2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas Road Test & Review: Introduction
What if we told you there is an energy source available to power your car that is 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 the United States, 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 cars have been running on this fuel since 1998, 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.
The fuel is natural gas and the car is the 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas.
Natural gas, like all petroleum-based fuels, 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.
In other words, yes, garbage dumps also produce this fuel.
2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas Road Test & Review: Models and Prices
Honda sold the first natural gas burning Civic (Honda Civic GX) 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 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 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas comes quite nicely equipped.
For model year 2013, the Civic Natural Gas is offered in two states of trim, Civic Natural Gas and Civic Natural Gas Navi. As you may have guessed the Navi trim package includes a navigation system. Base price, including destination charges, for the Civic Natural Gas is $27,255. Civic Natural Gas Navi starts at $28,755.
2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas Road Test & Review: Design
Fresh off of a redesign for the 2012 model year, the Honda Civic goes into model year 2013 looking much the same as its 2012 predecessor. Which is to say quite sleek. The aerodynamic styling of Honda’s smallest sedan is quite handsome and distinctive. A standout in the world of reasonably priced sedans, nothing else really looks like the Honda Civic.
The Honda’s front grille is smaller than that of the 2011 model and the headlights look more aggressive. This makes the car look sleek and quick. The extreme rake of the windshield gives the car a fast, windswept line that is rather appealing. The contour of the roof of the 2012 redesign is slender with a nicely flowing arc to it and stretches farther (both front and rear) than did the roof of its forebear. This imparts a delicate sense of lightness to the design. The large greenhouse features lots of glass and makes outward visibility first rate. It also makes the cabin feel more spacious and airy. Meanwhile, the Civic’s stance implies solidity with its low and wide appearance.
The only significant outward cues distinguishing the Natural Gas Civic are a “Natural Gas” badge on the trunklid and a CNG label affixed just below it. The model also gets its own specific 15-inch alloy wheel.
2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas Road Test & Review: Comfort & Cargo
Honda has always been a master at maximizing interior space and the 2013 Civic is right on par in this regard. The 2012 redesign gave the model more shoulder room for passengers all around. Front seat passengers have more room overall than before, and if they’re willing to be generous, passengers in the rear will benefit from additional legroom too.
Honda’s Civic models are known for their comparatively roomy trunks. However, the placement of the large compressed natural gas tank eats into the trunk space of the Civic Natural Gas model somewhat. It’s still useful; it just isn’t as spacious as the cargo hold of the standard Civic sedans.
An economy car with long legs, the Honda Civic is spacious, well equipped and highly comfortable over long distances.
2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas Road Test & Review: Features & Controls
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 color LCD display in the two-tier 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.
If you’ve ever spent any time in a Honda, you know the ergonomics of its cars are very well thought out. Indeed, the phrase “readily falls to hand” typically applies quite well in any Honda. The new Civic lives up to that reputation quite well, though there is a possibility the company’s interior planners went a bit too far in the ease of use direction. The abundance of controls, while intuitive, can leave one asking “why?”
2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas Road Test & Review: Safety & Ratings
The Civic’s very strong safety suite of kit includes; vehicle stability assist with traction control, an antilock braking system, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, a tire pressure monitoring system, and daytime running lights.
The CNG also features dual stage multiple threshold front airbags, smart event front side air bags, side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor, three-point seatbelts at all seating positions, automatic tensioning for the front seat belts, lower anchors and tethers for children, a driver and front passenger seatbelt reminder, and childproof rear door locks.
When the Honda’s crash testing was complete, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the Civic sedan a perfect five stars in the overall, frontal, and side crash categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the Civic sedan with its highest possible rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset, side, and roof strength tests.
