2010 Honda Civic GX natural-gas vehicle, Los Angeles, November 2010
So here's the bottom line on driving a natural-gas vehicle: If you didn't have to refill it, you'd never know it was fueled on anything other than gasoline.
Except for two things, that is: First, you lose up to half of a gasoline car's range, with our natural-gas fueled Honda Civic GX only providing about 180 miles before it needs more fuel (against up to 400 miles for the gasoline Civic).
Second, you also lose about two-thirds of the trunk space offered in a standard Civic sedan, because the high-pressure natural-gas tank is located at the rear of the trunk.
Other than that, natural gas may be the easiest alternative fuel to use--if there's a public fueling station nearby.
The performance is indistinguishable from the gasoline equivalent, and from behind the wheel, you'd never know it wasn't the real stuff.
If anything, we thought our GX might be a bit quieter than other Civics we've tested, but we couldn't do a side-by-side comparison to check out our impression.
Only one test car nationwide
Honda is presently the only manufacturer that sells natural-gas vehicles to the public, and at the moment, it only does so in four regional markets--Oklahoma being the latest.
We'd wanted to test a Civic GX for a while, but it took a trip to Los Angeles to make it happen, because there's only a single one in the company's nationwide media fleet.
We actually drove a 2009 model, but the 2010 and 2011 models are essentially unchanged. The Civic will be entirely redesigned for the 2012 model year, when Honda says it will make the GX natural-gas model available in all 50 states.
Pricey for a base Civic
On the window sticker, the suggested retail price for the Civic GX is listed as $18,255. Then in very tiny letters, there's a single line that says, "Incremental Cost (CNG)" and adds another $6,935, for a total price of $25,860.