Hybrid is the latest everyday application in Honda’s quest to produce lighter, more powerful petrol engines which produce fewer emissions and deliver improved fuel economy.
Honda’s Hybrid system is called IMA, which stands for Integrated Motor Assist. This system was first developed in 1999 and was launched in the Honda Insight . On a combined cycle, the Insight is capable of 83 miles per gallon – the highest fuel economy for a mass produced vehicle in the world. It also emits just 80 g/km of CO2. To put that into context, the average car today emits more than double that amount.
How does Honda Hybrid (IMA) technology work?
Hybrid is the combination of a petrol engine with an electric motor. The integrated electric motor assists the engine by giving it a boost during acceleration to improve fuel economy. It also runs the car at idle to reduce emissions, so when a driver stops in traffic the engine falls silent. Not only that, the battery that powers the electric motor charges itself up with regenerative energy from deceleration and braking. Therefore the Hybrid never needs to be recharged from an external power supply.
The result is a car that behaves like a petrol-engined car in terms of performance, emits less CO2 than an equivalent diesel and delivers mind-boggling fuel economy.
Hybrids also use the existing fuel supply infrastructure – you just fill it up at the petrol pump as normal – so there are no barriers to its use.
Honda has already sold over 130,000 hybrid vehicles worldwide, In Europe it has sold over 2,000 Hybrid vehicles – the majority of those in the UK.
Meanwhile, Honda engineers and scientists are at the forefront of developing cleaner, alternative energy vehicles, like the FCX, Honda’s fuel cell car. The FCX runs on hydrogen and produces zero NOX or CO2 – which makes it the cleanest possible engine.
We are only a few years away from a production Honda fuel cell car, but there are already FCX vehicles running in America and Japan, testing the technology in everyday situations.
The stepping stone to fuel cell is hybrid technology, like Honda’s IMA system installed in the new Civic Hybrid. This car has better performance than the previous Civic IMA – 20 per cent more power (more even than your average 1.6-litre engine); lower CO2 emissions (109 g/km); better fuel economy (61.4 mpg) and a totally new exterior and interior. Some of the much talked about design features – such as the ‘dual zone cockpit’, seen already on the new Civic 5 door, make the transition to the Civic Hybrid.
The new Civic Hybrid showcases Honda’s renewed commitment to Hybrid technology and offers a real opportunity for drivers who want a greener vehicle but without compromising style, performance, or comfort levels.
The new Civic Hybrid
Let’s face it; most so-called ‘green’ cars are ugly. Not only that, they’re ugly and they’re slow. It’s all very well being environmentally-friendly, but who wants to drive around in something that looks like a deflated rugby ball and struggles to overtake a milk-float?
Not the team of designers at Honda. They’ve created the bold, striking and stylish Civic Hybrid – proving that green can be beautiful.
But it’s not all about image. Honda’s clever new IMA system produces more power than a typical 1.6-litre engine (115PS), but only uses the same amount of fuel as a 1.1-litre car (61.4mpg combined). It also drives, sounds and behaves just like a conventional petrol-engined car. There’s no strange starting procedure or complicated operating system – it looks like a modern, stylish saloon, and it drives like a modern, stylish saloon. It’s no slouch either; the Hybrid has a top speed of 115mph.
So, it looks good and it’s got the goods under the bonnet. You’re probably wondering what the catch is. Well… we’re struggling to find one. The Civic Hybrid may well be the first ever ‘no-compromise’ alternative-energy car.
The refined styling incorporates a sweeping roofline, a sleek, sharply raked windscreen – 23.9 degrees – and short overhangs that emphasise the vehicle’s advanced monoform profile and low, wide stance.
Ultra-tight body panel fit contributes to the outstanding aerodynamics. A chin spoiler and an under cover reduce air turbulence around the engine, rear wheels and rear bumper, while a lip spoiler on the boot lid cleans up the airflow behind the vehicle.
In order to accommodate the steeply raked windscreen and its significant surface area, outboard mounted opposable windscreen wipers are used that cover more surface area than typical wipers and the blade bodies have a flat design that makes air flow push the wiper blades firmly against the glass. And like the Civic 5-door, side indicators are incorporated into the door mirrors.
The wheels are also special low-drag alloys, designed for the Civic Hybrid, and these help make the car even more aerodynamic.
The new Civic Hybrid is based on the 4-door saloon version of the 8th Generation Civic. It is wider and lower than the old Civic IMA, which means it has a sleek, futuristic appearance that also benefits packaging efficiency, handling and ride quality.
Compared to its predecessor, it has grown 65mm in overall length (4545 mm) and 35mm in width (1750mm) and its 2700mm wheelbase is 75mm longer. Height has been reduced by 5mm. The front track is 35mm wider (1505mm) and the rear track is 60mm wider (1545mm).
