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Test Drive: 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid

2012 Honda Civic Hybrid

I tested the 2012 Civic Hybrid with leather and navigation around Northern Virginia for a about week. I didn’t expect to be impressed, but this hybrid isn’t as bad as reviewers make it out to be.

Performance

What reviewers say:

Test drivers say the Civic Hybrid struggles with highway passing, has grabby brakes and the start-stop technology, which saves energy when the car is idle, shuts down abruptly.

What I found:

I thought I’d hate the Civic Hybrid’s powertrain, but I didn’t. I’m a sucker for practicality, and can live without ample power and can ignore unrefined start-stop technology if I get good fuel economy. The Civic Hybrid gets an EPA-estimated 44/44 mpg city/highway, and on errands, I averaged up to 57.1 mpg in Eco mode.

Interior Technology

The navigation system is slow.

What reviewers say:

Honda receives a lot of criticism for its outdated navigation system, and I had a lot of problems with it too. It took too long for the system to digest my inputs, and I had a hard time customizing the map screen and adjusting the settings for the voice system.

What I found:

The navigation system comes with a touch screen that incorporates the stereo. When I used the navigation, the screen stayed on the entire time, but when I switched to the radio, the screen went black after I stopped using it. At first, I thought something was wrong, but I realized that the system hibernates to save energy. That feature gets annoying if you have to wake up the radio every 30 seconds.

The most disappointing feature was the Bluetooth. Mom, my Bluetooth critic, equated the sound quality to a wind tunnel, even after I turned off the air conditioning and stopped the car. When the cabin was silent, she heard buzzing and a noise that sounds like dial-up Internet access. She said that the Civic Hybrid’s sound quality was, by far, the worst she’s heard.

Driver Comfort

The forward view from the driver's seat was good.

What reviewers say:

Test drivers say forward visibility is very good in the Civic Hybrid because the side pillars are thinner, but they don’t mention rear visibility.

What I found:

From the driver’s seat, I had a great perch for scanning the road ahead, but I didn’t realize rear visibility would be so poor. Inside, the Civic Hybrid is longer than its exterior suggests, and at the end is a short, rectangular rear window. To the left and right of the window are thick rear pillars that create large blind spots. On a trip to a restaurant one evening, a friend who owns the 2011 Civic noticed this problem, and said that rear visibility in her Civic is much better.

The Civic Hybrid can do everything you need it to. No, it doesn’t sprint on the highway, and the navigation and Bluetooth systems need an upgrade, but it’s definitely a car you can live with. 

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