The 60 MPG Honda Civic... Not Sold In The U.S.

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The most frugal Civic U.S. drivers can currently buy is the 2013 Civic Hybrid.

The low-key sedan manages 44 mpg in city, highway and combined driving, sips gasoline, and goes about its business with relative anonymity.

In Europe, things are a little different. There, the Civic is a five-door hatchback rather than four-door sedan, and the styling is a little more space-age. Oh, and the diese variant has the potential to hit 60 mpg.

55-60 mpg (in our hands)

That's no pie-in-the-sky claimed figure either--though Honda does quote an official 65.3 mpg for the 1.6-liter, four-cylinder diesel Civic in question.

Instead, it's the figure we took from the car's trip computer after over 900 miles of mostly highway driving, most of which was done at the UK's speed limit of 70 mph, with 90 minutes of driving in London traffic thrown into the bargain.

The trip computer figure of 74.5 mpg in imperial gallons translates to 62 mpg U.S.

Using fuel tank range as a slightly more accurate measure, we drove 710 miles before chickening out and filling up, with only 15 miles left on the range computer.

A total range of 725 miles (it would likely do more before actually running out, but we weren't about to see how much) divided by the car's 13.2 (U.S.) gallon tank works out at 55 mpg.

That figure is obviously subject to change, depending on driving conditions--flatter roads and lower speeds would quickly see economy climbing beyond 60 mpg; more city running and 80 mph highway speeds would likely drop it to nearer 45-50 mpg.

Few compromises

Like its American counterpart, the Civic competes in the compact class against rivals such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.

Its interior and trunk are larger than either though, Honda maximizing interior space with close to one-box profile. The stubby nose hides a 1.6-liter four-cylinder, 120-horsepower turbocharged diesel engine, with 221 pounds-feet of torque.

Performance is respectable--0-62 mph takes 10.5 seconds, aided by a slick six-speed manual transmission. Thanks to the healthy torque there's always urge on offer at highway speeds too, though not as much as you might find from one of VW's 2.0-liter TDIs, for example.

Honda does also offer a 2.2-liter diesel model with more performance and slightly less economy, so diesel buyers aren't stuck with a lower-powered model. There's little to fault with the way it drives--the handling is neat and precise, refinement is good (both wind and engine noise are low) and the ride quality capable of dealing with pot-holed UK roads.

The exterior's quirky styling continues inside, which shares some similarities with the U.S. models--the split-layer instrument panel and the steering wheel design, for example.

It's comfortable too, and while this base model lacked navigation, auto lights and wipers, cruise control and a few other toys, it still featured air conditioning and USB connection for smartphones.

Not for the States, with good reason

Our readers are often frustrated that models such as this don't reach U.S. shores, but there are a few good reasons why this isn't the case.

The first, for this model at least, is that the Euro 5 emissions-rated engine doesn't have urea injection, and would therefore be unlikely to meet tough U.S. emissions regulations for diesel vehicles.

The second is that with a body style designed exclusively for Europe, this particular car probably wouldn't meet U.S. crash safety regulations either. And as a five-door hatchback, it's a less popular body style than the sedan sold in North America.

But it shows the potential of diesel vehicles, particularly when they sacrifice some of the performance of the larger engines typically offered in the U.S.

For some perspective, 55-60 mpg is also better than we've achieved from any other European-market diesel we've tested before, on fairly similar routes and with fairly similar engine capacities.

From Honda, a company that has only really dabbled with diesel in the last decade, that's quite an achievement.


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Comments (30)
  1. Impressive numbers.

  2. I'd gladly drive it. My '01 Jetta TDI is still performing perfectly, just itching for something different after 9 years.

    As for the engine size/output... the 1.9l in my TDI only generated 90hp when new... I'm sure it's down at least 10% with the ~250k miles I have on it now.

  3. I would probably buy this if it were available in the US. People all over the US drive older cars that would not pass the current safety regulations. Does anyone have any stats on the # of deaths/injuries per car wreck in the UK/Europe vs the US for a particular type a car, for comparison?

  4. Good article, Antony and great work by Honda. I might disagree slightly on the comment about hatchbacks not selling in the U.S., however, as recent sales figures have shown. The Fiesta sells more in hatchback than sedan, for example, and the Focus is very close. I think hatchbacks are gaining popularity, although historically, you are certainly correct.

    One difference is that recent hatchback versions are often much better looking than the limited options years ago. Hatchbacks also cost $1,500-$2,000 more in the States than sedans, at least for the Focus, Fiesta and Accent. But again, just a note for context, some impressive results overall.

  5. Go Honda! If I am not mistaken the VW Golf, one of the best selling cars in the world comes in a 4 door + hatchback. And on the political side that's exactly what we don't need . . . more government intrusion (i.e. not safe enough yet - added weight - & need just a wee bit more emmision control) causing the US not to beat down our dependency on foreign oil. Time to permanently furlough those regulatory flying monkeys.

  6. @Rich: The four-door sedan version of the VW Golf is known as the Volkswagen Jetta.

    And, I think you're going to find it very, very challenging to get elected officials signing onto an agenda of removing safety requirements. The headline would read: "Politician Wants To Make Cars More Dangerous."

