Formula 1

Reviewing the 2023 Honda Civic e:HEV: Honda’s F1 Connection and Its Road Car Powertrains

Exploring the Unique Powertrain of Honda's Civic e:HEV and Its Role in the Transition from ICE to EVs

When a smiling Honda representative knocked on my door, clutching a stack of paperwork, I couldn’t have anticipated the pleasant surprise that awaited me. As I peered over his shoulder, a gleaming, premium blue metallic-clad Civic e:HEV greeted my eyes. It was an inviting sight, unlike many cars that appear ready to pounce with menacing grilles and aggressive design elements. This car, in contrast, seemed like it wanted to share a cup of tea and engage in a leisurely conversation about the weather. Upon closer examination, there were no glaring features on the Civic’s exterior, except perhaps for its shark-nose-like hood and the diamond-cut wheels. Gray might not do it justice, but the blue hue certainly made it stand out. What’s particularly noteworthy is that this car isn’t an SUV, a departure from the recent trend where automakers are shifting towards these towering vehicles, leaving behind their traditional offerings. A regrettable choice, in my opinion.

Thankfully, Honda has taken a more sensible path.

Civics are a common sight on roads worldwide, with a production history dating back to 1972 and a staggering 27 million units sold to date. You could even argue that the United States was partly built on Civics, considering it has been one of the top three best-selling cars in the country for the past five decades. Yes, that’s over 50 years! However, times are changing, and electric cars are now more prevalent than ever. With the impending shift towards an all-electric future, traditional automakers are under pressure to adapt. Honda, on the other hand, has chosen to remain true to its roots while making a subtle course correction—more like a mere three-degree adjustment.

The Civic e:HEV still boasts an internal combustion engine, a rather impressive 2.0-liter four-cylinder one at that. However, its primary function is to charge a small battery positioned beneath the rear seats. This battery powers an electric motor that drives the front wheels. Remarkably, there’s no need for a charger; all of the energy is generated by another motor, acting solely as a generator. The seamless transition between power sources is nothing short of remarkable.

I must admit, I half-expected the car to jerk and jolt, as if I were riding a discontented cat. But to my surprise, pressing the pedal felt more like a gentle nudge to encourage the car to accelerate, while it expertly managed traction, inputs, and energy distribution. This allowed me to focus on more important matters, like eagerly anticipating the video review and subscribing to our YouTube channel. With the pedal to the metal, the car responds adequately. It won’t set the tarmac on fire, but its instantaneous torque ensures a satisfying drive, especially in the 0-30mph range. Honda claims a 0-62mph time of 8.1 seconds, thanks to 181 horsepower and 232 lb-ft of torque. During my test run, I managed to clock a slightly quicker time.

One might expect the e-CVT gearbox to produce a cacophony of whining sounds, but this powertrain’s simulated gear changes and engine noise provide a surprisingly immersive driving experience. It’s as if Honda wants to keep the focus away from what’s under the hood, and it’s working. What truly caught me off guard, however, was the car’s cornering prowess. When you push it into a corner, you can feel the dampers bracing themselves. When you throw it in the opposite direction, the car maintains its composure. Now, let’s be clear—it’s not a sporty car, but it possesses a level of chassis maturity that inspires trust, a quality you might not expect in this market segment. Moreover, when driving on the uneven roads that seem to populate England’s new housing developments, the Civic e:HEV smoothly glides over imperfections.

Many hybrid cars struggle with braking issues. If you press the brake pedal aggressively, you can often sense the transition between regenerative braking and traditional friction brakes, resulting in a disjointed experience. However, the Civic once again excels in blending old and new technologies, providing a seamless and reassuring braking feel.

As for the interior, it won’t leave you awestruck. There are some scratchy plastics, and the infotainment system’s user interface lacks inspiration. However, the cabin impresses with high-quality soft-touch plastics and advanced technology. One gripe I have is with the overly sensitive safety features, which seem eager to issue warnings even in slow-moving traffic, let alone when cruising at highway speeds. But this car’s personality shines through, and a simple pat on the steering wheel to deactivate these features goes a long way.

Now, the price. That’s a point of contention for me. The Civic e:HEV, as tested, came to a hefty £37,445.00. It’s a significant sum. However, the base model, priced at £29,595, offers the same powertrain, making it a more attractive option. This powertrain is what sets the Civic e:HEV apart from nearly everything else on the road today. I can envision this car becoming a pivotal transition point for the automotive industry, bridging the gap between internal combustion engines and electric vehicles. With no concerns about charging infrastructure and the peace of mind that your car will be ready to go each morning, it represents the epitome of normalcy while being one of the most intelligent and intriguing vehicles currently available. It’s no wonder the Honda representative had a beaming smile.

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