2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas Road Test & Review: Engine/Fuel Economy
Powered by the cleanest burning internal combustion engine ever certified by the EPA, the 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas uses the same basic 1.8-liter 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 6300 rpm and 104 ft-lbs of torque at 4200 rpm. The Civic Natural Gas has a fuel capacity equivalent to approximately eight gallons of gasoline and will travel about 250 miles on a tank of fuel. Fuel economy is rated at 27 mpg in the city, 38 on the highway, and 31 combined.
The front-wheel drive Honda uses a five-speed automatic transmission.
2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas Road Test & Review: Driving Impressions
One of the Honda Civic’s most endearing qualities is its ability to combine sporty driving characteristics with a comfortable and supple ride. In fact, the Civic does this so well, it’s an often-overlooked aspect of its nature. There’s a bit of road noise that comes up through the floor of the Honda, but in this price category, that’s pretty common.
The steering is quick, the brakes are robust and the transmission shifts quite crisply. Yes, the electric steering system is devoid of the prescient feel of an old-school hydraulic system, but not annoyingly so. Further, it saves fuel.
Long story short, with but one caveat, you’ll enjoy driving the Honda Civic Natural Gas just as much as you’d enjoy driving any other Honda Civic model — save perhaps the Si.
Now, about that caveat; with all of those wonderful things going for it, (clean burning and cheaper to fuel), you just know the natural gas powerplant has to have some kind of a downside somewhere — right? Well, if you paid attention in the Engine/Fuel Economy section of this review, you noted the powerplant’s pretty meager torque output of 106 ft-lbs. Given the standard Civic has 128 ft-lbs and the Civic Si generates some 170 ft-lbs, it’s a safe bet the Civic Natural Gas model has a certain, shall we say, leisureliness about itself when it comes to acceleration.
In other words, yeah, it’s slow.
Exacerbating this is the fact the five-speed automatic transmission is programmed to maximize fuel economy over performance. Because of this, it tries to get into the highest gear possible as soon as it can. Needless to say, this routinely retards its acceleration considerably. However, its performance is still quite adequate for pretty much any normal circumstance you’ll run across. You do have to plan your passes and merging into fast moving traffic requires some calculating, but odds are, if you never drive a standard Civic, you might not even notice the diminished performance of the Civic Natural Gas.
And remember, you can feel real good about the fact you’re driving the cleanest burning internal combustion engine on the market.
2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas Road Test & Review: Final Thoughts
Here’s the thing though, the 2013 Honda Civic Hybrid, while not as clean burning as the Civic Natural Gas, gets much better fuel economy. The Civic Hybrid is estimated at 44 miles per gallon and holds just over 13 gallons of fuel for a theoretical range of about 570 miles as opposed to the CNG’s 250.
So, why go with Civic Natural Gas over Civic Hybrid?
Let’s say a gallon of regular unleaded is $3.25 and the equivalent of a gallon of natural gas is about $1.52. (Which is about where the average prices were as of this writing.) 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. Although, if you find you need to refuel before you get back home, you might have to do a bit of searching to find someplace to do so.
Still though, while the base price for the Civic Natural Gas is $27,255 with destination charges, the Civic Hybrid starts at $25,150 with destination charges. And, to further exacerbate the Civic Natural Gas model’s disadvantages in this regard, the Civic HF, which does 29 mpg in the city, 41 on the highway and 33 combined (compared to the CNG’s 27, 38, and 31) only costs $20,755 (including destination charges).
So, why buy the Civic Natural Gas?
Well, it really boils down to personal preferences. If the idea of running your car on a somewhat renewable domestically-sourced fuel that is accessible right outside of your home (which is also cheaper and cleaner burning than gasoline) appeals strongly to you, the 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas is currently the only car on the market that will accommodate your desires in that regard.
Unless, of course, you decide to go with an electric car instead.
2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas Road Test & Review: Pros & Cons
• Clean burning engine
• Inexpensive fueling costs
• Solo access to HOV lanes
• Knowing you’re doing good for the planet
• Comparatively limited range
• Diminished performance potential
• Limited fueling infrastructure
• Costs more than other Civic models