Civic lesson: Honda’s gasoline, hybrid and natural gas models

Honda has long offered drivers a range of technologically advanced options in its ever-popular Civic models. The brand is nearly synonymous with efficiency, a status dating from the original, minicar-by-today’s-standards Civic CVCC of over thirty years ago. Honda has used the Civic platform to try out numerous engineering advances, helping it keep its efficiency edge through successive generations that have seen the car grow in both size and sportiness.

Honda Civic GX natural gas sedan maintains a green lead, though the Honda Civic Hybrid is now nearly as clean.

The Civic lineup has always included at least one eco-leading model and for several years that green leadership slot has been shared by the Civic Hybrid gasoline-electric combo and the Civic GX that runs exclusively on natural gas. It turns out that their eRatings are pretty close to tied, with the natural gas Civic GX edging out the 2011 Civic Hybrid by 187 to 186 on the AutoEcoRating yardstick.

That puts both of them a good step ahead of comparable gasoline Honda Civics. The 2011 Honda Civic EX, for example, with a 1.8 Liter, 140 horsepower engine and automatic transmission, earns an eRating of 129. By comparison, the average compact car on the market rates at 112.

With mileage ratings of 24 city, 36 highway miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent (“gge,” meaning an equivalent amount of energy in the fuel), GX isn’t technically more fuel efficient than non-hybrid gasoline models. It gets its green advantage because natural gas is all-around less polluting than gasoline. That includes fewer emissions during natural gas processing — which isn’t nearly as involved as petroleum refining — as well as lower global warming pollution when burned. Compared with most gasoline vehicles, natural gas is also much cleaner at the tailpipe, easily qualifying as a Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV).

However, the cleanest gasoline cars now earn PZEV ratings, too, and that’s the case for the Honda Civic Hybrid. Combine that degree of tailpipe tidiness with the high efficiency of hybrid drive and guess what? The resulting pollution reduction closes in on the Civic GX, with the Civic Hybrid’s eRating of 186 being less than a percent lower than the GX eRating of 187.

Compared to the 2011 Civic EX (and the DX and LX trims, similarly rated at 25 mpg city and 36 mpg highway in automatic transmission versions), the 2011 Honda Civic Hybrid’s 40 mpg city and 43 mpg highway numbers average out to burning 27 percent less fuel per mile. Its PZEV rating gives it a small additional edge on the AutoEcoRating scale, implying 30 percent less total pollution per mile. The Honda Civic GX is slightly cleaner still, making it the greenest of the group overall.

 

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