Honda Civic ISA Hybrid vs. Toyota Prius HSD Hybrid
Happy New Year 2007, Bob --- I am disappointed to hear that the Fuel Efficiency 2006 Civic Hybrid Horror story you shared with me in the Gadgettes Lounge last August about the MPG shortfall between your new 2006 HCH, and your old fuel sipping 2003 HCH continues on. At least your son is getting great MPG out of the 2003 he inherited from you.
The new HCH control S/W must have been tweaked to stay in the rich-burn mode longer as the engine warms up before transitioning to fuel-sipping lean-burn mode. Was this change for emissions or other technical performance reasons? What story has Honda given you?
I have been following the Honda and Toyota Hybrids since 1999 when Honda first came out with their 66 MPG, 2-passenger Insight in the U.S. As a result, I am familiar with the technical details of both the Honda ISA and the Toyota HSD hybrid implementations.
For years, and until recently, there was an unreasonably hot market for hybrid cars. Our local Honda and Toyota dealers both had 6-8 week waiting lists, and no on-lot inventories. A new Prius was garnering a $3K-$4K premium over sticker price, with the Honda Civic Hybrid (HCH) fetching a $2K-$3K premium over sticker. In the last few months, the hybrid feeding frenzy seems to have subsided. You can now find hybrids available on the dealers lots. This cool down in frenzied demand may be due the ebbing of gasoline prices down from $3++ to $2+ or the Hybrid Tax Rebate/Credit being phased out, or maybe because of both. I do not know.
Today, in my area any way, there are on-lot inventories of Honda and Toyota hybrids. They are now more fairly and reasonably priced, and the local dealers are more open to price negotiation. Therefore, I finally went out and bought one.
Dealer pricing for the Civic Hybrid versus the Toyota Prius Hybrid is about the same for comparably optioned hybrid vehicles. My local Honda dealer resisted negotiating with me on price more then did my Toyota dealer. My Toyota dealer was willing to dicker with me on price down to 7.5% below window sticker. Honda was not, and had more of a take-it-or-leave-it sales posture.
Even when I took price out of the buying decision process, my personal analysis told me that if I really needed a hybrid car that gets stellar mileage along with a slightly more elegant technology edge --- Prius was the choice. Anecdotally, and per EPA FE numbers, the Prius gets better gas mileage then the HCH, is slightly quicker, and has a more spacious cockpit along with more passenger and cargo volume. These features confirmed to me that Prius with its Hybrid Synergy Drive should be my choice. When I put in price in, it remained Prius.
Overall, the Honda Civic Hybrid is a good car with a slight edge on looks. The HCH used to handle better then the Prius, but with the new tuned, sport suspension in the 2007 Prius, this advantage has been neutralized. As you reported, your new 2006 HCH is not delivering the stellar Fuel Economy (FE) of either your old 2003 HCH or todays Prius. The FE shortfall of the new HCHs, and the excellent FE, function and features delivered in the Prius, is why Prius was the clear choice for me.
Now that I have a Prius, and have driven it, I can confirm these FE, technology and driver, passenger and cargo hauling benefits.
I know that you and your wife are Honda loyalists, and long time Civic and Odyssey owner-drivers. My wife and I are both Kinda Fonda Honda too, and have owned a few. I once owned a 1992 Civic CX that regularly delivered 45 MPG Highway with me driving at nominal 65+/- mph freeway/Interstate travel speeds. The FE of that fuel-sipping Civic CX became my baseline for comparing the FE and technical pros/cons, benefits, and advantages of hybrid cars.
If sticking with Honda had been my criteria when buying this time, I would have purchased a conventionally powered 2007 Honda Civic. The MSRP for the regular Civic is some $6800 lower than the HCH, it has more power and there is not a substantial difference between the actual MPG delivered by the regular, conventionally powered $15,810.00 Civic, and the $22,600 Civic Hybrid.
Happy Hypermiling --- JP
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