2009 Honda Civic Hybrid

2009 Honda Civic Hybrid

The Basics:

Experts at TheCarConnection.com have gathered some of the most useful comments from other reviewers regarding the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid. Then here, in this Bottom Line, TheCarConnection.com’s editors bring you their own assessment, based on their firsthand driving experiences and observations.

The 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid does just what it's designed to do: carry you and yours all over town with minimal gasoline consumption. The four-door Civic uses both gas and electric power to achieve 45 mpg.

The 2009 Honda Civic is a very livable fuel-economy champ.

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-horsepower electric motor. The Civic Hybrid gets 40 mpg city, 45 highway, compared to the larger Toyota Prius, which has an equal highway rating but a higher city rating of 48 mpg.

It takes a trained eye to tell the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid apart from other Civics. The sedan shape is shared with the gas-powered four-doors, and it makes some compromises to style. The Hybrid's minor cosmetic changes include a small spoiler, clear turn-signal lenses, and blue lighting for the interior, as well as a wonderfully rich blue cloth interior and blue vinyl dash cap, different wheels, and turn indicators built into the sideview mirror housings. Inside the Hybrid, the futuristic look is somewhat fitting. However, the design leaves a lot of wasted space above the dash, and the rear doors with small cutouts make it harder for backseat passengers to get in and out of the Hybrid. The front seats are comfortable, but the dash standing before them has an unusual double-decker style that makes you feel like you're piloting a video game. There's not an abundance of headroom in back, either. For 2009, a leather-trimmed interior is available.

As with most Hybrids, there's a learning curve to the Civic. Although it handles well, the cornering limits are low, the steering feel is quite numb, and when the gas engine is needed, the CVT keeps it running at an unappealing drone. The ride is a bit busy, too. However, driving gently around town, you can move along at lower speeds on electric power alone, in near silence.

There is no folding rear seat in the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid, because the battery pack lives between the rear seats and the trunk. Power locks and windows are standard, along with a tilt/telescope steering wheel, remote keyless entry, steering-wheel audio controls, a 160-watt audio system with an auxiliary jack for your MP3 player, automatic climate control, and 15-inch wheels and tires. Options include satellite radio and a navigation system. For 2009, the nav system includes Bluetooth capabilities for hands-free calling.

Every 2009 Civic gets dual airbags, side and side curtain airbags, and anti-lock brakes. Electronic stability control is newly standard on the Civic Hybrid for 2009. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid as "good."

The 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid shares the same radical styling carried by the Civic sedan, with only a few minor modifications.

While the majority of reviewers like the design of the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid, there are some mixed feelings. Overall, reviewers tend to side with Edmunds, whose testers are "quite fond of the current-generation Civic" and its futuristic styling. The 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid shares much of its body design with conventional Honda Civics, including what ForbesAutos calls its "bold front-end styling with a steeply raked windshield." Reviewers at Cars.com point out "the current Civic sedan looks futuristic compared to its predecessor," and "the hybrid takes the look even further, with disc-like 15-inch alloy wheels fitted with low-rolling-resistance tires." Not all reviewers appreciate the silhouette, as Car and Driver feels that "from the B-pillar forward, it has almost a minivan look to it," contributing to a "front end [that] looks pretty strange." Kelley Blue Book notes that other visual distinctions between conventional Honda Civics and the Civic Hybrid are "side mirrors with integrated turn indicators," along with "clear front turn signal lenses, mild trunk spoiler, small roof-mounted antenna and hybrid badging."

The 2009 Honda Civic is a very livable fuel-economy champ.

The interior is also love it or hate it, especially when it comes to the dashboard and displays. ConsumerGuide sings the virtues of the "two-tier instrument panel" where the "speedometer's digits are in driver's line of sight for viewing without taking focus off [the] road." Edmunds observes that the "digital speedometer and gas gauge are at the base of the windshield," and "some drivers find the two-tier display distracting," though "others say it makes quick visual checks of speed easier." However, Car and Driver testers feel that the dashboard is "odd" and gives "the impression that a designer is trying a bit too hard to make the civilian Civic into a Formula 1 racer." One knock on the Honda Civic Hybrid's control design comes from ConsumerGuide, where reviewers find that "the navigation system takes time to master, has undersized buttons, and absorbs too many audio functions"; they also complain that "its screen is difficult to read in changing light conditions." Kelley Blue Book reports that, for 2009, Honda offers "a two-tone blue cloth interior" as standard, and Edmunds praises the "easy to operate" controls. 2009 brings an optional leather-trimmed interior to the Honda Civic Hybrid.

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."

Editors at TheCarConnection.com find that while the 2009 Honda Civic has decent interior space, the design necessitates a lot of wasted space above the dash. The backseat is hard to get in and out of—an inconvenience that is again a product of the car's sassy design.

