2009 Lemon Aid Small Cars

 

Acura CSX*

GM Chevrolet Cobalt* GM Saturn Astra*
Chrysler PT Cruiser*

GM Chevrolet HHR*

Honda Civic *

Dodge Caliber*

GM Pontiac G5*

Honda Civic Hybrid*

Ford Focus*

Honda Insight

Kia Forte

Mitsubishi Lancer

Hyundai Elantra

Kia Spectra

Nissan Sentra

Hyundai Elantra Touring

Mazda 3

Subaru Impreza

Suzuki SX4

VW City Golf

VW Jetta

Toyota Corolla 2010

VW City Jetta

VW New Beetle

Toyota Matrix 2010 / Pontiac Vibe

VW Rabbit



The small car segment represents the bulk of the car market in Canada. Cars in this segment are no longer cheap, but equipment levels, refinement and performance are equal to those of mid-size cars a decade ago. Other than interior space, there is no compelling reason to move beyond this class.

Small cars have become safer over the last few years, with the newest entries generally achieving the best ratings in standardized crash tests. Eight of the 26 cars in this category have received a triple Good (frontal, side and rear impacts) rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) as well as the coveted Top Safety Pick status. Four others cars in this group earned Good ratings in two out of the three IIHS test categories.

Crash test data show that side-curtain airbags are the best available method of addressing vehicle height mismatches and protecting occupants of smaller vehicles in the event of a side impact with something bigger or taller. Seventeen of the 26 cars in this class are fitted with side-curtain airbags as standard equipment, and six offer them as an option. Neither the PT Cruiser not the Volkswagen New Beetle, two of the oldest car designs in this class currently on sale, offer side curtain airbags.

Electronic stability control (ESC), which can correct the trajectory of a car before a driver even knows it is about to go out of control, has filtered down from the luxury car stratosphere to cars at the very heart of the market in Canada. Five of the 26 cars in the small segment have ESC fitted as standard, with 17 others offering it as a reasonably-priced option.

Over the last few years, new cars in this segment have arrived as relentlessly as waves on a beach. This year is no exception. New for 2009 is the Hyundai Elantra Touring, a five-door hatchback significantly different from its sedan counterpart. Several other new vehicles, the Honda Insight, Mazda 3 and Kia Forte, jumped the calendar and debuted as 2010s. Toyota made minor changes to the Corolla and Matrix in the late winter of 2009 and put them on sale as early 2010 models.      

The better cars in this class are economical to operate, very reliable, and have excellent resale value. The average and below average cars in this segment are often heavily supported by incentives making them look attractive, but you will lose your initial saving on resale.


Acura CSX

ABOVE AVERAGE
HONDA
ACURA CSX (FWD)
Body Style: 4SD
Engine: 2L-4 155 HP*, 2L-4 197 HP (Type-S)
Transmission: 5M, 5A*, 6M (Type-S)
City Fuel Economy: 9.5L/100 km
ESC available: Standard
Emissions rating: Tier 2 Bin 5

What’s new
Fog lights and 17 inch wheels are now standard. New-style Acura mailbox lid grille.

Performance
With a bit more power than the Civic, the regular CSX is marginally quicker and smoother than its donor car. The thumb-operated manumatic shift toggles on automatic transmission-equipped cars work very well. Ride and handling are little different than on the Civic. Though it develops much of its horsepower at high RPMs, the Type-S is docile and flexible at average engine speeds. It delivers energetic acceleration, more exhaust rumble and an intoxicating intake snarl above 6000 rpm. The steering is quick, and while firm, the ride is supple for a car with such precise handling. A light, progressive clutch and a precise, short-throw gearchange complete the picture.  

Reliability
Predicted above average reliability. Four year/80,000 bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Comments
The Civic-based CSX is sold only in Canada. Mainstream CSXs are powered by a 2L i-VTEC four that produces 155 horsepower, 15 more than the 1.8L four installed in the Civic. Power goes to the front wheels via either a five-speed manual transmission or a manumatic-equipped five-speed automatic. The Civic Si’s 197 horsepower 2L four and six-speed manual transmission power the CSX Type-S. Sales held steady in 2008 despite high-end versions of the Civic costing much less than their CSX equivalents. Built in Canada.

