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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
suspension, steering and brakes all work together
taut suspension, and body roll is well-controlled
ended the test with a 38.2 mpg average
Experts at TheCarConnection.com find that the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid has acceptable performance—but it really shines in fuel economy and has surprisingly good handling.
The system at work in the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid actually has five modes that let the electrics and gas engine come together in different ways, including allowing the Civic Hybrid to run on electric power alone. The powertrain consists of a 1.3-liter four mated to an IMA hybrid system. The engine by itself produces 93 horsepower, assisted by a 20-hp electric motor. The Civic Hybrid gets 40 mpg city, 45 highway.
The Civic's hybrid engine 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 2009 "Honda's engine and electric motor are sandwiched together and then connected to the transmission, so if one is running, so is the other." However, points out TheCarConnection.com’s editors, the Civic Hybrid can effectively shut off all its cylinders by opening the valvetrain for electric-only cruising at low speed.
The only powerplant offered in the 2009 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." Many reviews read by TheCarConnection.com mention the sluggish acceleration times this powerplant offers, with ConsumerGuide warning that 2009 Honda Civic Hybrids are "slow off the line and demand liberal throttle to build speed quickly." Edmunds deems the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid to be "a bit slow" and not "meant for supreme acceleration," while Cars.com finds that the Honda "Civic Hybrid accelerates adequately."
On the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid, the EPA estimates that drivers will get 40 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway. Some reviewers don't fare as well, as testers at J.D. Power "ended the test with a 38.2 mpg average," but Car and Driver reviewers manage to hit the "40 mpg" mark. The 2009 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 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.
The 2009 Civic Hybrid manages to squeeze some driving fun into its thrifty package. ConsumerGuide notes 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 they "can make smooth stops tricky." Cars.com reviewers rave about the "taut suspension" and "well-controlled" body roll, combined with the "responsive" steering on this 2009 Honda. Other reviewers, such as those at Edmunds, love how the "suspension, steering and brakes all work together" seamlessly to make the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid "somewhat sporty to drive."
The 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid doesn't accelerate particularly well, but that's not really what it's designed for.