2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas Road Test Review

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What if we told you there is an energy source available to power your car that's cheaper than gasoline, cleaner burning, and can be accessed right outside your home? What if we told you there are abundant supplies of this fuel available right here in North America, so there's no need to import it, nor do we have to worry about supplies being cut off by a government hostile to ours?

Further, what if we told you that cars have been running on this fuel since the '90s, so it's proven, reliable and absolutely feasible? Would you want to know more about it? Or more importantly, would you want to buy a car that ran on this miraculous fuel?

Well, it's absolutely true, at least if you're south of the 49th. The car is the 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas, only available in the U.S. Why not in Canada? Read on and find out.  

Natural gas, like all petroleum-based fuels, is formed from the fossil remains of ancient plants and animals buried deep in the earth. While natural gas gives off a lot of heat and light when it burns, it doesn't produce smoke because it burns cleaner and hotter than oil-based fuels. The main ingredient in natural gas is methane, which is also produced as a byproduct of the fermentation at landfills.

Yes, our garbage dumps also produce this fuel.

Honda sold the first natural gas burning Civic back in 1998, and to date is the only mainstream manufacturer mass-producing a natural gas automobile. Relegated mostly to fleet sales at first, primarily because of the scarcity of fueling stations, the Civic GX was made available for retail sale in four states (California, New York, Oklahoma, and Utah) in 2005.

However, with the introduction of the all-new 2012 Honda Civic, the manufacturer decided to go all-out to make the Civic GX a viable player in the U.S. green car marketplace. To increase its visibility, marketers renamed the car Civic Natural Gas. To improve its availability, sales were expanded to 200 dealers in 35 states. And, to improve its desirability, the 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas comes quite nicely equipped.

Standard features include air conditioning, power accessories, cruise control, and a four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system capable of streaming music wirelessly from portable devices via Bluetooth or a wired USB connection. The Natural Gas Civic's Multi-Information Display integrates vehicle information and compatible personal electronics with a colour LCD display in the dash and it can all be controlled from the steering wheel. To ease concerns about refueling, the optional Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System hosts a database of publicly accessible Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) refueling stations across the United States.

Powered by the cleanest burning internal combustion engine ever certified by the EPA, the 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas uses the same basic 1.8-litre inline four-cylinder engine found in other Civic models - modified to cope with the higher temperatures and increased output of the hotter burning fuel. The compression ratio is increased and a stronger crankshaft, connecting rods and pistons are fitted. Additionally, the fuel injectors, intake and exhaust valves and valve seats are redesigned to work with natural gas.

Engine output is 110 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 104 ft-lbs of torque at 4,200 rpm. The Civic natural gas has a fuel capacity equivalent to approximately 30 litres of gasoline and will travel about 400 kilometres on a tank of fuel. Fuel economy is rated at an EPA estimated metric equivalent of 8.7 L/100km in the city, 6.1 on the highway and 7.6 combined. By comparison, the Civic Hybrid is estimated at 5.3 L/100km and holds just over 50 litres of fuel for a theoretical range of about 920 km.

So, why go with Civic Natural Gas over Civic Hybrid?

Good question, as of this writing, a litre of unleaded is averaging about $1.20. The equivalent of a litre of natural gas is about $0.75. So natural gas fill ups are considerably cheaper. However, the Civic Hybrid will travel farther for less money overall. On the other hand, the Natural Gas Civic runs cleaner and can be refueled at home.

Still though, while the base price for the Civic Natural Gas is $26,905 USD with destination charges, the Civic Hybrid starts at $24,800 USD with destination charges in the U.S.; the Civic Hybrid starts at $28,745 CAD with destination charges in Canada, so add at least $2,000 CAD to the price of the would-be Canadian-spec Civic Natural Gas for comparison's sake. And, to further exacerbate the Civic Natural Gas model's disadvantages in this regard, the Civic HF (a more efficient gasoline-powered model that's also not available in Canada), which does 8.1 L/100km in the city, 5.7 on the highway and 7.1 combined, in its least efficient guise, only costs $22,755 USD (including destination charges) - loaded.

So, why should we want the Civic Natural Gas in Canada? Well, the number one reason is refueling infrastructure problems. There are nowhere near enough CNG refueling stations in the GTA, for instance, to satisfy potential demand. If this changes in the near future, it will boil down to personal preferences. Maybe the idea of running your car on a domestically-sourced fuel cheaper and cleaner burning than gasoline appeals strongly to you, not to mention that it's somewhat renewable and accessible right outside your home. If so the 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas is currently the only car on the U.S. market that could potentially accommodate Canadian consumers. Will Honda Canada sell it here? It doesn't appear like there's much of a business case behind such a car, which is likely why it hasn't shown up at your local dealer yet.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sedan, Honda, 2012, Civic Natural Gas, $20,000 - $29,999, Compact,

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