Vehicle weight has increased by approximately 100kgs – a relatively small gain considering the addition of extensive standard safety equipment, new features and greatly increased bending and torsional rigidity. With 50 per cent total high strength steel content and advanced new structural engineering, torsional rigidity increases by 35 per cent.
Of note is a fuel tank manufactured from an innovative six-layer polyethylene composite design that provides zero evaporative emissions performance while also decreasing weight and increasing fuel capacity.
There is also a new front subframe produced from hydroformed elements for increased strength and rigidity. Special rubber floating mounts minimise the level of road and engine noise and vibration transferred to the passenger compartment.
As you’d expect inside a sophisticated machine, the interior of the Civic Hybrid is high-quality and features the latest technology, loads of storage and innovative ergonomics.
Like the 2006 Civic 5-door model, the Hybrid features a two tier, ‘dual zone’ instrument panel with the dashboard split into functional upper and lower ‘links’. Priority gauges like the speedometer are positioned high up in the driver’s field of vision. The design takes advantage of the generous dashboard space from the steeply raked windscreen.
Unique to the Civic Hybrid, instantaneous fuel economy can be displayed in the upper level of the instrument panel, while the lower level displays battery charge level along with instantaneous IMA ‘charge’ and ‘assist’ displays, and ‘AUTO STOP’ to indicate when the engine is in idle stop mode. The odometer will also display average fuel economy for Trip A and Trip B.
The standard automatic climate control system is operated by means of two large and easy to use dials.
The relatively small diameter steering wheel is adjustable for rake and reach and features audio controls on the left hand side. The front seats have been completely redesigned with a wider and more supportive seat construction and the driving position has been optimised in relation to the steering wheel and vehicle controls.
During the design stages, the focus was on increasing interior utility and the perception of space inside the Hybrid. However, hip room, shoulder room and knee room in all seating positions is improved.
Meanwhile, we’ve got the priorities right; this car has really good cup-holders! The generous centre storage console features a large sliding armrest. Even when extended fully forward, the armrest still provides enough clearance for the cupholder to accommodate a large-size beverage cup. The gear stick is positioned within easy reach and its compact size allows the provision of a storage tray in front and behind (with room for mobiles) and a business card holder on the right hand side. The instrument panel provides multiple storage zones – a spacious glove box and a centre stack lower pocket/tray – while every door has a large storage pocket.
The Civic Hybrid has a new 1.4-litre i-DSI petrol engine that works with a new, highly-efficient electric motor system to deliver economical motoring with low emissions.
The i-DSI petrol engine uses three stage i-VTEC valve control to achieve a combination of responsive driving and fuel economy. The valves are controlled by three hydraulic pathways, which couple and uncouple five rocker arm assemblies.
The really clever bit happens during deceleration, when the engine’s cylinders have their feet up. During this idle time, combustion in all four cylinders is stopped and each pot is sealed shut. This means the engine is not working as hard to pump fuel or air, so it’s immediately more efficient.
Not only that, but while the car is slowing down, the Civic Hybrid’s electric motor recovers energy generated through braking and uses it to charge the on-board battery. And as the 2006 car is more efficient than ever, it records a 10 per cent improvement in recovery of braking energy compared to the current Civic IMA, where only three cylinders are shut during idle.
The technology used to shut the cylinders, VCM (which stands for Variable Cylinder Management), is also used to shut all four cylinders when only little torque is required – during low speed cruising for example. In this mode the Hybrid is powered by the electric motor only, with the pistons running idle.
In addition, virtually everything possible has been done to the engine to reduce friction, including the use of aluminium die-cast pistons (which feature low thermal expansion for less friction under high-temperature conditions), ion-plated piston rings, and plateau honing of the cylinder walls for a smoother surface.
The engine features Honda’s i-DSI (intelligent Dual and Sequential Ignition) system that uses two spark plugs per cylinder and allows for more complete combustion of the fuel by firing the two spark plugs either at the same time or sequentially, depending on the driving conditions.
An all-new independently-developed electric motor uses coils with high-density windings and high-performance magnets to produce an output one and a half times that of the outgoing model – but without being any bigger. A Honda inverter is used to control motor speed, and is integrated with the motor’s ECU for more precise digital control, contributing to even greater motor efficiency and fuel economy.
Battery output has been increased by around 30 per cent over the current model, while a more compact, purpose-built battery storage box offers increased cooling performance and vibration resistance for improved long-term reliability.