Pricing
The base CSX (without xenon lights and navigation system) is priced $3610 higher than the similarly equipped Honda Civic EX-L. The supplement for the Tech package is reasonable value but the Type-S overpriced, especially when compared to the Civic Si with the same engine. 

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags. The Civic (on which the CSX is based) was a Top Safety Pick, rated Good in the frontal, side and rear impact tests conducted by the IIHS, ranked 3rd of the 22 cars in its class. Standard ABS and ESC.


 Chrysler PT Cruiser

 

AVERAGE
CHRYSLER PT Cruiser (FWD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engines: 2.4L-4 150 HP
Transmissions: 5M, 4A*
City Fuel Economy: 11L/100 km
ESC available: No
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
Only one PT Cruiser, a normally-aspirated LX trim level hatchback with few options, returns for 2009. The convertible and turbocharged models have been discontinued for 2009, which is also the last year for the wagon version.

Performance
Acceleration with the base engine is good with the five-speed manual transmission and adequate with the automatic. Despite a lot of torque steer on manual transmission cars under acceleration, handling is quite good. Precise steering. The Cruiser rides well. Without ABS the brake pedal is hard to modulate to avoid locking the wheels during emergency stops. Trim exterior dimensions make the PT Cruiser easy to park. The front seats are roomy and comfortable, and the rear seat is spacious for two adults. The elevated driving position is excellent, but the thick windshield pillars reduce visibility. The cabin design is attractive and nicely finished. Effective heating and air conditioning, but the ventilator fan is fairly noisy. Large, practical cargo area with a multi-position parcel shelf, lots of tie down hooks, and versatile rear seats that can be arranged in various ways, or removed if you’re strong (they are heavy). Though the PT Cruiser is older than the Dodge Caliber, it is a more pleasant machine than the newer car. 

Reliability 
Average. The best reliability record of any small Chrysler product. Low quality Neon-derived steering and suspension components. Space in the engine compartment is tight, which hampers access for maintenance. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Comments
The 2.4L engine can be hooked up to a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. Sales of the PT Cruiser fell about 55 percent in 2008, following a 30 percent decline in 2007. Built in Mexico.

Pricing
With the optional Value Package, the PT Cruiser LX bears an MSRP $800 higher than the better equipped Chevrolet HHR LT.

Safety
Seat-mounted side airbags are standard on all models. The PT Cruiser was rated Good in the IIHS frontal impact test and Poor in the side and rear impact tests. Ranked 20th out of the 22 cars in its class. Optional ABS. ESC is not available.


 

Dodge Caliber

BELOW AVERAGE
CHRYSLER
DODGE Caliber (FWD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engine: 1.8L-4 148 HP, 2L-4 158 HP*, 2.4L-4T 285 HP
Transmission: 5M, 6M, CVT*
City Fuel Economy: 9L/100 km
ESC available: Yes
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
Extra sound insulation and exhaust system changes are aimed at enhancing refinement. R/T and AWD versions have been discontinued.

Comments
Driven before the recent refinement enhancements, the 2L-CVT powertrain combination accelerates well and is a relaxed cruiser. The high revs the continuously variable transmission (CVT) allows during hard acceleration spoil refinement. Once drivers are accustomed to the CVT they use fewer revs and the refinement improves. Good ride-handling compromise on mainstream models. The steering is nicely weighted and geared but is a bit numb. Comfortable front seats, but the rear seat is a bit flat. Good legroom front and rear. Straightforward instruments and controls. Lots of shiny hard cabin surfaces. Cargo room is good with the rear seat up and very good with it down. Take a look at the older yet still compelling PT Cruiser before you buy a Caliber. Made in the United States.

Reliability
Not rated, insufficient data. Unproven CVT. An extended powertrain warranty might be advisable if you will keep the car past the 5 year/100,000 km powertrain warranty. APA members receive a discount on the purchase of an extended warranty through a recommended dealer. Three years/60,000 bumper to bumper, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Pricing
The SXT is the best value of the lineup. The SXT Sport and Driver Convenience packages are well worth the money. The CVT comes packaged with the 2L engine and ABS for $1200. Chrysler’s uncertain long-term future may trigger deep discounts on this car.    

Safety
Standard side-curtain airbags. Seat-mounted side airbags are optional on SXT and SRT4 models. In IIHS tests, the Caliber was rated Good for frontal impacts and Marginal for side and rear impacts, ranked 17th of the 22 cars tested in its class. ABS is standard on the SXT, SRT4 and on cars with automatic transmission, optional on the SE. ESC is not offered on the SE, is optional on the SXT and standard on the SRT4.


