Highway driving is its strength.
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- Aug. 28, 2008
The 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid -- EPA rated at 40mpg City, 45mpg Highway, and 42mpg Combined.
Since the first generation Honda Civic reached our shores 35 years ago, the perennial compact favorite has grown in size, performance and amenities while still achieving admirable fuel economy, excellent reliability, and resale value most accurately described as “Best in Class.” In this iteration, the Civic is the safest compact available on the road today.
Given the attributes and history, is it any wonder this eighth generation Honda Civic is the number one selling compact in the US? Through July of 2008, it is actually outselling the recently released 2009 Toyota Corolla by a good margin (234,086 as compared to 228,926 vehicles purchased). This shows just how popular the Civic is with the American public.
The first hybrid Civic was launched in late 2002. This first generation Honda Civic Hybrid (HCH-I) came with a 1.3L engine (rather than the 1.7L engine that was standard in US Civics at the time) coupled with a third generation Auto Stop/Start and Assist/Regenerative braking system known as Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) -- first seen in the 2000 Honda Insight.
With the release of the eighth generation 2006 Civic, Honda launched the second generation Honda Civic Hybrid (HCH-II) utilizing an improved iVTEC and fourth generation IMA system. This system introduced the ability to cruise on its electric motor alone under light load conditions.
Improved Engine and IMA
The Civic Hybrid-II’s engine uses a 3-Stage i-VTEC system with an additional high output valve timing mode allowing a 9 percent increase in HP. Additionally, the engine features 4-cylinder deactivation vs. the 3-cylinder deactivation capable HCH-I -- this change alone reduced total pumping losses by 66 percent.
The fourth generation IMA motor in the HCH-II includes a new, more efficient internal permanent magnet with a 50 percent increase in HP and 14 percent increase in torque compared to the 2005 Civic Hybrid IMA motor.
A wide array of standard safety technologies includes Honda’s latest safety advance known as the ACE Body Structure which enhances front collision safety between vehicles of different sizes.
Along with improved structural safety, the HCH-II is equipped with side curtain airbags, driver's and front passenger's side airbags with a passenger-side Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS), and dual-stage, dual-threshold driver's and front passenger's airbags (SRS) -- all standard.
Active safety features include active front seat head restraints designed to reduce the likelihood of neck injury in rear collisions, an anti-lock braking system (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), and front seatbelts with automatic-tensioners and load limiters. Again, all of this is standard equipment.
New for 2009, the HCH-II includes Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) and Brake Assist (BA) -- once again, standard.
2008/2009 Honda Civic Hybrid Pricing
2008 HCH-II Base -- MSRP of $22,600
2008 HCH-II with Navigation -- MSRP of $24,350 as reviewed
2009 HCH-II Base -- MSRP of $23,550
2009 HCH-II with Leather -- MSRP of $24,750
2009 HCH-II with Navigation -- MSRP of $25,550
2009 HCH-II with Leather and Navigation -- MSRP of $26,750
A destination charge of $670 is an addition to the above vehicles MSRP.
2008 Honda Civic Hybrid exterior and interior
HCH-II on an Illinois prairie.
Front driver’s view.-------------------------------------------------------
Rear seat interior.
2008 Honda Civic Hybrid Specifications
The HCH-II’s full specifications can be viewed at the following location: 2006 – 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid specifications
2008 Honda Civic Hybrid Performance
The HCH-II was not meant to be a stop light to stop light performer for either pep or great Fuel economy. 0 to 60 mph in 12 seconds is a bit on the slow side while 60 to 0 panic stops in approximately 135 feet are normal for the class. Where it shines however is on the highway in steady state cruise at reasonable speeds. With extremely wide ratios available from the HCH-II’s CVT, 60 mph can be achieved at an incredibly low 1,691 RPM! This is just one aspect of the HCH-II’s great highway fuel economy.
What else is in the HCH-II’s fuel economy repertoire? A properly setup HCH-II, with its tall ratios and the ability to hold SAHM mode (see below) up to 60 mph, is a relaxed highway cruising dream. How does the HCH-II handle Chicago area commuting chores? Truly excellent results are described below.
2008 Honda Civic Hybrid Ride and Handling
Ride was reasonably comfortable even at MAX Sidewall -- an expected attribute of any Civic. Where the HCH-II fell apart was when entering into a smooth sweeper. There is little feedback due to an over boosted Electric Power Steering (EPS) system and under-steer is readily apparent. Unfortunately, this is not the only issue for those using advanced techniques. The steering input is manageable for approximately 5 seconds into a FAS -- then the EPS comes back online. When it does, you go from a somewhat tense steering input to a quick transition that feels very much like over-steer. Even knowing it was coming didn't give me the confidence to let it go unheeded. A standard Glide mode into sweepers with the light but controllable under-steer ended up being the best approach for this type of roadway.
