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TICKET TO RIDE

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Fri, Sep 2, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

HONDA'S ANSWER TO THE WAIT By ROY NAKANO

With gas prices breaking into the $3.00 per gallon range, a lot of attention has been focused on the second-generation Prius, Toyota's electric-gas hybrid with the 55 miles per gallon EPA rating. Unfortunately, the demand for the Prius still exceeds supply. You can get one without waiting, but be prepared to pay a premium over the sticker price. Notwithstanding all the recent fanfare surround the new Prius, let's not forget that Honda makes an excellent, low-priced hybrid vehicle in the form of the Civic four-door sedan.

If you've overlooked it, it's understandable. The car doesn't shout "hybrid" the way the spacey-looking Prius does. Arrive in a Prius, and virtually everyone knows it's a hybrid vehicle. Arrive in a Civic Hybrid sedan, and most will think it's an everyday, garden-variety economy car. The personality differences between the Prius and Civic Hybrid extends to the driving experience. Whereas the Prius energy and fuel consumption screen is hard to miss, one has to look harder to find the Civic's hybrid operation gauges.

Also, since the Prius can operate on full electric mode at low speeds, the ultra-silent driving experience is like no normal combustion-engine car. The 2005 Civic Hybrid, on the other hand, won't operate in full-electric mode. The techno-geek factor of the Prius is further enhanced by its steer-by-wire, drive-by-wire, and brake-by-wire operation. Consequently, the car requires less effort to drive. The Civic, on the other hand, uses more conventional technology for its steering and braking.

This is not a bad thing. A sizeable segment of the population doesn't want to be reminded they're driving a hybrid. For them, the Honda Civic Hybrid is the ideal car. And unlike some of the V6-powered hybrids that recently cropped up, this once genuinely gets gas mileage worthy of the term "hybrid." Good enough, in fact, to qualify for California's single-occupant carpool lane access decal (which requires an EPA threshold of at least 45 miles per gallon). If you're a freeway commuter, that is definitely a good thing. An all-new, 2006 Civic Hybrid bows in October (and it looks to be a good one), but that car is destined to be as unobtainable as the Prius. In the meantime, the 2005 Civic Hybrid remains in stock. It just may be your ticket to ride - in the carpool lane, that is. SUMMARY JUDGMENT A worthy remedy for the Toyota Prius waiting list - and one that drives more like a conventional car. For more information on Honda products, go to automobiles.honda.com.

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid CVT Price: $19,900 (5-speed manual transmission) $20,900 (CVT automatic transmission) Engine type: 1339 cc SOHC 8-valve VTEC aluminum-alloy in-line 4-cylinder and electric permanent magnet motor/generator IMA (intelligent motor assist)

Horsepower: 85 at 5700 rpm / 93 at 5700 with IMA Torque: 87 at 3300 rpm / 116 at 1500 with IMA (5-speed manual 87 at 3300 rpm / 105 at 3000 rpm with IMA (CVT) Drive configuration: front-wheel-drive Transmission type: 5-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) Front suspension: MacPherson strut with coil springs and stabilizer bar (25.4 mm) Rear suspension: Reactive-link double wishbone with coil spings and stabilizer bar (13.0 mm) Wheels/tires: P185/70 R14 14-inch lightweight alloy wheels Brakes: Front: 10.3-inch power-assisted vented discs Rear: 8.7-inch drums ABS, regenerative braking Overall length: 175.4 inches Overall width: 67.5 inches Overall height: 56.3 inches Curb weight: 2740 pounds (AT-PZEV/SULEV manual) 2669 (AT-PZEV/SULEV CVT) EPA mileage: 45 mpg city / 51 mpg highway 47 mpg city / 48 mpg highway

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