Ford Focus

AVERAGE
FORD Focus (FWD)
Body Styles: 4SD, 2SD
Engine: 2L-4*140 HP (143 HP with manual transmission)
Transmission: 5M, 4A*
City Fuel Economy: 8.5L/100 km
ESC available: Yes
Emissions rating: Tier 2 Bin 4

What’s new
Four-door sedan: SES trim level added at the top of the model range. ESC is standard on the SES and SEL trim levels. 2L engine gains three horsepower on manual transmission cars. Two-door sedan: restyled front and rear fascias, roof spoiler standard on the SES. Final drive ratio altered on automatic cars for sprightlier acceleration.

Performance
The previously nimble Focus has morphed into a sedate sedan with a cushy ride that, despite its sound handling, lacks the agile feel that was once its hallmark. The willing 2L engine mates well with the four-speed automatic to deliver smooth performance in town and mechanically relaxed cruising. The revised car is quieter than before, but road and exhaust noise levels are still intrusive. Supportive front seats and a comfortable driving position. The rear seat is tight on legroom and headroom, and while the seat cushion is supportive, the backrest does little to support the upper back. Though functional, the main instruments are unattractive, as is the expanse of faux alloy on the dash on top models that is vast enough to trigger a faux alloy shortage. The audio controls are logical, but there are too many buttons for the climate control system where just three dials would suffice. The wiper stalk, set at a strange angle, lacks a mist feature and needs the “Thumb of Hercules” to activate the windshield washers. While well stocked, the Focus cabin, with lots of hard, shiny surfaces, looks and feels cheap. Access to the roomy trunk is hampered by a small aperture. Good climate and audio systems.  

Reliability
Average to better than average. The carried over mechanical units were reliable in the 2005-2007 model. Weak corrosion resistance from 2000-2004, and likely from 2005-2007. Corrosion resistance of the re-skinned body is unknown. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Comments
Though Ford has been selling the second-generation Focus in Europe since 2004, our Focus is just a re-skin of the car that debuted here as a 2000. The versatile hatchback and wagon body styles are gone, leaving sedans with two or four doors. The Mazda-derived 2L four sends power to the front wheels via either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. The updated Focus is a very old design selling against modern rivals in the biggest market segment in Canada. High gasoline prices helped improve Focus sales last year, when the lacklustre re-skin should have sent sales into a tailspin. Made in the United States.

Pricing
Upgrading to the SE and SEL trim levels represent great value. The SES upgrade is priced to cover its additional content. The two door is offered only in SE and SES trim levels.

Safety
Seat mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags are standard on all models. The Focus was rated Good in the IIHS frontal and rear impact tests and Acceptable in the side impact test. Ranked 12th out of the 22 cars in its class. ABS is standard on the SEL and SES models, optional on the S and SE models. ESC is standard on SEL and SES models, optional on S and SE models.  


Chevrolet Cobalt

AVERAGE
GENERAL MOTORS
CHEVROLET Cobalt, PONTIAC G5 (FWD)
Body Style: 4SD, 2CP
Engine: 2.2L-4 155 HP*, 2L-4T 260 HP (Cobalt SS only)
Transmission: 5M, 4A*
City Fuel Economy: 8.7L/100 km
ESC available: Yes
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
Both: Variable valve timing on 2.2L boosts HP from 148 to 155. 2.4L engine dropped. Bluetooth and a USB port are now optional. Cobalt: SS sedan debuts as does Team Canada package. G5: Podium Edition added

Performance
The 2.2L engine performs well, but exhaust noise can either be sporty, or boomy, depending on your taste. The four-speed automatic transmission is smooth and eager. The manual transmission has a docile clutch and pleasant gearchange. Spongy brake feel. There is ample space up front, but rear legroom is tight and the seat cushion is unsupportive. Headroom and rear ingress/egress are difficult in the coupe. Exterior panel fit and paint are quite well done, and while the interior design and materials are attractive, there are a few rough edges. Big trunk, but the small trunk aperture makes it hard to get luggage in, and its high sill makes unloading a chore as well.

Reliability
Average reliability. Possible weak points: emission system and front brakes.  Expensive replacement parts at dealers. Three year/60,000 bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/160,000 km on the powertrain.