Kelley Blue Book reviewers bring word of the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid's "comfortable" front seats. At Car and Driver, however, writers feel that "the backrest of the front seats" are "uncomfortable to the point of being a deal breaker" since, for 2009, "Honda has decided not to offer adjustable lumbar support." J.D. Power finds that "the Hybrid is very comfortable save one exception: the location of the parking brake handle," which can dig into the driver's right leg. The interior of the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid has "room for five," according to Cars.com. ConsumerGuide contends that the rear seats in the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid offer "decent adult headroom," though "knee space is tight with the front seats far aft."

To accommodate the space required for the hybrid drive system on the Honda Civic Hybrid, some small sacrifices have been made in terms of cargo space. Edmunds reports that this leaves "about 10" cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk versus "12 cubic feet of trunk space" on traditional Honda Civics, and ForbesAutos says "trunk space is slightly compromised to accommodate the hybrid system's battery pack." Other than the reduced trunk space, ConsumerGuide adds that "interior storage is very good," but reviewers miss the "folding rear seatback" removed from the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid. Kelley Blue Book remarks that the interior of this 2009 Honda features excellent storage, thanks to "a voluminous center console/armrest."

The Honda Civic Hybrid features an appealing and well-crafted interior, highlighted by a "laudable mix of high-grade plastics and fabrics" and "upmarket feel" in the cabin, according to ConsumerGuide. Edmunds also notes that the interior "materials are of high quality," and the car as a whole is well crafted. For 2009, buyers can opt for a leather-trimmed interior.

The "CVT promotes pronounced engine noise in rapid acceleration," says J.D. Power, whose reviewer notices an "odd warble" when accelerating. Other minor noise comments come from Car and Driver, which identifies "occasional whirring and beeping noises" during driving that are "odd but not annoying." ConsumerGuide, however, contends that sound suppressions is "near the top of the class" when cruising.

The 2009 Civic Hybrid doesn't disappoint, offering a full range of safety equipment and top scores on almost all crash tests.

In crash tests performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the IIHS, the Honda Civic Hybrid held up well and afforded good occupant protection. The IIHS found no problems with the Honda Civic Hybrid and bestowed its highest rating, "good," upon the Honda Civic Hybrid in both frontal offset and side impact tests. NHTSA awarded the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid five stars for front impact and side rear passenger impact protection, along with four out of five stars for side driver impacts. Kelley Blue Book attributed these strong crash-test ratings to the 2009 Honda's "advanced body structure," which is "designed to better absorb and distribute collision forces, especially in impacts involving taller SUVs."

Kelley Blue Book reports that the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid offers "an impressive list of safety equipment including front, front-side and side-curtain airbags, active head restraints, anti-lock brakes (ABS), and more," a list echoed in most of the reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Electronic stability control is newly standard for 2009. Optional safety features aren't available on this 2009 Honda, but the standard features are enough to satisfy even the most worried drivers.

Further boosting the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid's score in this category is the above-average visibility afforded by the large windshield and overall design. While ConsumerGuide notes that the "long front roof pillars impede outward view to the corners," Cars.com testers find that "all-around visibility is exceptional."

Experts at TheCarConnection.com love the features of the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid. This car is loaded, likely in an appeal to tech-savvy hybrid shoppers.

ForbesAutos remarks that, on the Honda Civic Hybrid, the "standard equipment is plentiful and on par with the gas-powered Civic's top EX trim level." Kelley Blue Book lists some of the standard features on this 2009 Honda as "remote keyless entry, automatic climate control air conditioning, six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with MP3/WMA CD playback capability," and "steering wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls." Power locks and windows are standard, as well as a tilt/telescope steering wheel, remote keyless entry, steering-wheel audio controls, automatic climate control, and 15-inch wheels and tires. Reviewers at The Detroit News love the "high-quality audio system and full complement of power accessories" that make the Honda Civic Hybrid "a lot of fun."

Along with the standard features, the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid offers one optional upgrade. Kelley Blue Book lists that option as "a navigation system that features voice recognition, a 6.5-inch customizable touch screen and a PC Card slot" that will allow you to insert and play music from almost any digital media card. TheCarConnection.com’s editors appreciate Honda’s nav system; J.D. Power confirms it is "a breeze to use." For 2009, the upgraded nav system offers Bluetooth capability for hands-free calling.

Buying Tips:

Later this model year, the Honda Insight arrives. Though the Insight has performance and fuel economy that's comparable to that of the Civic, the Insight is offered as a hatchback and will cost less.

Other Choices:

  • 2004 Honda Civic
  • 2008 Toyota Prius
  • 2001 Volkswagen Jetta

Reason Why:

The new Volkswagen Jetta TDI sports real-world highway fuel economy in the 40s, with cleaner emissions than diesels of the past, and it’s a much more settled choice for highway driving. The Honda Civic GX uses natural gas, not gasoline, to provide good power and fuel economy; its range is rather short, but it’s even more economical to run than a hybrid if you have access. The Toyota Prius has been a pioneer in hybrid vehicles. The current Prius has good interior room and strong fuel economy, along with hatchback utility; an all-new Prius is expected very soon, as a 2010 model.

The Bottom Line:

The 2009 Honda Civic is a very livable fuel-economy champ.

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