The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid is the second most fuel-efficient hybrid you can buy. Boasting EPA estimated fuel economy of 44 city/44 highway miles per gallon, only the Toyota Prius manages more miles from each gallon of gas (51 city/48 highway).
But is the newest Honda Civic Hybrid any good?
It's an obvious and important question, but once shoppers focused on the promise of 40-plus fuel economy might forget to ask. Are the seats comfortable? Does it ride nicely? Is the radio any good?
One of our editors recently drove a 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid sedan some 900 roundtrip miles between Southern and Northern California, taking the opportunity to track fuel economy and also to assess it not just as a hybrid, but as a car.
The trip took the Civic Hybrid through Orange County, Los Angeles and into Central California, following Interstate 5. During the first leg of the trip the gas-electric Civic returned 39.7 miles per gallon. It was a fair number, we thought, given the amount of time we'd spent in California's notorious stop-and-go traffic. During highway-only driving, the Civic Hybrid achieved closer to EPA numbers at 43.2 miles per gallon.
One of the observations made during the first leg of the trip was that the front seats offer a surprising amount of fore/aft movement, good for tall drivers and long trips. We also learned quickly that the cupholders, while generous, can't accommodate larger water bottles. And while we weren't fans of the 2012 Civic's 2-tier dashboard initially -- the digital speedometer is in a small pod nearer the base of the windshield -- the layout quickly made wonderful sense.
The next leg of the trip involved routine city and highway driving through Central and Northern California, ending with a stop in Gustine -- famous for its Pea Soup Andersen's location, if anything. The Honda Civic Hybrid delivered an average of 38.7 mpg on this leg. Given the normal driving conditions we had expected a higher number, but temperatures over 100 degrees had the air conditioning working overtime. We also weren't using the Civic Hybrid's accelerator-numbing ECO mode, which might have bumped that number up a bit.
It was during the fourth leg of the trip that the Civic Hybrid's reduced cargo space became a factor. In a stopgap measure, we were forced to use the backseat to accommodate some large boxes. Fortunately, the rear doors opened wide to ease loading and unloading. We also had some trouble connecting with the sedan's Bluetooth system, which could have been a compatibility issue between the car and our Droid phone.
On the final leg of the journey the Civic Hybrid returned 37.3 miles per gallon, the lowest mileage of the trip. But that's not a bad number in light of the extenuating circumstance: We spent three hours stopped behind an accident near Bakersfield, idling on the highway in 113-degree heat with the air conditioning on full blast.
It was during this last portion of the trip that we noticed a few fit and finish imperfections on the exterior, like panel gaps of varying widths. We also came to the conclusion that the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid is not the quietest compact sedan inside, making it difficult to hear and be heard while using the Bluetooth system.
On the other hand, the infotainment system was easy to use -- our iPod connected easily -- and it was easy to maneuver through the Civic's sound system (but the sound was just okay). And right down to the very last mile, the Honda Civic Hybrid's seats remained comfortable and supportive.
The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid never did deliver 44 miles per gallon over any of our extended stretches, but it came pretty close and managed some good fuel economy in bad conditions. But it also shined in terms of comfort and convenience -still important factors to consider, even when fuel economy is your top priority.