Comments
The front of the Cobalt bears Chevrolet’s bow tie and the Pursuit displays Pontiac’s twin nostril theme. Twin cam Ecotec fours with displacements of 2.2L and 2L power these cars. Power reaches the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. Combined sales of these two nameplates increased 20 percent in 2008, within 15 percent of those for the Honda Civic, Canada's top selling car. GM’s aggressive and ubiquitous dealer network is probably as much of a factor in the success of this car as the car itself. Made in the United States.

Pricing
Coupes and sedans are priced the same. Cobalt LT 1SA and G5 SE 1SA are short on value compared with the base models of both. The top models are reasonable value. The G5 is priced about $400 higher than the equivalent Cobalt, except for the G5 SE 1SB, priced $255 higher than a similarly equipped top Cobalt. Examine monthly payment figures very closely as you could pay as much per month for these cars as for the highest-rated cars in this class. Equipped the same and with the same mileage, a Cobalt will be worth up to $2500 less than a Honda Civic after four years.

Safety
Side-curtain airbags are standard on the Cobalt LT 1SB, SS and the G5 SE 1SB, optional on other models. Seat mounted side airbags are not available. Equipped with side-curtain airbags, the Cobalt was rated Good in the IIHS frontal and rear impact tests and Acceptable in the IIHS side impact test. Ranked 11th of the 22 cars in its class. ABS is standard on the Cobalt LT, SS, G5 SE 1SA and 1SB, optional on the Cobalt LS and G5. ESC is standard on the SS but is not offered on other models.  


Chevrolet HHR

 

AVERAGE
GENERAL MOTORS
CHEVROLET HHR (FWD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engines: 2.2L-4 149 HP, 2.4L-4* 172 HP, 2L-4T 260 HP (SS)
Transmissions: 5M, 4A*
City Fuel Economy: 9.6L/100 km
ESC available: Standard
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
ESC and ABS are standard. Side-curtain airbags are now standard on the SS model. Six more horsepower and (claimed) better fuel economy due to variable valve timing on the 2.2L. Non turbos are E85 compatible. Bluetooth and a USB port are now available.

Comments
With its “essence of 1949 Suburban” HHR, Chevrolet mined its heritage much more directly than Chrysler did when it created the PT Cruiser. Chrysler used the Neon as the base for the PT, and the oily bits from Chevrolet’s Cobalt compact car underpin the HHR’s retro skin. The HHR is longer, wider and taller than its rival from Chrysler. The HHR’s cabin is as funky as its exterior. The dashboard features clear instrumentation and logical main controls. Some minor controls, like the rear wiper and the console-mounted window switches, are initially hard to find. While some pieces are a bit shiny, the interior is attractive, and more carefully assembled than some or GM’s previous efforts. Good exterior panel fit and paint. The taller body liberates some cabin room, as the HHR’s rear seat offers more space for adults than found in the Cobalt. However, restricted width means three passengers will not be happy in the rear seat for long. With a tall cabin and split-fold rear seats, versatility is one of the HHR’s key virtues. The solid cargo-area decking makes it easy to slide items into the cargo bay but also allows them to clatter about, and will eventually get scratched and look scrappy. Cargo area carpeting is optional. Reports in the automotive press note that the 2.2L engine in the LS model feels a bit slow. The 2.4L four, exclusive to the LT trim level provides good acceleration, but gearing that allows for low-rev cruising leads to a sluggish feel in routine driving. The 2.4L engine sounds a bit gritty for some tastes. The ride is generally good, and handling, while predictable, is uninspiring. Visibility is restricted due to the small side windows and a low windshield header. Built in Mexico.

Reliability
Average reliability. Based on the Cobalt that has had average reliability. Possible weak points: emission system and front brakes. Water can accumulate in the sound-proofing material located in the front fenders. Consider removing it. Three year/60,000 km warranty, five years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Pricing
The HHR LT is better equipped and cheaper than a PT Cruiser with similar features

Safety
Side-curtain airbags are standard on the SS model but are optional on other trim levels. Seat-mounted side airbags are not available. The HHR was rated Good in the IIHS frontal impact test, Acceptable in the side impact test and Marginal in the rear impact test. Ranked 13th out of the 22 vehicles in its class. ABS and ESC are standard.   