The HCH-II is not a performance compact and with that idea firmly planted, take it easy in the curves and it will reward you with high fuel economy and a comfortable ride for many years to come.
2008 Honda Civic Hybrid Interior Ergonomics, Utility and General Comfort
Driver ergonomics are excellent! The driver's seat, accelerator/brake pedal, and standard tilt/telescopic steering wheel position are comfortable for many sizes and shapes.
A couple of negatives did appear in this well executed interior, however. Since there is no adjustable Lumbar support, Honda includes a deep push into the lower/middle back with a standard driver's seat curve. Over longer distances you may find yourself squirming for more comfortable positions. The second item has to do with the left foot rest (dead pedal). It is installed at a relatively vertical angle and I never found a truly comfortable resting position.
Front seat ergonomics – poor dead pedal angle but good room for rear seat passengers with the front seat back to the stops.
- A number of storage spaces are available including front beverage holders, center console with sliding armrest and storage compartment, front and rear door pockets, and seat back pockets.
2008 Honda Civic Crash test ratings
NHTSA Crash test ratings: 5 - 5 - 4 - 5 - 4 Stars.
IIHS Crash test ratings: Best available Good Ratings across the board.
2008 Honda Civic Hybrid Instrumentation and Controls
– The OEM i and aFCDs are both very well designed and easy to read. The only issue is the resolution of the iFCD. The range appears to be 120 mpg but with only 0, 50 and 100 mpg demarcations, I am still not sure what the peak iFE is?
– Honda designers are masters of user friendly controls and they did a wonderful job in the HCH-II. A/C controls are simple, well thought out, and easy to control well beyond the simple Auto temperature setting. This HCH-II was equipped with Navigation and to move from one end of the radio spectrum to the other involved holding down the tune toggle vs. spinning a dial. Simple and easy to learn but time consuming in some instances.
2008 Honda Civic Hybrid Fuel Economy Results
The HCH-II performed well for the week in a 25% suburban/75% slower speed highway mix with minor reservations.
|Date||Odo||Trip A miles||Trip B miles (Tank total)||Trip A Segment FCD (mpg)||Trip B Tank FCD (mpg)||SG-II Segment (mpg)||SG-II Tank (mpg)||Notes|
|07/21/08||4,672||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||Topped off fill.|
|07/21/08||4,707||34.2||34.2||82.2||82.2||96.0||96.0||75 – 79 degrees F, little wind, medium traffic, 85% highway. |
|07/21/08||4,742||36.0||70.2||74.1||77.6||87.2||91.3||78 – 79 degrees F, little wind, heavy traffic, 80% highway.|
|07/21/08||4,786||43.5||113.9||72.7||75.7||81.5||87.3||67 – 68 degrees F, little wind, light traffic, 40% highway, 60% around town and country roads.|
|07/22/08||4,826||40.5||154.4||67.0||72.6||75.9||84.0||64 – 67 degrees F, little wind, stop and crawls out and medium traffic back. 90% highway with half being stop and crawls and average speeds < 20 mph |
|07/22/08||4,873||46.2||200.6||68.6||71.6||Multiple||83.4||68 – 72 degrees F, 5 - 10 mph side winds, heavy traffic and 80% highway/20% local.|
|07/23/08||4,913||40.3||241.0||68.4||71.1||79.9||82.8||58 – 63 degrees F, little wind, heavy stop and crawls out and medium to heavy traffic back.|
|07/23/08||4,954||40.8||281.8||70.1||70.9||Multi||83.0||75 – 78 degrees F, little wind, medium traffic out and 5 miles of horrendous Stop and Crawls back.|
|07/23/08||5,011||57.3||339.2||77.9||72.0||94.1||84.7||67 – 70 degrees F, little wind, 10 miles of Stop and Crawls out and light traffic back.|
|07/24/08||5,057||46.3||385.5||68.1||71.5||80.5||84.1||56 – 63 degrees F, little wind, 5 miles of suburban stop light to stop light and medium Interstate traffic both ways. |
|07/24/08||5,111||53.4||439.0||65.9||70.8||Multi||82.9||76 – 78 degrees F, little wind, all suburban traffic driving.|
|07/24/08||5,152||40.9||479.9||74.0||71.0||Multi||83.3||72 – 73 degrees F, little wind, medium Interstate traffic.|
|07/25/08||5,172||19.9||499.9||85.2||71.5||88.4||83.4||66 degrees F, little wind, Low and Medium speed P&G.|
|07/25/08||5,175||03.3||503.2||83.2||71.5||85.4||83.4||66 degrees F, little wind, 3 mile drive to the gas station.|
|FE Rating Origin||EPA City FE rating||EPA Highway FE Rating||CleanMPG Observed Fuel Economy|
|US||40 mpg||45 mpg||73.15 mpgUS|
|British Imperial||48 mpg||54 mpg||87.78 mpgUK|
|European Metric||5.9 L/100 km||5.2 L/100 km||3.215 L/100 km|
Review MPG data: 503.2 miles using 6.879 gallons = 73.150 mpgUS.
