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2012 Honda Civic Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid was new.


Performance: 6.7

The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid isn’t the most powerful model in the lineup, but it’s not supposed to be because the Civic Hybrid’s goal is fuel efficiency. While reviewers complain about the Civic Hybrid’s flaky start-stop technology, they couldn’t be more pleased with the Civic Hybrid’s Honda-estimated fuel economy ratings of 44/44 mpg city/highway. With ratings like this, test drivers concede that the Civic Hybrid makes a great commuter car.

  • "As for the drive, it is quieter than before, which we like, and while more involved than the Prius, keep your handling expectations low as, when pushed, the low rolling resistance tires make asphalt feel more like wet grass." -- AutoGuide.com
  • "But a consistent annoyance of hybrids remains, and even seems worse: the shudder that travels in rough waves through the car when the gasoline engine restarts after shutting off temporarily to save fuel." -- USA TODAY

Acceleration and Power

The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid isn’t fast, but according to Honda, it did gain a few more miles per gallon in the city and on the highway, an improvement the industry is pleased with. The Civic Hybrid gets 44/44 mpg city/highway, up 40/43 mpg city/highway from last year. In addition to the Civic Hybrid’s improved fuel economy ratings, the industry notes that the Civic Hybrid isn’t powerful, but is well-suited for commuting and errands.

The Civic Hybrid uses an Integrated Motor Assist System, which combines a 1.5-liter eight-valve i-VTEC four-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor. Honda says it has reduced friction and made airflow improvements to this system, adjustments that improved fuel economy. The electric motor and i-VTEC engine are paired with a Continuously Variable Transmission which also enhances fuel economy because it shifts gears based on torque load. This powertrain makes 110 horsepower, which is 30 horsepower less than the non-hybrid Civic and 12 more than the Toyota Prius.

While you’re driving, you can also put the Civic Hybrid in Eco mode by pressing the ECON button. The standard Eco Assist feature increases fuel efficiency by widening the idle-stop window and increasing the time it takes to reach top speeds when cruise control is used. 

  • "Those seeking even higher fuel-economy numbers will want to consider either the hybrid model or the new Civic HF. Available only as a sedan with the automatic, the HF adds lightweight aerodynamic wheels, a small trunklid spoiler, a few more underbody panels, and extremely low-rolling-resistance tires that bump highway fuel economy to 41 mpg; the city number rises by 1 to 29." -- Car and Driver
  • " Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Civic is that despite shunning all of the fuel-saving advancements employed by its competition, the vehicle still manages to come out as a solid player on this field. While we'd all love to see Honda knock out some truly incredibly fuel economy figures with its vehicles, the truth is that the company hasn't seen the need to add either cost or complexity to its systems given the results the vehicle is delivering right now." -- Autoblog 
  • "With the Civic Hybrid now easily exceeding the fuel economy of the Insight, cost is really the only reason one would choose the much less satisfying junior Honda hybrid." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Our time spent behind the wheel delivered numbers at stark contrast to Honda’s official figures. During highway driving we easily managed 45-mpg, but stuck in Washington D.C.’s notoriously bad traffic that number dropped considerably. Not only had the 44-mpg city mark dropped out of sight, it had gone into hiding, with just 34-mpg registering on our fancy i-MID display screen." -- AutoGuide.com

Handling and Braking

There are fewer performance reviews of the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid compared to the Civic Si and the base gasoline model. So far, reviewers who have tested the 2012 Civic Hybrid aren’t that impressed. They say the brakes have a more natural feel than the 2011 model, but the stop-start technology is still unrefined. If you’re specifically looking for a hybrid, try the Toyota Prius; you might prefer its handling. Keep in mind, however, that the Prius’ powertrain is similar to the Civic Hybrid – it’s not uncommon for reviewers to say these models drive like appliances. For a combination of good performance and high fuel economy ratings, try the Volkswagen Golf TDI. It runs on clean diesel fuel, makes 140 horsepower with its 2.0-liter TDI engine and gets 30/42 mpg city/highway. Like the Prius, the Civic Hybrid also has a regenerative braking system that uses the energy produced when the car stops to recharge the batteries. This system gets lukewarm reviews on both models.

  • "Noise. All models seemed to kick an unusual amount of noise into the passenger compartment; tire noise on coarse roads and suspension bump-thunks on even small bumps." -- USA TODAY 
  • "Paired with regenerative braking and start-stop technology, drive the Civic Hybrid in traffic and it’s easy to see why Honda is going it alone with its hybrid setup. The excessively grabby brakes of the previous generation model have been fixed for a more natural feel, however, the start-stop feature is unrefined at best." -- AutoGuide.com

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