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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
Slow acceleration times
Taut suspension, and body roll is well-controlled
Ended the test with a 38.2 mpg average
The 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid boasts excellent fuel economy and surprisingly good handling, even if it’s not the fastest compact on the road.
The Civic Hybrid's powertrain consists of a 1.3-liter four mated to an IMA hybrid system. The engine by itself produces 93 hp, assisted by a 20-hp electric motor. The system actually has five modes that let the electrics and gas engine work together in different ways, including allowing the Civic Hybrid to run on electric power alone. The Civic Hybrid gets 40/45 mpg, compared to the larger Toyota Prius's higher city mileage at 48/45 mpg.
The only powerplant offered in the 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid consists of a "1.3-liter four-cylinder engine teamed with an electric motor," according to Cars.com; the two combine to produce "110 horsepower and 123 pounds-feet of torque." The system functions somewhat differently from that of the Toyota Prius hybrid, in that the Prius can start using only electric power, while Car and Driver notes that the 2008 "Honda's engine and electric motor are sandwiched together and then connected to the transmission, so if one is running, so is the other." Many reviews read by TheCarConnection.com mentioned the sluggish acceleration times that this powerplant offers, with ConsumerGuide writing that 2008 Honda Civic Hybrids are "slow off the line and demand liberal throttle to build speed quickly." Cars.com finds that the Honda "Civic Hybrid accelerates adequately," and while Edmunds deems the 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid to be "a bit slow," they also mention that it's not "meant for supreme acceleration."
Along with its one powerplant, the 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid is equipped with just one transmission, which Kelley Blue Book says is a "'gearless' continuously variable transmission" that is a "natural fit" for the hybrid system. The CVT is pretty unremarkable, though J.D. Power feels that it is "less energetic" than the transmissions offered on standard Honda Civics. One of the biggest advantages of a CVT is that it keeps the engine operating near its peak performance range, which helps increase fuel economy. On the 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid, the EPA estimates that drivers will get 40 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway. Some reviewers didn't fare as well, as testers at J.D. Power "ended the test with a 38.2 mpg average," but Car and Driver reviewers did manage to hit the "40 mpg" mark.
The Civic Hybrid manages to squeeze some driving fun into its thrifty package. Cars.com reviewers rave about the "taut suspension" and "well-controlled" body roll, combined with the "responsive" steering found on this 2008 Honda. Other reviewers, such as those at Edmunds, love how the "suspension, steering and brakes all work together" seamlessly to make the 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid "somewhat sporty to drive." ConsumerGuide adds that the Honda Civic Hybrids "have low-rolling resistance tires that enhance fuel economy, but allow some noseplow in tight turns," but overall, they "take bumps in stride, with good absorbency and little float or wallow." The brakes are acceptable, but Cars.com finds that they "can make smooth stops tricky."
TheCarConnection.com’s team notes the 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid handles differently than the sedan, thanks to electric power steering, skinny tires, and its CVT. As with most Hybrids, there's a learning curve to getting used to the numbed steering feel, the lower cornering limits, and the drone of the gas engine (the CVT keeps the engine operating near peak efficiency). The ride is a bit busy, too.
The 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid offers great fuel numbers at the expense of acceleration, but handling remains a virtue.