    Also, the insurance industry is driving much of the push for safer vehicles and added safety featuers, to reduce its costs for human injuries in accidents.

  7. Rational thinking applied to politician . . . that is one thing I do not believe. PC [spin] = lies and additonal costs to the consumer based on emotions and not facts. The bottomline is not about elimianting all risks . . . it is about managing known risks and applying logic, not emotion to the solution. Hang the politicians and hang being PC.

  8. @Rich: When you locate that U.S. politician who's willing to take that stand, do please let me know.

  9. John, that would be like hunting for a unicorn. One alternate method would be to employ the method adopted by the French during their revolution. Do you have the specs for such an apparatus? One thing for sure is money does make the world go 'round and the poiticians love to spend money. Unfortunately, it is your and my money they are spending. Signing off. Nice discussion. Live long and prosper.

  10. The next logical step? A plug-in diesel hybrid.

  11. Never will happen. The Diesel-hybrid concept follows the law of diminishing returns. Diesels already command a premium, and the gain by adding another propulsion system to an already efficient system is minimal. Eeking out another 2-3 mpg for a $5000 increase in price will get nowhere in the free market.

  12. there are a lot of things available elsewhere that are not and will not be available here. Supercharged diesels are an option and we have them now in trucks and whatnot but not many are willing to pay for them. they are a LOT more expensive to buy and maintain.

    the reason Honda does not market that car is because it would be much more expensive than the hybrid version after its fixed enough to pass the US Standards and the ongoing high maintenance costs, higher diesel fuel costs and you no longer have an advantage of any kind.

    it would be more expensive
    costlier to drive
    costlier to maintain. lose lose lose

  13. This is a good argument for aligning US vehicle standards with European standards.

  14. Yes, it should have been done a long time ago! It is stupid that the United States must be different for no other reason than to be different, or because people resist standardization (English versus metric measurements).

  15. Why can't we have that Civic diesel over the ugly looking Civic in the US.The hatch back looks sharp and 60 mpg is excellent.Honda's styled for the US are really unattractive and it's holding them back.

  16. I've been in love with the 9th-gen European Civic hatchback ever since I saw spy shots of it back in 2011! The hatchback is back in the U.S. This is a very impressive car all around. I would without a doubt buy one tomorrow if they decided to sell it here.

  17. What....I would buy it, if they brought it here....why the heck don't we get efficent cars here???

  18. Li

  19. Liberalism keeping America addicted to foreign oil once again. All these bery silly, endless rules and regs regarding cars keep Americans from driving these cars. Thanks left.

  20. You're welcome. Do you also want to thank "The Left" for reducing fatalities per mile by about 70% and reducing emissions by over 95%? Oh, that's right, you're not interested in reason, just in a moronic political attack on others.

    Liberalism can be seen in liberals driving far more EVs and hybrids than conservatives, of course. Perhaps next time you can find an actual legitimate reason to criticize liberals and not this attempted nonsense?

  21. I wonder if Europe has laws on average gas mileage as we do, or is solely "the market" causing them to create these vehicles.

    I have plenty of liberal friends who drive SUVs and fiscally conservative friends who drive smaller cars to save money. Liberals tend to be more free-spending and want to impress their yuppie neighbors with fancy cars, so I think there's less difference than one would like to believe.

    At some point (we very well might already be there), we'd be better off working on other pollution besides automobiles. It's adding a lot of cost to new vehicles and fuel. Every dollar we spend on fighting auto pollution is money we don't have to use elsewhere, which unfortunately most people can't understand...

  22. US drivers also can't buy the 70+mpg Ford Fiesta, again, a diesel.

  23. I doubt many would, which is why such cars are not sold here. The expensive engine adds too much cost to go into a cheap car, only makes sense in trucks/SUVs and expensive cars here... Another reason is that diesel fuel costs 5-15% more in most states ($4.00 versus $3.72 in NYS currently) , unlike 20 years ago. I believe Europe doesn't require diesel fuel to be as clean as we do, so it might be cheaper than gas over there?

  24. Pretty sad that our regulations are even more expensive than Europe's...
    Also, most people incorrectly believe that liberal Europe has stricter environmental laws than we do, but many of their cars can't be sold here.

  25. So in US the only option is Jetta

  26. Or a Chevy Volt, 4th gen Prius, Chevy Cruze TDI, VW Passsssssssaught TDI

  27. Ridiculous that we cannot drive this car in the "free" United States. Damn centralist lefties won't allow it.

  28. The 4th gen Prius will probably get 55-60MPG all day whether on the highway or in the city. It'll probably have a turbocharged lean burn engine.

  29. The real reason that this doesn't come stateside has everything to do with California and it's Draconian emissions requirements. There's not enough profit in a 49-state model when you consider the size of the California economy.

  30. This has nothing to do with California emissions requirements. Any maker that chooses to offer a small diesel engine in the U.S. market has to meet the same "Tier 2, Bin 5" emissions requirements to be legal to sell.

    Thus far, only Volkswagen and (to a limited extent) Chevrolet have chosen to sell compact cars with diesels.

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