Green conscience

The new Civic Hybrid from the Honda stable is a noiseless car that costs a bomb but promises better fuel efficiency and lesser emissions. But, is it worth the dough? We drove it across town to find out.

Green is the new pink. And pushing the metrosexuals into oblivion is the hybrid clan, or should we say, the Hybrid-sexuals.

These are your typical Hollywood types—they mostly drive around in fuel guzzling SUVs, that are the size of an apartment, be it for picking up their peanut butter or driving down to the other side of the American map.

But, come cameras, or the time to walk the red carpet, and they slip into something less comfortable—small, inconspicuous, dud little hybrids that can hardly even
accommodate their egos.

Smooth and automatic switch from petrol engine to electric motor
Smooth and automatic switch from petrol engine to electric motor
Now, a hybrid for the uninitiated is a car that runs on both petrol and electric power (the car uses a battery pack that runs on electric motor, which, in turn, propels the car ahead).

These are our modern-day superheroes, groomed to save the earth by kicking global warming where it hurts the most. However, their biggest draw, as you might have figured out by now, is to uplift its owner’s image as a rich individual with sense and a green conscience.

Courtesy Honda, now our movie stars (and the wealthy lot in general), too, can indulge in the green game. Enter, the Civic Hybrid. It, of course, looks identical to the regular Civic, both inside and out—there’s an insignificant rear spoiler and dinner-dish like wheels for distinction on the outside, while inside, a few additional indicators have been added that relay whether it’s the battery or the petrol engine that’s powering the car. It’s all a bit high-tech, and, honestly, could take you the better part of a week to really use the thing to your advantage.

However, it’s the Hybrid’s pricing that really sets it apart from its regular sibling—it costs twice as much! Blame it on the import laws if you will, but the high cost ensures that the Hybrid is more of a showpiece and a style statement than something you’d pay for to commute alone.

The important question, though, is: how does it drive? In short, in a pretty synthetic and detached fashion really. Start it up, and you are greeted with silence.

Step on the accelerator and the small 1.3 litre engine gets into the act. Push on harder and the engine—which is the only source of power under hard acceleration—begins to sound terrified, as if it were being squeezed to the very end of its capabilities. It’s certainly not an enjoyable or involving drive.

Model: 1.3 litre petrol+electric motor

Gearbox: CVT

Max power: 95bhp+25bhp

Max torque: 122Nm+103Nm

Acceleration (0-100 kmph): 12.5 seconds

Fuel efficiency: 14 kmpl

Top Speed: 175 kmph
Price: Rs 23 lakh

Back off and what follows is a polite ballet between the engine and the motor with both doing their best to extract extraordinarily high fuel efficiency; the Hybrid manages to return over 30 per cent higher fuel economy in the city, a figure that would shame cars less than half its size.

Furthermore, the simulated engine response and soaring efficiency figures apart, the car rides and handles almost as well as the regular Civic, which really is a good thing.

The Civic Hybrid is a great flaunting tool. But given that it promises to return nothing more than better fuel efficiency and lesser emissions for almost twice the money compared to the regular Civic—and would need you to drive over 7 lakh kilometres to recover the difference in pricing—it’s not just poor value for the pennywise Indian’s hard earned money, but it’s impractical, too. For the rich, though, it makes for a priceless statement.

Vikrant Singh is Road Test Editor, Auto Bild India