In October, we were blown away by Honda’s application of the hybrid engine technology in the Civic e:HEV’s strong standing acceleration performance against a 1.5-litre turbocharged Civic RS.
The Kuala Lumpur-Desaru drive gave us a greater insight into the Civic e:HEV’s overall performance as a sedan for long-distance and urban drives, and we came away fully impressed.
As a recap of Honda's hybrid system that grew out of its intelligent Multi-Mode drive (i-MMD ) concept, Honda has approached it in a novel way.
Instead of the original hybrid operation in which electric power was applied to help the engine in acceleration – standing and moving – the Honda hybrid system we first experienced in the new HR-V and subsequently the Civic e:HEV works the other way round.
Car propulsion is mainly by electric power and the Atkinson Cycle engine serves to charge the battery that the electric motor draws electricity from to move the car.
The difference between the HR-V and Civic e:HEV is the engine displacement; 1.5-litre for the former to 2.0-litre for the latter and that made a lot of difference.
Somehow, with the bigger displacement engine, Honda did away with the engine whine when it revs up to charge the battery and this made for a much quieter drive to measure up to its electric vehicle (EV) status.
The engine only drove the car when the engine management system detected that we were cruising on the highway.
Honda calls the transmission an electric continuously variable transmission (e-CVT) and here again, the keyword is electronic.
In actual operation, the electric motor and engine engage the differentials directly to power the front wheels but Honda has come up with stepped-up gears, complete with engine sound to match.
This audible revving of the engine as if it was going through the ‘gears’ added a sporty note that made the drive more exciting.
Honda Malaysia arranged for the media to participate in a fuel economy run from KL to our lunch stop in Malacca, a distance of 160km over a given time of 150 minutes.
The average mileage was based on that computed by the engine management system (indicated on the car’s instrument panel) and we tried our best to get the best possible mileage within the allotted time.
The route covered largely highway driving with urban stretches in KL and Malacca; although we clocked a high of 29.1km/l, we eventually finished with 27.8km/l which was still impressive.
Under normal driving conditions, which included highway driving in the rain for most of the journey from Desaru to KL and many stretches of heavy traffic flow that had us crawling along, the average mileage was above 15km/l (the claimed mileage is 25km/l but that is best achieved in urban driving when electric power is mainly applied).
Nevertheless, that remained pretty good for a 2.0-litre engine that came into play while cruising and charged the battery during acceleration and slow speed drives.
In fact, we continued to be impressed with the car’s electric acceleration as we could feel the 315Nm the moment we hit the throttle to gain speed very quickly (the Civic e:HEV does the 0-100kph sprint in 7.9 seconds); the electric motor delivers 184PS.
In performance, the Civic e:HEV RS could easily rival the Civic 1.5L turbo while providing good fuel economy, especially in the urban driving environment.
It was also a comfortable sedan to travel in, as a driver as well as a rear seat passenger; as the latter we enjoyed good legroom and headroom, thanks to the longer wheelbase of 2,735mm over the previous Civic.
And though the road was mostly wet, the Civic e-HEV stable dynamic strength allowed us to take the sweepers and tight bends with good confidence at pretty good speeds.
The Civic e:HEV, like the Civic 1.5L RS turbo, runs on Michelin Pilot Sport 235/40 ZR18 tyres, while it is independently sprung all-round with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link set-up at the rear.
It is priced at RM166,500 on the road without insurance, which seems reasonable for a car with its high level of features and performance.
Honda Malaysia managing director and CEO Hironobu Yoshimura says Honda customers were warming up to models with e:HEV technology such as the RS variants of the City, City Hatchback and HR-V.
"In 2022, the City e:HEV RS has contributed 5% to its respective model’s sales, followed by the City Hatchback e:HEV RS at 8% and the HR-V e:HEV RS at 11% contribution which we believe the e:HEV technology is well accepted in the market," he said.
For the Civic e:HEV RS, since its introduction in October last year, Honda Malaysia has delivered 390 cars to those whom we believed are satisfied customers.