(An up-front admission, I’m a Prius evangelist and now have over 60,000 miles on our 2004.)

Starting the Honda Hybrid is just like starting a “regular” car. Just put the key into the ignition and turn. No putting fobs into the dash or pressing large start buttons. Gear selection is also conventional with a shift lever in center console and traditional positions for PRND along with S and L.

The Honda with its Integrated Motor Assist provides an elegant approach to boosting mileage. A motor doubles as the starter and is part of the flywheel. So the gas engine and electric motor work together to accelerate the car. This arrangement results in a compact drivetrain.

Torque is the biggest difference between the Honda Hybrid and Prius. The Honda is rated at 123 lb-ft and the Prius at 295 lb-ft. While Toyota sized their electric motor to provide electric-only starts and battery-only operation, Honda chose the combined approach, the pure parallel design.

So what does this mean for everyday driving? If you drive the Honda with a light foot and moderate speeds, you’ll be rewarded with mileage similar to the current EPA ratings of 40/45 city/highway. The handling of the Honda is predictable and the steering feels good. Fast stops are controlled and there is virtually no nosediving.

Of course, braking or coasting is where the car really saves gas. The motor acts as a generator; the resulting energy is stored in the main battery. The flow of electricity in and out of the battery is indicated by a simple bar graph on the instrument cluster.

Other dash information includes a digital speedometer, average mpg, and a message that lights when the gas engine has been turned off while waiting at a stop light or other temporary stop. I missed having an instantaneous mpg indication.

Recently, the Civic line became the best selling vehicles in America. The Hybrid is a capable player offering the benefits of great mileage wrapped in stylish Civic sheet metal. (Base price is $22,600.) In addition, Honda will begin to introduce new lines for the 2009 model year that are only offered with hybrid or possibly other alternative drivetrains.

Take a tour of the Honda Hybrid in this video.

Mark Knebusch

Contributing Editor

See the video at

machinedesign.com/md8015hybrid

2008 Honda

engine