Review: 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid

Rex Roy
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The Civic's exterior is largely carryover from 2008, although it does receive a new front fascia and tail lamps. The revised look mimics the fuel-cell FCX Clarity sedan, allowing Honda to build upon its green credentials. Other than the Hybrid's lightweight 15-inch aluminum wheels, there's no way to distinguish the car from its siblings - except, of course, for some small hybrid badges.

Interior enhancements to the 2009 Civic Hybrid Sedan include more technology. A USB Audio Interface is standard and a Bluetooth hands-free cell phone link is added to models with navigation. Standard features include power locks and windows, tilt/telescope steering wheel, remote keyless entry, steering-wheel audio controls, a 160-watt audio system with an auxiliary jack for your MP3 player, and automatic climate control. Additionally, new cloth materials and patterns on seats, door linings and armrests have been updated and look sharp. Unfortunately, there's no folding rear seat, because the battery pack rests between the rear seats and the trunk.

Like other Civics, the 2009 Hybrid gets electronic stability control and also features dual airbags, side and side curtain airbags, and anti-lock brakes. Government crash tests give five-star ratings for frontal impacts, with four-star front and five-star rear for side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid as "good."

From behind the wheel, the Civic Hybrid handles well, but you won't mistake it for a performance car. The electric power steering starts light, but builds in feel as speeds grow higher. The skinny low-rolling resistance tires hang on in quick corners, but S2000-like handing is not this car's mission. Unfortunately, the grabby brakes and the unpolished transitions between coasting and getting into regenerative braking detract from the sedan's around-town smoothness. The current crop of 2010 hybrids (such as Ford Fusion and Lexus RX450h) do a better job of blending the transitions between the engine, motor, and regenerative braking. If driving a Civic Hybrid is important to you, you'll learn to drive around most of these issues in a few days.

As hybrids become increasingly mainstream, there's certainly a place for the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid. It has the goods to be competitive, and the argument for this car will grow stronger as fuel prices rise.

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