Just Plain Smug

We're an immature lot. For the last few months in our Honda Civic Hybrid, we've been parking with the “Hybrid” badge out, turning the stereo down at stoplights so people know our engine is stopped, and accelerating at a glacial pace — saving as much fuel as possible.

Two more of our fuel milestones have been ticked off, too: Joe Knycha managed 4.995 L/100 km between fill-ups, and Philippe Crowe (who must have been listening to Mr. Roboto) ticked off a guzzling 10.677 L/100 km average. Running the car on electric power only and managing under 4 L/100 km will be tall tasks, and may need some time with a hypermiling club for pointers.

Our overall average is a respectable 6 L/100 km, and we're optimistic that number will drop.

Comments in the logbook have been positive, with a few of us quipping on quirks: “Brakes good but difficult to modulate smoothly,” “Needs Si's suspension — no grip,” “Is the steering wheel round?” (No. — ed.) and “AVG is up to 7.6L/100 — LEAD FOOTS.”

Ok, so we're a little testy when it comes to fuel. I noticed, however, two interesting foibles: First, when parking the car, the engine will shut off as soon as you enter the spot and as long as you keep your foot on the brake. But shift it to park, and the engine re-starts, even though you're going to shut it off anyhow. Second, if you turn the car off and quickly turn the key back to accessory mode, the engine turns on when all you want is the radio. Strange. 

Overall, however, we enjoy the Civic's mix of performance and fuel economy.

Inside, you can see by the photo that using an iPod and having it charged results in a mess of wires near the shifter. A dedicated USB input or inputs mounted in the armrest would help immensely. For me, someone who sleeps with an iPod tucked in his pajamas, the mess of wires is annoying. Once connected, though, the stereo is quite nice.

Sometimes, shifting quickly into gear results in “S” or “L” being selected because the shifter moves a little too freely from slot to slot. A little more feedback would be nice.

The car shines in city driving. A small steering wheel combined with quick electric steering and good feedback makes it easy to point-and-shoot between construction rigs and parked cars. Parking is easy, too, with good sightlines — though, like all modern cars, it's painfully difficult to figure out how far back the car goes when looking backward out the rear window.

Accelerating onto the highway is as fast as you'd ever need, but forget out-dragging any cabbies off of stoplights. We wonder what happened to the Insight's manual transmission, because it'd be a great fit and surely help performance and fuel economy… Honda Civic Hybrid GT coupe or sedan? Did we just invent a niche?   

As the summer comes to a close, though, we're realizing we've just begun settling into the Civic. A little more familiarity with the powertrain should provide even better fuel economy — since when was it so easy to stoke our pocketbooks and stroke our egos?