Monday, April 16, 2012

Honda Civic HF 40 mpg ?

Small cars
40 mpg dollars and sense: Honda Civic HF may save fuel, but doesn’t really save money

After delaying the worldwide debut of its new Civic, Honda came to the current fuel-miser wars - a year late and 1 mpg short. The standard versions of the Civic, the LX and EX sedans, are rated at 39 mpg on the highway.

That’s pretty good, unless you’re facing a field of competitors, including Chevrolet, Ford, and Hyundai, advertising a nice, round 40. Incidentally, the last EX we tested in 2006 got 43 mpg highway. So Honda brought back its long-dormant Civic HF model designation, complete with special aerodynamic aids and low-rolling resistance tires that could bring it back to the top of the pack. The Civic HF sedan is EPA-rated at 29 mpg city, 41 mpg highway, and a combined 33 mpg overall.

Interestingly, while Honda uses its proprietary variable valve actuation, it does not employ direct injection or turbocharging as other automakers do to achieve this level of fuel efficiency. It makes us wonder what Honda could achieve if it did employ the latest technologies. No doubt, we’ll eventually find out.

So if you’re in the market for a new Civic, should you buy an HF?

We took a look at the numbers and found the new model doesn’t really pan out. With power windows and locks, but no sunroof, the HF is most similar to a mid-level Civic LX. It also has an extra trunk spoiler, special wheels, low-rolling-resistance tires, extra under-body shields, and a lower ride height. It sells for $20,225 with a standard automatic transmission--$800 more than a Civic LX automatic EPA-rated at 28 mpg city, 39 mpg highway and a combined 32 mpg rating. We’ll soon have our own fuel economy for the Civic we are currently testing.

We based our financial comparison on the assumption that you drive the national average of 12,000 miles a year and pay a round $4 for gas. Based on those factors, the HF would save you $45 a year in gas. At that rate the gas savings would take 18 years to make up for the extra cost of an HF over a Civic LX automatic.

True, Honda also offers the Civic Hybrid, with an even better 44 mpg city and highway fuel economy rating. But it costs $4,500 more than the HF. Even that gas savings won’t make up for the extra cost, although in the past we’ve seen that hybrids also have lower depreciation, which could make up much of the difference over time.
Honda Civic LX (auto) Honda Civic HF
MSRP $19,425 $20,225
Difference — $800
Fuel economy
City 28 29
Highway 39 41
EPA combined 32 33
Annual fuel cost $1,500 $1,455
Annual savings $45
Payoff years 18

Our advice to consumers: If you’re looking for a fuel efficient Honda Civic, check out the mainstream Civic LX, which gets very good mileage. Then if you want to invest the $800 you save in donating to an environmental cause, you may get more back in taxes than you’d save in fuel the first year.

And our advice to all automakers: Saving fuel is important, to the country, to consumers, and to you facing higher fuel economy requirements. Clearly, technology is successful in improving efficiency. Why not give everybody the best bang for their buck by eliminating modified versions and simply building the most fuel-efficient cars you can across the model range?

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