Honda has announced pricing for its redesigned 2012 Civic GX, which will be available in 38 U.S. states beginning October 18. The new GX will start at $26,115—about $600 more than the 2011 model, which Honda has sold in just a handful of states since 1999. More than a decade later, with gas prices higher and natural gas supporters like T. Boone Pickens clamoring for more CNG vehicles on American roads, Honda finally relented, promising to expand production of the Civic GX and expand its availability to 34 more states. To date, the GX remains the only mass-produced natural gas car sold to consumers in the United States.

Fuel economy for the new Civic GX will improve a bit for 2012, with city mileage increasing from 24 mpg to 27 mpg and highway mileage bumping from 34 mpg up to 38 mpg, for a combined rating of 31 mpg. Of course, since natural gas is typically at least 30 percent cheaper than gasoline and runs on a different efficiency formula, those numbers can be very misleading.

Edmunds, which calculates efficiency based on
projected monthly fuel cost, recently pegged the cost to run a 2011 GX at $55 per month—compared $90 per month for the 50-mpg Toyota Prius. So according to Edmunds, despite receiving an EPA fuel economy rating that’s about 45 percent lower than that of the Prius, the cost to fuel a Civic GX is about 40 percent cheaper. As is usually the case when doing these kinds of fuel economy calculations, your results may (and probably will) vary.

This equivalency may prove too confusing for many consumers to handle. As Autoblog Green
points out , the Civic Hybrid starts about $1,350 cheaper than the GX model and offers an EPA rating of 44 mpg. Without an understanding of the true cost-to-operate equation for both cars, the hybrid—and even non-hybrid—versions of car seem like far superior values. Under the Edmunds’ monthly fuel cost estimate, the average GX driver will save $624 per year compared to the 2011 Civic Hybrid and $1,188 per year compared to the $15,805 Civic Sedan.

Of course, if natural gas supporters in Congress get their way, the proposed
2011 NATGAS Act could change the equation dramatically for car shoppers. The bill would offer a tax rebates of as much as $7,500 toward the purchase of a new natural gas vehicle—matching the incentive offered for electric cars. Knock that amount off the price of a new Civic GX, and the car could instantly become one of the best fuel economy values on the market in the United States.