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Honda's IMA hybrid system works by having an electric motor integrated with the engine, as well as powered by a battery pack and regenerative braking. In the case of the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid, the engine is a small 1.3-liter four-cylinder with a single overhead cam and Honda's i-VTEC variable valve timing. The engine produces 110 horsepower, which is complemented by the electric motor's 20 horsepower. The electric motor gives it a boost during acceleration and, at low speeds, can power the car entirely. During our driving, we never noticed the car working under electric power only, although Honda's specifications insist it will happen. While you're stopped in traffic or at a light, the engine turns off. If the fact that this fairly noisy engine becomes silent isn't notice enough, a green light that reads autostop will flash on the instrument panel. Although the light was designed to assure the driver that nothing is wrong, the flashing feels like a warning.
We found the bar gauges indicating battery charging and motor assist to be mesmerizing. While you're going downhill or slowing down due to freeway speeds, the regenerative braking provides electricity to the battery, and a green bar gauge indicates how much energy is getting fed into the system. It makes hitting the brakes almost enjoyable as energy is reclaimed. The same can't be said for the motor-assist bar gauge, which shows how much boost the electric motor is contributing, as well as how much electricity is being used. The electric motor gives the car only adequate acceleration. That said, the Civic travels well at freeway speeds of 70mph to 80mph.
The shifter's podlike appearance fits with the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid's futuristic look. It pushes the CVT into drive, sport, or low. The CVT makes acceleration smooth, without any feel of popping through gears. However, the sport setting didn't feel significantly different from the drive setting.
MacPherson struts in front and a double wishbone in the rear make up the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid's stiff suspension, which has a feel appropriate for a car at the low end of Honda's model line. Steering is precise, although it's not taxed much by the car's lack of power.
The 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid gets a PZEV rating, meaning it qualifies as a partial zero-emission vehicle. The EPA rates its mileage at 49mpg in the city and 51mpg on the highway, but we observed only 36.2mpg in combined city and highway testing.The 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid's five-star front-impact and four-star side-impact ratings speak for themselves. The car's air-bag coverage is very complete, with dual-stage front and side bags for the driver and front passenger, along with curtain bags for all occupants.
The 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid's front disc brakes and rear drums include a regenerative system and are helped by antilock, electronic brake-force distribution (which adds braking power to the wheels that need it most), and brake assist--a technology that pumps up the hydraulics ahead of time so that the driver gets instant braking power.
For the 2006 Civic Hybrid, Honda offers a five-year/60,000-mile limited warranty, along with an eight-year/80,000-mile warranty on its battery pack.