As we wrote in our full 2012 review of the updated ninth-generation Civic in hybrid form, the car received updated economy, was said to be the most efficient hybrid sedan in America, but many reviewers gave it middling marks.
So, not accustomed to receiving B- and C-level grades for its prized and traditionally well-regarded Civic, Honda did the unusual and mildly updated the car for 2013, but the model is otherwise a carrying forward of last year’s car.
It still uses the same basic powertrain and changes are slight revisions to some body panels, interior styling cues, and safety engineering.
The all-important powertrain is EPA rated for the several trim levels offered for the Civic Hybrid at 44s across the board; that is: 44 mpg city, 44 mpg highway, and naturally, 44 mpg combined.
This is a fifth-generation Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) design and makes use of a 1.5-liter inline-four gas engine, and thin “pancake” motor to “assist” the gas engine driving the front wheels via a CVT transmission.
The compact-class car uses lithium-ion batteries in contrast to the mid-sze Prius Liftback and variants thereof which still use nickel metal hydride in all except the plug-in Prius, but the Honda’s powertrain is a compromise design by comparison, and its sales numbers reflect the market’s view.
Toyota sold 147,503 units of its 2012 Prius Liftback compared to 7,156 sales of Honda’s 2012 Civic Hybrid.
But it is the most efficient sedan – the Prius line are all hatchback variants – and the Civic is a solid car in any case. Not everyone can score a home run as that quasi-cult classic the Prius can, whose popularity arguably transcends its outright merits, as great as they are.
Changes this year to help the Civic gain more respect include tweaked styling, chassis tuning, and interior design and color schemes intended to render a more handsome vehicle.
These include a new material for the headliner, higher-quality soft touch plastics on surfaces and improved textures and colors to the trim to address complaints from some against the just-updated 2012.
Beyond this, increased sound deadening was achieved with thicker glass on the side windows and windshield, and more sound insulation in the doors, floors, rear deck and dashboard.
Outside the car gets chrome accents on the grille and trunk, and redesigned tail lights to complement a re-shaped hood, and lower front bumper giving a more purposeful appearance.
And, to make a good crash test-scoring car even better in the realm of safety, the Civic line got its front crash crumple zones re-designed even further to help it in the offset frontal impact test now being employed by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.
This non-governmental test is looked at by consumers wanting to know how they shall fare in such a scenario. The Civics had already done relatively well, in distinction to others by Toyota that did not do so well, and now Honda can say it has improved the design even more.
The Civic Hybrid, like its stablemates, rides on a four-wheel independent suspension – MacPherson Strut in front, multi-link in rear.
Its steering ratio was quickened by 7 percent and it rides on 15-inch wheels equipped of course with ABS brakes.
Front/rear head room is stated at 39.0/37.1 inches. Leg room is 42.0 inches fornt, 36.2 inches rear for the five seater.
A host of active and passive safety features are included:
Active: Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Vehicle Stability Assist, Electronic Brake Distribution, Brake Assist, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, Daytime Running Lights.
Passive: Next-gen Advanced Compatibility EngineeringTM (ACETM) Body Structure, Next-gen Advanced Compatibility EngineeringTM (ACETM) Body Structure, SmartVentTM Front Side Airbags , SmartVentTM Front Side Airbags, Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, Child-Proof Rear Door Locks.
Driving the Civic, it is pretty much like its regular refined Civic siblings.
Handling is responsive, steering is on-center, and now a tad quicker. Ride quality is well-damped among compact-class cars.
The regenerative brakes do make themselves felt however, and pedal feel is less smooth, though not excessively so.
Honda’s 2013 Civic Hybrid Sedan is available in four trim packages: Base Civic Hybrid Sedan, $24,360; Civic Hybrid with Navigation, $25,860; Civic Hybrid with Leather, $25,560; Civic Hybrid with Leather and Navigation, $27,060.