Honda Civic Hybrid, 2006: The Weekly Driver

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  1. tigerhonaker

    tigerhonaker Platinum Contributor

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    Honda Civic Hybrid, 2006: The Weekly Driver

    By JAMES RAIA
    TheWeeklyDriver.com

    Now in its fifth year, the Honda Civic Hybrid is no longer a curiosity. With its redesign for 2006, the hybrid has joined its gas version sibling to further improve the already hard-to-beat and now 33-year-old Civic line.

    The gas Civic was named this year's Car of the Year by several national publications. But it would be hard to argue against the inclusion of the hybrid edition or even a reverse designation.

    Why not give the Civic hybrid Car of the Year honors and also give the gas version accolades -- just for good measure?

    Half-joking aside, my weekly test vehicle was the hybrid four-door sedan with navigation system, the higher-priced of two available models.

    The upgrades for '06 -- a new chrome front grille, angular front headlamps, a slanted near-panoramic front window and expanded body width and length -- do wonders. The Civic no longer looks staid; Instead, it's a sporty, full-sized sedan that comfortably seats five passengers.

    The hybrid is equipped with a 110-horsepower, 1.3-liter engine that features two relatively new engine features and automotive acronyms, IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) and CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). A five-speed manual transmission was previously available, but now the hybrid is only offered with an automatic transmission.

    The IMA feature allows a vehicle to operate solely on electric power in certain situations. The CVT feature replaces conventional gears with a belt-and-pully system that continuously and automatically adjusts to provide a more efficient and nearly unlimited number of drive ratios.

    As such, like previous hybrid editions, the '06 offering is efficient and refreshingly quiet, regardless of its engine mode.

    Some critics have categorized the hybrid Civic as underpowered, and its acceleration is slower than any of the 18 available gas Civic models. But that doesn't make the hybrid slow.

    On the contrary, in several situations, mostly notably while merging during tight traffic, I accelerated ahead of other vehicles with ease.

    The new slope-angled front windshield and small triangle-shaped front side windows are a fine addition. The combined design provides better viewing and gives the Civic a more spacious feel.

    The futuristic-looking, upper portion of the split-level instrumentation panel provides a unique visual. The digital speedometer, gas and temperature cluster panel is narrow, horizontal and contoured for the driver's vision just over the curved top of the steering wheel. It's a unique look, and it works.

    The entire Honda line is known for its long list of standard features, and the Civic doesn't stray from the manufacturer's reputation. The standard fare includes: 160-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with six speakers, steering wheel audio controls, power windows and locks, front map lights, cruise control, exterior temperature gauge and a navigation system with voice recognition.

    The Civic hybrid also has automatic climate control and mirror-mounted turn signals features not available in other Civic models.

    The only potential issue with the Civic hybrid is its lack of folding rear seats. The vehicle's sizable battery is located behind the rear seats, so they can't be folded.

    Non-folding rear seats are rare in four-door sedans but the consolation is small considering the hybrid's vast attributes -- economy to design, functionality to comfort.

    The Weekly Driver: 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid

    Safety features – Dual front, side and side curtain airbags.

    Fuel Mileage (estimates) – 49 mpg (city), 51 mpg (highway).

    Base price – $23,350.

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