HONDA'S HYBRID CIVIC GOES GREEN.
THE Japanese have long led the way in hybrid technology with the much vaunted petrol/electric cars from Toyota with its Prius and Honda which has this car, the Civic IMA.
The market does seem to be moving their way as green issues become ever more important to both consumers and legislators and the two are ideally placed to capitalise on their pioneering work. However, I have to say that buying and living with a hybrid may not be all that it is cracked up to be.
Take this Civic IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) for example. As you can see, Honda only currently sells it in the Civic saloon form rather than the vastly more popular hatchback version, testament to the fact that this car’s main market is America, not Europe. A small factor perhaps and there is a positive flipside, in that the Civic IMA has more room than its hatchback namesake.
A bigger stumbling block might be the price because hybrid ownership is not cheap. The IMA starts at £17,490 and goes to within touching distance of £20,000. Even Honda has acknowledged that the cost of hybrids limits their appeal at the moment and it is fair to say that the next generation will be cheaper.
The Honda is not a full-blown hybrid, unlike the Toyota Prius, and so cannot run solely on its electric motor. Rather this is used to assist the 1.4 litre petrol engine, providing extra oomph when you need more power for overtaking or getting up a steep hill, for example.
The IMA system is completely automatic and the driver need do nothing to operate it. In fact, the whole car is simplicity itself to drive, thanks to an automatic transmission. All you have to do is steer, accelerate and brake. On this point, I should point out an oddity that takes a little bit of getting used to and that is, because the IMA system recaptures some of the energy normally lost as heat during braking, the pedal doesn’t feel as instantly sharp as you might expect compared to a normal car. It is not a problem, just a little quirk.
The crux of this hybrid is how it performs economically and on this front it isn’t bad for a four-seater saloon. Honda quotes an average consumption of 61 mpg and its CO2 output is rated at a tax-friendly 109 g/km. The fuel figure seems pretty accurate but the Honda needs to up its game against the new generation of green cars coming from mainstream manufacturers such as Ford and VW which are virtually as clean and considerably cheaper.
The Civic IMA is an important pointer to the way cars are going, by being developed first and foremost to reduce its eco-impact. It does well, but newer designs do better and with less complicated and costly technology. I suspect the next generation of hybrids will deliver a significant improvement in eco-performance and value for money.
Honda Civic IMA.
Cost from £17,490.
O to 60 12 seconds
Top speed 115 mph
Average mpg 61
CO2 109 g/km
Insurance Group 7.