THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2009 Honda Civic hybrid sedan.
DOWN THE ROAD: A carryover from 2008, the Civic hybrid gets a few exterior and interior revisions. But the four-cylinder gas/electric engine maintains its status quo. And that is enough to ensure a solid, surefooted and safe ride for the driver and passengers.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: A 1.3-liter SOHC i-VTec four-cylinder engine offers 110 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 123 pounds-feet of torque at 1000 rpm. It is mated to a seamless Continuous Variable Transmission system, which ensures an impressive performance as well as fuel efficiency. At work are an electric motor and the gasoline engine. But while cruising or at speeds of 20 mph and lower, all four cylinders shut down and only the electric motor is in use. Also, there are gas savings when the engine turns off in an idle stop mode. A fully independent front suspension of a MacPherson strut and a multilink rear with stabilizer bars efficiently absorbs serious bumps on the road.
LOOK & FEEL: The front grille has been revised with a new bumper cover, multi-reflector headlights and tail lamps. However, true to its tradition, the Civic retains a sweeping roofline and sleek windshield look. The upscale appearance given to the cabin by Honda with availability of leather seats is worth a mention, as are the heated front seats and side mirrors. A standout from the crowd is the futuristic blue backlit two-tier instrument panel with the Integrated Motor Assist operation mode and battery status meter. The digital speedometer above the analog tachometer is in the driver's view. Small pockets of storage areas under the dashboard and in the front doors will come in handy. An automatic climate control, 160-watt audio system with CD, tilt-and-telescopic steering column, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 12-volt power outlet are some of the standard goodies.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, Vehicle Stability Assist and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, active front-head restraints, front and rear crumple zones, three-point seatbelts for all, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are among the standard features.
OUT THE DOOR: $26,750, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. Leather seats, navigation system with voice recognition, wireless cell phone link and Continuous Variable Transmission are included in this price.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 195/65R15; wheelbase, 106.3 inches; length, 176.7 inches; weight, 2,628 pounds; fuel capacity, 12.3 gallons; city, 40 mpg; highway, 45 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: About 40 mpg average. That's what we eked out in mostly city driving. Out on the highway, we topped over 46 mpg. Regardless of the road we took, the Civic provided adequate acceleration with an admirable ride and reasonable handling capabilities. It's a car you want to consider even as fuel prices hit bottom at around $1.80 a gallon. Besides, who doesn't like to save money?