71.5 mpg over 503.2 miles per the aFCD – 73.15 mpg actual from top off to top off.
2008 HCH-II FE Techniques
Tarabell has already covered the basics very competently in her article entitled Adapting Basic_Hypermiling Techniques to the HCH-II
Steady state lower speed highway cruise
SAHM -- 56 mph at IGN 32 with a LOD of 48% yields 80 + mpg.
In addition to what Tarabell has written, Super Atkinson Highway Mode (SAHM) can be added to the arsenal of efficiency techniques.
SAHM is an Ignition timing target (viewed on a ScanGauge) that can be used to achieve 75-90 mpg in the HCH-II with light throttle, DWL steady state cruise on the highway. The Fuel Economy achievement you see above can be held from 43-60 mph with the fuel economy numbers falling as you approach 60 mph or as ambient conditions (temperatures, wind, grade, road surface and/or traffic conditions) deteriorate. Unless you are heading downhill, SAHM will disappear above 60 mph.
To achieve this state once you are near a steady state target, ever so gently let off the accelerator pedal to allow LOAD (LOD per the ScanGauge) to drop under 50% and throttle position (TPS) to hang at 15. Once these two parameters are achieved, Ignition advance (IGN as displayed on the ScanGauge) should remain in the 30-36 range with the OEM iFCD settling in the 75-90 mpg range -- the ScanGauge’s iFCD displays even higher numbers.
This one is tough as I believe the 2006 and 2007 HCH-II’s act differently than the 2008 model depending on which ECU flash update has been performed. The 2008 will run SoC down to 4 or 5 bars most of the time whereas the 2006 and 2007 models appear to want to hold a 6 to 7 bar SoC. With a 4-5 bar SoC there is little room to allow assist without running into a Forced Charge scenario and this is an area you do not want to be in -- SAHM is extremely difficult if not impossible to hold at this level and low speed/RPM (1,100 RPM) 90 + mpg capability is also gone. Assist affinity is extremely hard if not impossible to minimize during acceleration but do try to limit assist from a stop with 0 to 12 mph in D at a maximum of 2-3 bars, down shift to S for 12-18 mph and then up shift back to D above 18 mph. Above 25 mph, assist affinity can be controlled with a very gentle right foot although even at highway speeds, assist will occasionally appear so focus is needed. Staying out of the pack will allow the best overall fuel economy and increase battery pack longevity.
This one is a bit tricky as there is built in capability to shut down injectors while closing off the intake/exhaust valves to reduce pumping losses in a no-assist or regen glide. This is very useful but there is still the momentum killing parasitic drag of the entire drivetrain spinning over. Coming to a stop this is not a problem but if you have to re-engage at speeds above 20 mph there is a distinct 2-4 mph slow down as the belt catches the sheaves and the CVT engages. FAS’ing produces better results on those kinds of glides if you do not require regen later on to slow to a long light or sign.
Another use for FAS is in Stop and Crawl that does not allow re-acceleration back above the 5 mph Autostop threshold -- this leaves the HCH-II idling away while stopped. Take manual control and FAS the HCH-II to a stop in this situation.
Stop and Crawl – The daily grind
The traffic scenario you do not want to visit with an HCH-II is an urban area stop and crawl. If you are forced to stop, the HCH-II will make you pay for the acceleration to speed dearly with the aFCD falling precipitously.
Picking my wife up from work, after 3 miles of light suburban traffic and 17 miles of lightly trafficked, 45 and 55 mph construction zone Interstate, the HCH-II’s aFCD displayed 78.9 MPG. Heading back to the Interstate had us driving through a classic Suburban Chicago stop and crawl over 2 miles lasting more than 20 minutes. The type of stop and crawl encountered was typified by requiring three light cycles to get through a single traffic sign. The HCH-II’s aFCD fell from 78.9 to 70.9 mpg as I approached the Interstate on-ramp. The fuel economy calculations for that single 2-mile stretch after 19.9 miles had been accumulated revealed a dismal 34.4 MPG average while throwing the Hypermiling book at it.