Saturn Astra

BELOW AVERAGE
GENERAL MOTORS
SATURN Astra (FWD)
Body Styles: 2HB, 4HB
Engine: 1.8L-4 138 HP
Transmission: 5M, 4A*
City Fuel Economy: 8.4L/100 km
ESC available: Yes
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
Oil pan heater and Advanced Audio Package are new options. New tan cabin hue.

Performance
The Astra’s 1.8L four performs well when hooked to the five-speed manual transmission. The four-speed automatic is responsive on the open road, however, in town, a fuel-saving feature that disconnects the torque converter when the car is stopped, leads to lethargic performance. A ride-handling compromise that combines good control with a firmly compliant ride is the Astra’s best feature. The nicely-weighted steering becomes vague on sinuous roads. Strong, progressive brakes. Oddly-shaped front seatbacks don’t suit all occupants. Attractive upholstery and plenty of soft-touch plastic surfaces. Legroom is good upfront, but rear seat space is just adequate. Clear dashboard gauges, but minor controls (audio and climate) are confusing. Avoid the dual panel sunroof that makes scraping sounds as it opens and creaks when the car hits a big bump. Big trunk. Good exterior fit and finish. The Volkswagen Rabbit and the Astra are fierce competitors in Europe, but when the two cars sold in Canada are compared, the Astra comes off as decidely second string. 

Reliability
Not rated. This car is totally new to North America and to Saturn dealers. Very expensive parts. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Comments
GM’s Saturn-branded Opel Astra enters its second year on the market with few changes. The current Astra five-door debuted in Europe in 2004, with the three-door following in 2005. While obviously related, the two body styles look quite different from one another, with the three-door being the sportier of the two. The Astra and the Volkswagen Golf (called Rabbit in Canada), two of the best-selling cars in Europe, are very close in overall size and weight, but the VW has a roomier rear seat. The Astra’s 1.8L Ecotec four sends its 138 horsepower to the front wheels via either a five-speed manual or an automatic with four speeds. Suspension is by MacPherson struts up front, and a VW-style twist beam axle in back. The five-door is offered in XE and XR trim levels, with the three-door marketed only in XR trim. Made in Belgium.

Pricing
The four-door XR offers the best value of the lineup. Overpriced automatic transmission and air conditioning options. The Astra is selling at about half the rate the Ion was, which is better (per capita) than it is selling in the United States. Saturn in the U.S. passed on the 2009 model year altogether, stating that an early 2010 will debut in the spring. Avoid this car unless you can get a fantastic deal on it. Slow U.S. sales will turn this car into an orphan. GM’s possible divestiture of Opel won’t do much for the Astra’s long-term prospects either.    

Safety
Seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags are standard. The Astra was rated Good in the IIHS frontal impact test, Marginal in the side impact test and Acceptable in the rear impact test. Ranked 16th out of the 22 cars in its class. ABS is standard on all models. ESC is standard on XR two-door, optional on all other models.   


Honda Civic

ABOVE AVERAGE
HONDA Civic (FWD)
Body Styles: 2CP, 4SD
Engines: 1.8L-4 i-VTEC 140 HP*, 2L-4 i-VTEC 197 HP (Si)
Transmissions:  5M, 5A*, 6M (Si)
City Fuel Economy: 8.2L/100 km
ESC available: Yes
Emissions rating: Tier 2 Bin 5

What’s new
Sunroof-equipped Sport replaces the LX sedan. ESC and traction control are standard on the EX-L and Si. A USB audio port is added to the Sport, EX-L and Si trim levels. Fog lights are standard on the Si. New colours

Performance
The Civic is a competent all-rounder. The engine is strong and the automatic transmission, with smooth upshifts and decisive downshifts, is a delight. Except for road noise, the Civic is a quiet car. Excellent real world fuel consumption of the 1.8L four matches some B-segment cars, and is only 1L/100 km higher than the smaller Fit. The Civic’s ride is firm, yet never harsh, and retains its composure when fully loaded. Visibility to the sides is hampered by the extreme rake of the windshield. The Civic has comfortable seats and good space front and rear. The two level instrumentation with a prominent tachometer and digital speedometer is eccentric but works well. The climate controls use a multiplicity of buttons when three knobs would suffice. The spacious trunk is augmented by a one-piece folding rear seat on the mainstream DX-G (split-fold on the Sport, EX-L and Si).  

