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If Toyota’s Prius is the Ferrari of hybrids, then the Honda Civic Hybrid is the Plymouth Road Runner. Where the Prius wears its politically correct, environmentally concerned heart in its distinct sheetmetal the way, say, a 360 Modena announces its performance capabilities in every fender swoop, the Civic Hybrid looks just like any old Civic in much the same way that the Road Runner still looked like a Belvedere even if there was a 426 Hemi under its hood. Want the world to know that you care? Buy a Prius. Want to underplay your own virtuousness? Here’s the Civic.Civic to the marrow
There are a few external visual clues so that the cognescenti can distinguish the Hybrid from other Civics at a glance, but except for the drivetrain this is just as much a Civic as any other. Every piece of external sheetmetal is shared with the regular Civic four-door sedan (the only body style in which the Hybrid is offered) and every dimension (the 103.1-inch wheelbase and 175.4-inch overall length for example) carries over unchanged.
It also means that the MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear suspension is identical to other Civics and so are the 10.3-inch front disc and 7.8-inch rear drum brakes. However ABS is standard with the Hybrid and the rack-and-pinion steering gets an electric power-assist rather than a mechanical one. It’s all conventional stuff.
Except for front headrests that have a hole in their center and instrumentation that glows blue in a fairly high-tech way, the interior is pretty much indistinguishable from that of other Civic sedans. There is exactly as much room in the Hybrid’s interior as that of other Civics, but the trunk space is squeezed down from 12.9 to 10.1 cubic feet and the rear seat can’t be folded down to extend items into the seating area. Adjustable rear headrests, a new center console and new fabric patterns come aboard for 2004 but don’t expect to be startled. That is unless your startle threshold is down there with field mice and fruit bats.