By KBB.com Editors
Honda continues to make into reality what other manufacturers only talk about. Take, for example, the Civic Hybrid. It's a car that employs a small gasoline engine assisted by an electric motor that can, under certain low-speed situations, become the car's sole powerplant. Urban commuters will find the 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid superior to its gasoline counterpart because it delivers extremely frugal city and highway fuel economy while producing minimal greenhouse emissions. Unlike the Toyota Prius, which assumes a functional but futuristic appearance, the Civic Hybrid closely mirrors the newly restyled Civic Sedan, with only a few minor exterior and interior changes to differentiate the two cars.You'll Like This Car If...
Whether your interest in hybrids is driven by political, environmental or financial considerations, the 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid allows you to address those issues in a vehicle that's just about as comfortable and stylish as a compact sedan can be with little sacrifice in drivability.
If your interest in the Civic Hybrid is purely financial, you may be discouraged by the math (see our Pricing Notes in this review). The Civic Hybrid's sedan body style also isn't as functional as the hatchback design of the Prius, which also offers a fold-down rear seat. Lastly, if you'd like your hybrid vehicle to make a statement, the Civic doesn't speak as loudly as the uniquely styled, hybrid-only Prius.What's New for 2008
No major changes for 2008.Driving It Driving Impressions
Despite the sophistication of the technology under the hood, the 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid delivers essentially the same experience you'd expect from any very good small car. It may not ride, handle or accelerate exactly like its gas-only Civic sedan counterpart, but the only differences you're likely to notice on your daily commute are the unique behavior of its "gearless" continuously variable transmission and the engine's stop/start operation at stoplights. If you're trying to decide between the new Civic Hybrid and the Toyota Prius, you'll have to rely on factors other than driving dynamics to make your decision. In back-to-back drives, we found the two largely similar. We like that other hybrids will accelerate from a stop on electric power alone (the Civic doesn't), but that fondness is based on novelty only.Favorite Features
45 Miles Per Gallon
Perhaps the only commuters who wouldn't appreciate the Civic Hybrid's theoretical maximum range of more than 500 miles are those hooked on Gas 'n' Sip convenience-store delicacies like beef jerky, lottery tickets, half-gallon fountain drinks and pre-packaged pastries.
Two-Tier Instrument Panel
While some non-traditional instrument panel layouts come across as gimmicky, the Civic's two-tier execution seems to make all the sense in the world.
The Civic's already progressive interior, featuring a distinctively shaped two-spoke steering wheel and innovative two-tier instrument panel, is even more cutting-edge with the hybrid's battery level, charge/assist and instantaneous fuel consumption gauges. A two-tone blue cloth interior is exclusive to the hybrid and a voluminous center console/armrest is big enough, according to Honda, to accommodate 25 CD cases. In-cabin technology is highlighted by an available navigation system. The front seats are comfortable, and most will find the back seat adequately so, especially for the typically short trips that involve three or more. Compared to its gasoline-only counterparts, the Civic Hybrid gives up only about 10-percent of trunk room to accommodate the additional hybrid hardware.Exterior
The attractive 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid is quickly distinguishable from conventionally motivated Civic sedans by its aerodynamic disc-type wheels. Other external differentiators include side mirrors with integrated turn indictors (the only Civic to offer this feature), clear front turn signal lenses, mild trunk spoiler, small roof-mounted antenna and hybrid badging. Beneath the sheet metal, all Civics feature an advanced body structure designed to better absorb and distribute collision forces, especially in impacts involving taller SUVs and the like.Notable Standard Equipment
Notable standard equipment on the Civic Hybrid includes power windows/locks/mirrors, remote keyless entry, automatic climate control air conditioning, six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with MP3/WMA CD playback capability, auxiliary audio input jack (for MP3 players and such), cruise control, steering wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls, four-way adjustable steering column, height-adjustable driver's seat and an impressive list of safety equipment including front, front-side and side-curtain airbags, active head restraints, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and more.Notable Optional Equipment
The only significant bit of optional equipment offered on the 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid is a navigation system that features voice recognition, a 6.5-inch customizable touch screen and a PC Card slot that gives you the ability to play music from almost any type of digital media card. When you choose the navigation system you also get XM Satellite Radio and the navigation controls are on the steering wheel. The Civic Hybrid doesn't offer the moonroof or fold-down rear seatback available on other Civic models.Under the Hood
The Civic Hybrid delivers both 18-percent more power and five-percent better mileage than the previous-generation Civic Hybrid. The latest Honda system features an electric-only mode in which the vehicle will run on battery power alone in certain lower-speed cruising situations. A manual transmission is not available, but the continuously variable transmission is a more natural fit anyway. The Civic Hybrid runs on regular unleaded gasoline.
1.3-liter in-line 4 Gas/Electric Hybrid Propulsion System
110 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
123 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1000-2500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 40/45
The well-equipped Civic Hybrid has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just over $23,000, and tops out around $25,000 with a navigation system. That's almost $3,000 more than a Civic EX Sedan, which also has very respectable EPA mileage figures of 25 mpg City, 36 Highway. Looking only at sticker price and fuel economy, the Civic Hybrid may not make financial sense (compared to the EX) until you've logged over 100,000 miles. One must also take into account any hybrid tax credit savings. We expect our Fair Purchase Prices to reflect real-world transaction prices at or even above the MSRP, and resale values to mirror those of the rest of the Civic lineup, which has proven to be one of the most financially durable nameplates in the industry.