The air conditioning system features a hybrid compressor that is powered by both the engine and the motor. When the engine is in ‘Idle Stop’ mode the compressor is powered by the motor; if rapid cooling is required it is powered by the engine and motor combined. When the temperature is stable it runs off the motor alone, for both improved comfort and fuel savings.
A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard equipment on the Civic Hybrid. The newly-designed unit provides a wider range between the maximum and minimum gear ratios to enhance acceleration and minimise engine rpm at high speeds. The transmission provides smooth and predictable transitions and helps keep the IMA system operating at its peak efficiency.
The new CVT ’box also features unique cornering control technology to help improve response on the exit of a bend. G-Shift Control is another Honda development to improve the driving experience and increase safety levels.
When the car enters a corner, an on-board computer first identifies the vehicle’s overall speed, and then calculates the difference in speed between the left and right rear wheels. It uses this information to work out the car’s lateral G force (or the forces pushing the car ‘sideways’). The Civic Hybrid’s computer then uses the lateral G and speed information to maintain the rpm (rotation) of the petrol engine through the bend, thus allowing a higher level of torque to be available when the driver comes back on the throttle.
The fact that the rpm does not ‘drop off’ after throttle lift-off means that the car is far more responsive when exiting the corner, and there is minimum delay in the torque being fed to the wheels.
Driving and safety
The new Honda Civic Hybrid chassis delivers more agile handling and refined ride comfort thanks to re-engineered suspension geometry and a longer wheelbase, compared with the current model. Unlike the 5-door Civic, it also features multi-link double wishbone rear suspension.
At the driving end, the MacPherson strut suspension features a higher caster angle and inversely wound springs for straight line stability along with improved toe-control dynamics for sharp and responsive steering. Changes to steering angles, bushings, material rigidity, and spring and shock tuning result in excellent linear suspension movement at the upper limit of vehicle dynamics for better tyre adhesion and flatter cornering. To improve ride comfort, the compliance angle on the lower control arm has been optimised to make the ride less harsh.
The multi-link double wishbone rear suspension benefits from a new design that facilitates a longer damper stroke and improved positioning of the damper itself. The additional rebound stroke allows the vehicle to soak up bumps and harsh road surfaces quietly and with ease. The damper is mounted closer to the wheel for a more favourable lever ratio (the relationship between the suspension movement and the distance that the damper actually travels). The more direct relationship means the forces acting on the shock do not become magnified and the intended tuning provides maximum benefit throughout a wider range of suspension travel.
These changes combined with sports-type spring and damper tuning greatly increase the overall sporty feel of the car.
For the first time on a Honda Hybrid, intelligent brake technology is employed in a new regenerative braking system.
A brake pedal sensor detects the driver’s braking force and reaction time and then calculates the correct amount of hydraulic braking and regenerative braking required to slow or stop the vehicle. The regenerative braking comes from the electric motor/generator, which helps slow the car down. This assistance cuts down the workload for the hydraulic brakes, thus extending the life of the brakes and their components.
At the same time, the Hybrid’s electric motor recovers the energy used during deceleration, and uses it to charge the car’s high voltage battery. We told you this car is efficient!
All the cars within the Civic range, including the Civic Hybrid, will be among the safest cars in the class. All models are equipped with ABS and, for optimum performance, Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) to achieve maximum braking performance and stability. It also features, across the range, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) designed to assist the driver in maintaining control during cornering, acceleration and sudden manoeuvres by applying braking to the right or left hand wheels as necessary and managing the throttle and brake systems.
Active front seat headrests play a key role in protecting against whiplash injury in the event of an accident, and Honda is anticipating an excellent rating in the neck impact alleviation study conducted by the independent research institute, Thatcham.
To help reduce pedestrian injuries in the event of a collision, the Civic Hybrid’s bonnet and wing areas are designed to deform if contacted by the head of an adult or child pedestrian. Energy-absorbing collapsible bonnet supports, wiper arms and wing mounts are designed to allow substantial deformation in an impact.
- SRS front airbags and side airbags
- Full length curtain airbag
- Active head restraints
- Seatbelt reminder
- Double pretensioners on front seatbelts
- ABS, Electronic Brake force Distribution
- Brake Assist
- ISOFIX fittings
- Radio/6 CD player
- Steering wheel mounted audio controls
- Six speakers
- Cruise control
- Electric power steering
- Electric windows, front and rear
- Power door locking / integrated in key
- Security alarm
- Auto air-conditioning
- Tilt/telescopic steering
- Multiplex Meter
- Passenger seatback pocket
- Leather upholstery
- Leather trimmed steering wheel
- Front fog lamps
- Heated power door mirror with incorporated indicators
- Retractable door mirrors
- Variable intermittent wipers
- 15 inch alloy wheels
- ES £16,300
- ES(with leather) £17,100