2013 Honda Civic Hybrid looks good, but won’t turn heads

Half a year ago, the nifty 2013 Honda Civic Si Coupe received favorable evaluation on this blog. Here’s a look at another model in Civic’s extensive 2013 lineup: the Civic Hybrid.

The two models are at different ends of the Civic spectrum. The Si Coupe exudes sporty performance with its 201-horsepower VTEC four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission, scoring 22 mpg during city driving and 31 mpg on the highway. The Hybrid’s gas-electric powertrain comes with a CVT transmission and generates 110 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque. The total package comes through big-time on fuel economy: an EPA rating of 44 mpg for both city and highway driving.

Civic’s hybrid system, called Integrated Motor Assist (IMA), has a four-cylinder gas engine that shuts off during idling, when the electric motor takes over. It can also travel limited distances on electric-power only.

The hybrid system doesn’t operate seamlessly. When the engine shuts down or starts up, you really feel it. I did get used to it after a couple of days, but never reached a point where it was hardly noticeable anymore. As for acceleration, well, it’s lukewarm.

Available only in sedan configuration, the Civic Hybrid offers liberal amounts of legroom for back-seat as well as front-seat passengers, but not much trunk space: 10.7 cubic feet. Rear seats don’t fold down and there is no pass-through to the trunk.

The Hybrid version benefits from the same improvements made to the gas-only Civic for 2013, such as solid ride and handling, a quieter and more refined cabin, and additional infotainment and connectivity features, including Bluetooth and Pandora.

Exterior styling is also the same as other sedans in the Civic lineup. A low, wide front end and sloping hood – and on the test vehicle, spiffy alloy wheels – are the car’s most attractive outside assets. The 2013 Civic Sedan isn’t destined to make heads turn or hearts race, but it’s good-looking and won’t go out of style quickly.

Pricing for the Hybrid, including a $790 destination charge, starts at $25,150 for the base model. The Civic Hybrid with leather is $26,350; with navigation, $26,650; and with leather and navigation, $27,850.

Among the notable standard features on my tester, a Civic Hybrid with leather and navigation, are heated front seats, XM satellite radio, and forward collision warning and lane departure warning systems. The navigation system includes voice recognition and a rearview camera.

Other standard safety features are vehicle stability assist with traction control, anti-lock brakes, side curtain airbags, and driver and front passenger side airbags.

The 2013 Honda Civic Sedans and Coupes are the only small cars to earn the top rating of Good in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap front crash test, which simulates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole at high speed. The 2013 Civics are also the only small cars to earn both the highest possible rating of Top Safety Pick Plus from the IIHS and the top 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score in the NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program.

The 2013 Civic Hybrid’s ho-hummish exterior design and lackluster acceleration aren’t likely to turn away many customers, since Small Hybrid Sedan shoppers don’t place a premium on those qualities anyway. Civic also has the Honda factor in its favor. Legions of buyers just won’t buy any other brand.

2013 HONDA CIVIC HYBRID WITH LEATHER AND NAVIGATION

Base price, including destination charge: $27,850

Price as driven: $27,850

Mary Lowry has been reviewing cars for more than 20 years. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a board member of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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