2013 Honda Civic Hybrid

2013 Honda Civic Hybrid 2013 Honda Civic Hybrid
Instrumented Test TESTED

The 2013 Honda Civic hybrid might not be quick, but its lightning-strike development sure was. After a fully redesigned Civic lineup debuted for 2012 to disappointment, Honda forced a speedy update down the pike. The fruit of its hurried labor has now ripened, and impressively, the shotgun fix remedied many of the shortcomings, at least on the conventional Civic sedan. Now we’ve run the revised hybrid model through our testing to see how it was affected by the rapid relaunch.

Smile, It’s a Hybrid!

As does the entire 2013 Civic lineup, the hybrid inherits a rash of structural, chassis, and styling tweaks designed to turn the 2012 car’s frown upside down and address its unsavory refinement levels, lackluster aesthetics, and floppy handling. And speaking of changing facial expressions, like other Civics, the hybrid inherits a pair of upturned chrome accents for the grille and lower intake, which impart a less-droopy, sad-looking countenance.

Behind the revised look are slightly beefier springs, thicker anti-roll bars, and a stiffer front-end structure—all of which deliver subjectively better handling and body control over last year’s car. Thanks to a quicker ratio and reduced friction in the rack, the electric power steering is more accurate, too. The hybrid version, however, rides on fuel-economy-optimized Bridgestone Ecopia tires, their hard, narrow construction limiting lateral grip to 0.77 g on the skidpad. The low-rolling-resistance Ecopias also contributed to an abysmal 196-foot stop from 70 mph to 0. So even though the 2013 car feels more tied down and responsive, lateral grip and stopping performance are unchanged from the 2012’s.

Keep Calm and Slow Your Expectations

As mentioned, the Civic hybrid’s primary mission is to conserve fossil fuel. So we shouldn’t have been surprised when a geriatric piloting a Buick Lucerne—apparently unaware of our impromptu race—poignantly demonstrated this truth by smoking us from a stoplight. At the track, the hybrid took 9.9 seconds to reach 60 mph and topped out at 111 mph. Even though the 2013 model still pumps 127 combined horsepower from its 1.5-liter gas engine and 23-hp electric motor, acceleration figures are 0.2 second quicker and 1 mph lower than those of a 2012 hybrid we tested last year. Performance still trails off considerably when the battery pack is depleted. Despite our lead-footed driving style, we did manage 38 mpg—about 15 percent shy of the 44-mpg EPA combined figure and, truthfully, this hybrid’s most-important performance metric.

Since you’ll have plenty of time to soak in the Civic’s inner sanctum while trying to keep up with other slow-laners, it’s a good thing it’s been improved. The dash layout is a tad more conventional, and there are now better materials as well as a padded vinyl dashboard and upper-door trim. Added soundproofing, plus thicker windshield and front-side window glass—they took the edge off wind and tire noise—added only two pounds to our test car relative to an identically equipped 2012 model.

Despite the multiple updates and improvements, the hybrid’s price inflates by a few hundred bucks, and bidding opens at $25,150. Our leather- and navigation-equipped test example rang in at a steep $27,850, but similarly optioned competitors such as the Volkswagen Jetta hybrid and Toyota Prius carry similar price tags.

Were it our money, we’d still check out nonhybrid, C-segment offerings like the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, and Honda’s own Civic HF. Besides being capable of returning mid-30-mpg fuel efficiency for less money, they are quicker and more fun to drive.