If you encounter this type of traffic condition on a daily basis, the HCH-II will unfortunately offer disappointing results.
2008 HCH-II competitive comparisons
The only vehicle we have driven to date that matches up well to this vehicle is the Prius-II.
Ergonomics and comfort for the driver? HCH-II wins by a large margin due to the Prius’ short seat bottom cushion length, mostly non-adjustable seat height and non-telescopic wheel.
A Prius’ FE cannot keep up at slow speed highway when using the SAHM - IGN 30-36 driving technique but in any slow down, stop and crawl, or stop light to stop light, a Prius will eat the HCH-II alive.
If you drive an HCH-II into a daily stop and crawl, you will discover the frustration as described in the Stop and Crawl scenario above. The Prius can in some cases achieve upwards of 90 + mpg in these situations while the HCH-II is only capable of low to mid-30s with quite a bit of work.
Above 60 mph, the comparison is a “pick em” if FE is what you are interested in.
Overall, the Prius is more flexible under a larger variety of speed ranges and traffic conditions but where the HCH-II really runs well (47 to 60 mph) is where a Prius owner would have to think twice about going head to head.
I suspect the Diesel equipped Jetta TDI would perform similarly in those speed ranges and walk away from the HCH-II above 60 mph but that will have to be discovered in a future review. From the European sourced 2007 Honda Civic - 2.2L iCDTi Turbo Diesel
review, it is obvious that particular vehicle will outgun the HCH-II in any condition when driven appropriately.
2008 Honda Civic Hybrid wants
As reviewed, the Honda Civic Hybrid is a comfortable daily commuting fuel miser. What is frustrating however is the extreme assist affinity programming that Honda has encumbered the HCH-II with. With the accelerator pedal at idle, adding the slightest of pressures will induce assist even when none was needed or requested. This continuous draw from and refilling of the pack is paid back with lower fuel economy and in some cases, a performance killing moment when you may actually need full assist. Assist should be more reasonably induced only when the accelerator pedal is pushed through maybe one-third to one-half of its total travel rather than just barely touching it. Pack longevity would increase along with minimizing the issues spelled out in the HCH-II Battery Recalibration
thread. This adjustment would make the vehicle easier to drive and possibly extend pack life. Who wouldn’t want that?
EPS should be less sensitive at lower speeds (a personal want but not a necessity) and boot up much faster during a FAS. The actual under-steer to perceived over-steer once the EPS comes back online can be managed but it is not a pleasant experience.
EV mode should either be limited to far fewer seconds or a clutch should be added between IMA and the Crankshaft so it can propel the vehicle without dragging a spinning motor along for the ride. It is great to see EV mode but the payback once forced regen has started is simply too harsh to make it worth using.
Adjustable Lumbar is a desperate want for the comfort of anyone who drives the HCH-II over longer distances. I find the HCH-II more comfortable than the Prius-II overall but the built in lumbar accentuates a poor seat design for me. The left foot - dead pedal also needs to be angled back towards the floor by a good 20 degrees for more comfort.
2008 Honda Civic Hybrid Conclusion
The Honda Civic Hybrid is not only a worthy competitor to the Toyota Prius but in many cases better, surpassing it with superior ride, handling, ergonomics and safety. With the right slower speed highway or suburban thoroughfare commute, the HCH-II will make many an owner extremely happy. If you are driving an inner city stop light to stop light scenario or afternoon stop and crawls on the Interstate however, your overall fuel economy will never come close to the EPA ratings. It simply cannot compete with the Prius in these two scenerios.
Finally, the following is an example of what makes a Honda a Honda. Who has not questioned the direction of sweep speed increase when turning the variable wiper speed control in any vehicle?
Variable speed wiper control mimic shows detail like no other.
With a 73.15 mpg actual result over the week (using little more than SAHM) and considering the bulletproof reliability that Civics are known for, the Honda Civic Hybrid is one of the best fuel misers available in the US today.
Visits to the Pump will be few and far between if you own a Honda Civic Hybrid.
I want to thank Honda’s Press Fleet Coordinator, Lynn Seely for arranging the Honda Civic Hybrid for our review and in particular, Manuel Santos for his technical expertise and discovery of SAHM.