Though it develops much of its horsepower at high RPMs, the Si’s four is docile and flexible at average engine speeds. Energetic acceleration, more exhaust rumble and an intoxicating intake snarl above 6000 rpm are indications that the Si is no ordinary Civic. The steering is quick, and while firm, the ride is supple for a car with such precise handling. A light, progressive clutch and a precise, short-throw gearchange complete the picture. 

Reliability
Above average. Some complaints of rapid rear tire wear. This generation Civic has generated far fewer complaints than the 2001-2005 car. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain

Comments
Honda’s current Civic was a radical confection when it debuted as a 2006 model and is still an avant-garde design. Although the affordable coupe market has almost melted away over the last decade, Honda continues with a coupe version of the Civic. Built on a shorter wheelbase than the sedan, the coupe is shorter overall and lower than the sedan, and has an even more steeply raked windshield. Powering the 2009 Civic are two i-VTEC four-cylinder engines. A single 140 horsepower 1.8L four powers mainline Civics, with a 2L i-VTEC engine is found under the hood of the Si versions. The Civic 1.8L qualifies for a $100 fuel tax rebate from Ontario, one of only a handful of conventional gas-engined cars to do so. The base four can be linked to a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. The Si comes exclusively with a six-speed manual. Made in Canada and the United States.

Pricing
The DX-G is equipped to satisfy the desires of most buyers. Good value Sport and EX-L trim upgrades. The expensive ($1300) factory air-conditioning option on the DX makes the DX-G look like a compelling value. The Civic EX-L sells for about $3610 less than the similarly equipped Acura CSX. Uncompetitive lease and finance incentives caused Civic sales to tumble until February, when incentives were normalized. The Civic DX-G and Corolla CE Enhanced Convenience package cost the same per month to lease (48 months $0 down) or finance (60 months $0. down). Excellent resale value.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags. The Civic was a Top Safety Pick, rated Good in the IIHS frontal, side and rear impact tests, ranked 3rd of the 22 cars in its class. Standard ABS. ESC is standard on the EX-L and Si, not offered on other models.  


Honda Civic Hybrid

ABOVE AVERAGE
HONDA Civic Hybrid (FWD)
Body Style: 4SD
Engine: 1.3L-4 i-VTEC 93 HP, plus 15 Kilowatt electric motor electric motor, 110 HP combined
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
City Fuel Economy: 4.7L/100 km, (7.5L/100 km observed)
ESC available: Standard
Emissions rating: Tier 2 Bin 2

What’s new
ESC, traction control and USB audio port are now standard.

Comments
The Civic Hybrid is powered by Honda’s second-generation hybrid system. The Hybrid uses regenerative braking to send power back to the battery pack. An intelligent braking system lets the regenerative brakes handle a greater (and variable) proportion of overall braking to return more energy to the battery pack. The Civic Hybrid employs an idle-stop mechanism that shuts off the gas engine when stopped at a light, and has an electric air conditioning compressor to keep occupants cool while the gas engine is stopped. Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) is used to save fuel and the valvetrain reduces pumping losses when cylinders of the gas engine are idling. Twin spark plugs per cylinder can fire in tandem or sequentially to provide maximum combustion efficiency depending on driving conditions. Power from the IMA system is sent to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Honda installs lighter alloy wheels and hard-compound low-resistance tires to save fuel. The Civic Hybrid is smooth, quiet and seems quite normal. Only the constant high engine speed allowed by the CVT when the driver wants maximum acceleration betrays the unusual drivetrain. Braking feels conventional despite the regenerative braking. Honda’s sleek new five-door Insight, cooler and cheaper than the Civic Hybrid, will likely precipitate the end of the latter when the current Civic goes out of production. Made in Japan.

Reliability
Above average reliability. Honda’s previous Hybrid systems have been reliable. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain and 8 years/130,000 km on the IMA battery pack only.

Pricing
The Civic Hybrid is priced about the same as the base 2009 Toyota Prius. The Prius leases for roughly $40 less per month than the Civic. The new and cool Insight will have a cheaper MSRP than the Civic hybrid but monthly payments figures may not be that different.  

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags. The conventional Civic was a Top Safety Pick, rated Good in the frontal, side and rear impact tests conducted by the IIHS, ranked 3rd of the 22 cars in its class. Standard ABS and ESC.