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2009 Honda Civic Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid was new.


Performance: 7.2

The Honda Civic Hybrid receives praise for impressive fuel economy ratings, but some say it is not as powerful as expected, even for a hybrid vehicle.

  • "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." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Honda system eliminates the annoying shimmies present in other systems when their gasoline engines restart and come online while the car's underway. Axing those shudders is a big relief." -- USA Today
  • "Slow off the line, demand liberal throttle to build speed quickly, but keeps pace with fast-moving traffic." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Though it's not especially quick, the Civic Hybrid accelerates adequately. The Civic Hybrid has a taut suspension, and body roll is well controlled, but the ride can get a bit jittery at times on uneven concrete highways." -- Cars.com
  • "In my time with the car, I was hugely impressed with the fuel economy, averaging over 50 mpg while driving vigorously in both urban and country surroundings." -- About.com

Acceleration and Power

Featuring a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine teamed with an electric motor, the 2009 Civic Hybrid makes 110 horsepower and 123 pounds-feet of torque. This combination, known as Integrated Motor Assist (IMA), helps Honda hybrids maintain great mileage. But reviewers shift between calling this system's acceleration seamless or listless. The EPA estimates that the 2008 Civic Hybrid will achieve 40/45 mpg city/highway.

  • "The Civic Hybrid's small engine gets very good fuel economy, but the electric assist doesn't give it enough boost for the hills." -- CNET
  • "Under acceleration, there is often a whirring noise that sounds a bit like the exhaust note from the car George Jetson flies." -- Car and Driver
  • "With either transmission, 140 hp Civics are lazy away from a stop, but have adequate power around town and for highway merging and passing. ... Hybrids are also slow off the line and demand liberal throttle to build speed quickly. They are able to keep pace with fast-moving traffic. ... The hybrid powertrain has no overt vices; system shuts off engine at stops to save gas, restarts instantly, and maintains air-conditioner power." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The IMA system provides seamless acceleration on part with the standard Civic's larger 1.8-liter gasoline engine. But a new accelerator design requires drivers to put the pedal all the way to the floor to get the vehicle quickly up to speed." -- Forbes
  • "Overtaking cars on the highway at speeds above 70 requires forethought and planning." -- Autobytel

Handling and Braking

Few test drivers make a distinction between the Civic Hybrid's dynamics and its gas-only counterpart, but those who do describe a competent handler. You may need to grow accustomed to the hybrid's regenerative brakes.

  • When the Civic Hybrid's current generation was introduced, Car and Driver noted, "The new body is stiffer, and the revised suspension smothers bumps easily and quietly." -- Car and Driver
  • "The Civic Hybrid test car felt tighter in its handling, and while it wasn't too rough or sporty, I did feel jolts when I drove over potholes. Impressively, the ride was quite quiet, with both road and wind noise muted." -- MSN
  • "The electric power steering starts light, but builds in feel as speeds grow higher. The skinny low-rolling resistance tires hang on in quick corners, but S2000-like handling is not this car's mission. Unfortunately, the grabby brakes and the unpolished transitions between coasting and getting into regenerative braking detract from the sedan's around-town smoothness." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Brakes got extra grab from regenerative braking, which turns the electric motor into a battery-charging generator. A little brake delivered a lot of slow. Too abrupt for people not used to it. Too artificial-feeling even after you got acclimated." -- USA Today

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