Cars Worth Noting: 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid
2004 Honda Civic Hybrid
The Honda Civic Hybrid’s dominant personality trait is efficiency with transparency. It looks like any other ’04 Civic sedan and doesn’t drive much differently.
The gas/volt pedal delivers smooth, usually adequate acceleration with Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) boosting the 1.3L four’s 85 hp and 87 lb. ft. by 13 hp and 36 lb. ft. of instant electric torque. Mid-range zip feels reasonably strong, but 0 to 60 with the CVT takes a pokey 13-14 seconds.
The floor shifter offers “D,” “S,” and “L” selections. Downshifting to “S” “Second” feels like downshifting an automatic one gear. It improves acceleration and lift-throttle regenerative braking (feels like engine braking), which pushes more volts back into the battery. The low-range “L” adds more of the same. But using lower range increases rpm and decreases economy.
With the shifter in “D” and HVAC either off or in “Econ,” the engine shuts down to save gas at idle and when braking below 5 mph, provided the coolant temperature is near normal, power brake vacuum is sufficient and the battery is adequately charged. It restarts, smoothly and transparently, when you release the brake.
Despite 250 extra pounds of motor and NiMH battery, it handles and brakes much like other Civics, with no trace of the brake surging that can occur as a hybrid blends regen with friction braking. Graphic gauges indicate instantaneous economy, fuel level, temperature, battery charge and the flow of Charge (decel) or Assist (accel) voltage to and from the battery.
Despite much more standard content than ordinary Civics, the hybrid CVT stickers at just $21,110 (well below its real cost, we contend). We averaged 37 mpg in a week of city, suburban and highway driving vs. EPA ratings of 48 City, 47 Highway.