Now in its third generation, the Honda Civic Hybrid is one of the stalwarts of the compact hybrid class, having been around in one form or another since its introduction to the U.S. in 2002.

Here we're looking at the popular 2006-2011 model, as one of our Five Best Used Green Cars To Buy.

While not as overtly green, nor as economical as the 2004-2009 Toyota Prius we looked at yesterday, the Civic Hybrid is well worth considering if you're in the market for a used green car.

History

The first generation of Civic Hybrid was first launched in 2001 in the Japanese market, but only reached U.S. shores in Spring 2002, as a 2003 model. The second generation Hybrid was launched in 2005, as a 2006 model-year car.

Based on the regular Civic sedan, the Hybrid uses Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system, which slots a compact electric motor between the engine and transmission. The system debuted in the original Insight, and is also fitted to cars like the Honda CR-Z and current generation Insight.

The 2006-2011 Civic Hybrid uses a 1.3-liter engine with the IMA system, paired with a continuously-variable transmission. Combined, they produce 110 horsepower, and 123 pounds-feet of torque.

Driving experience, economy

While the original Civic Hybrid achieved 39 mpg city and 43 mpg highway from its 1.3-liter engine and IMA system, the 2006-2011 Honda Civic Hybrid improved that to 40 mpg city, and 43 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 41 mpg.

It may not match the 48 city and 45 highway of the 2004-2009 Prius then, but in terms of combined emissions the Civic actually ranks better than the Prius--so it's still a green choice.

Stepping behind the wheel, you won't get the shock you might in the Toyota Prius, as the Civic is fairly conventional inside. Even so, the two-tier dashboard looks high-tech and the driving position is comfortable.

Read our review of the 2011 Honda Civic Hybrid

Some might consider the Civic Hybrid more of a driver's car than its Prius rival, but this is still a car more suited to taking it easy than hitting the twists. Still, it's easy to drive, responsive, and the steering has a bit more road feel than the Prius's fingertip-light system.

It's just a pity that Honda's hybrid system isn't as smooth as Toyota's. You'll notice the engine turning on and off more, there's more of a step when the electric motor kicks in to help the gasoline engine, and the transition between regenerative braking and using the friction brakes is more pronounced. While it all works well enough, it lacks the polish of Toyota's system.

2006 Honda Civic Hybrid

2006 Honda Civic Hybrid

Reliability, care

Honda is a company known for its reliable cars, and it's not unknown for drivers to do absolutely vast mileages in their Civic Hybrids--we've heard of first-generation models clocking up over 700,000 miles with very few issues.

However, as with most modern cars, there are a few things to look out for.

The Civic Hybrid has been subject to a few recalls over the last few years. In 2011, Honda recalled 36,700 of its 2006 and 2007 Civic Hybrids to replace the DC-DC converter, which adjusts voltage to different parts of the hybrid system.

The Hybrid was also subject to a more general recall for all 2009 Civics in 2008, to re-fit a fuel hose connector bracket. Check with your Honda dealer to make sure both of these recalls have been attended to.

Honda also extended its warranty on 80,000 2006-2011 Civic Hybrids to cover potential cracks in the gas tank, that may lead to fuel usage. The warranty lasts ten years, which will cover all affected models, or 120,000 miles, which may now exclude some older used examples.

You'll also want to make sure the car you're looking at has had its battery software upgrade, relevant to 2006-2008 models, announced in 2010. This wasn't a safety issue, but may reduce the car's battery life.

Cost

2006 Honda Civic Hybrid

2006 Honda Civic Hybrid

Kelley Blue Book suggests prices from just under $13,000 for a 2006 Civic Hybrid, up to $22,600 for a low-mileage 2011 example. Those prices assume a car in excellent condition from a dealer, so it's likely a car bought privately would be cheaper.

The EPA's fueleconomy.gov website predicts that at current gas prices (an average of $3.87 per gallon), you'd spend $1,400 in gasoline per year, driving 15,000 miles with a 45/55 highway/city split.

Gas mileage is a tricky subject with the Civic Hybrid. While owners on the fueleconomy site are reporting an impressive average of 49 miles per gallon--8 mpg above the EPA combined--the Civic Hybrid was recently the subject of a class action lawsuit, for not hitting the quoted EPA figures.

Read into that what you will, but suffice to say the old adage "your mileage may vary" still applies to hybrids.

Our verdict

Alongside the higher-profile Prius and even against its cheaper Insight sibling, the 2006-2011 Honda Civic Hybrid is a tough sell, but we do think the car has one major card up its sleeve--it doesn't really look like a hybrid.

For some, the hybrid economy appeals more than the hybrid image, and for customers not wishing to make too much of a statement, the subdued and low-key Civic Hybrid may be just what they're after.

For outright economy--and interior space--you're still better off going for the Prius, but provided you buy a car with all the recalls taken care of, the Civic should provide miles of easy, gas-saving motoring.

You can also read a full review of the Honda Civic Hybrid on our sister site, TheCarConnection.

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