Guide to Green Cars > The Ultimate Green Car Buyer’s Guide > Honda

2012 Green Car Buyer’s Guide, Honda

2012 model year highlights from Honda: the Civic, Civic Hybrid, Civic Natural Gas, CR-Z, FCX Clarity, Fit, Fit EV and Insight. 

GUIDE TO GREEN CARS, Summer 2012

Compiled by Megan E. Phelps, John Rockhold,
Hannah Kincaid, Emily Glover,
Bradley Berman and Zach McDonald
 

See "What the Numbers Mean" in The Ultimate Green Car Buyer’s Guide, 2012 for a full description of the metrics we collected for each model.

Honda Civic

Gasoline, Compact 

Maroon-Honda-CivicPrice Range: $16,600 – $24,200
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 28/39/32
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,800
Air Pollution Score: 5
Greenhouse Gas Score:
7
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking:
48/Above Average
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick (4 door versions); 5-star NHTSA rating (for sedans)
Space: 94.6 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 3
Similar Used: Redesigned for 2012

Good to Know: 

  • The 2012 Honda Civic was poorly received by critics, who say the updated exterior and interior designs lack any passion or appeal.
  • The Civic HF (high fuel-efficiency) trim uses a 1.8-liter i-VTEC engine — and aerodynamic tricks from a hybrid model — to reach 41 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg in the city.
  • The sedan version with an automatic transmission is rated at a solid 28/39 mpg.
  • This is the first use of the Eco-Assist feature in a non-hybrid Honda. It coaches you to drive more efficiently with gauge lights that change from blue to green when the car is driven in an energy-efficient manner.
  • The Civic might not have any standout features, but it does everything well — handling, reliability, efficiency, etc.

What the Press Says: 

  • “Redesigned for 2012, Honda’s small car is disappointing. ... The ride is choppy and road noise remains overly noticeable. Interior quality has taken a step backward.” — ConsumerReports 
  • “If you appreciate mechanical refinement similar to what you might find in a commercial airliner, the 2012 Honda Civic is the clear choice in the category.” — Kelley Blue Book 

What Drivers Say: 

  • Several readers said their Civics were a bit noisy on the road, but rated their overall satisfaction with the car high. Part of the appeal of the car was the gas mileage, while another draw was the feeling that earlier models of the Honda Civic had been dependable over time.

Honda Civic Hybrid

Hybrid, Compact 

Honda-Civic-HybridPrice Range: $24,800 – $27,500
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 44/44/44
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,300
Air Pollution Score: 8
Greenhouse Gas Score: 9
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 52/Superior
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick; 5-star NHTSA rating
Space: 94.6 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 3
Similar Used: Redesigned for 2012

Good to Know: 

  • The new Civic Hybrid increases fuel efficiency to an impressive 44-mpg rating — securing the Civic’s place as one of the most fuel-stingy cars without a plug available in the United States.
  • The 2012 model shifts to lithium-ion battery technology and increases the size of the gas engine to 1.5 liters. That means the car has a bit more power, and larger displacement allows the engine to run at lower rpm. The net result is a quieter ride and more frequent use of the electric motor.
  • Civic Hybrids (from previous years) received customer complaints about battery failures — the only hybrid to suffer such problems. The shift to lithium-ion should correct these problems.

What the Press Says: 

  • “The redesigned Civic Hybrid is disappointing. Handling has lost its agility and is now plagued by vague steering. Road noise is pronounced.” — Consumer Reports 
  • “Shoppers who want a Civic that happens to be a hybrid will be the ones interested in this model, and even then I would advise them to take another look at the traditional gasoline version of the sedan.” — Cars.com 

What Drivers Say: 

  • “I love my hybrid! I commute approximately 60 miles a day, round trip. The first month I drove my hybrid, I only filled up twice. I tried experimenting to see how much more I could get if I gave myself some extra time to spare getting to and from work. I was able to get 50.2 mpg when I traveled just 5 mph below the speed limit. And I’m saving so much since gas prices keep going up!” — Dawn Romo, Oxnard, California 

Honda Civic Natural Gas

Natural Gas, Compact 

Honda-Civic-Natural-GasPrice Range: $26,900 – $28,400
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 27/38/31
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,015
Air Pollution Score: N/A
Greenhouse Gas Score: N/A
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 55/Superior
Safety Ratings: N/A
Space: 94.6 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 2
Similar Used: Redesigned for 2012

Good to Know: 

  • The Civic Natural Gas is the only consumer car in the United States that runs on natural gas. It received the 2012 Green Car of the Year award from Green Car Journal.
  • Distribution is limited, but is widening to 36 states.
  • Natural gas is currently cheaper than gasoline, running at about the equivalent of $2.10 a gallon. CNG fueling stations are rare in most regions, however.
  • Fracking, a process of extracting natural gas, is highly controversial.

What the Press Says:  

  • “The main issues with the Civic CNG are range and infrastructure. We found single-tank travel distances beyond 200 miles to be possible, but that was only when we knew a filling station was close enough to exploit the lower end of the fuel gauge without worry.” — Car and Driver 
  • “The all-new Civic Natural Gas features greater fuel efficiency, a handsome and roomier new design, and tailpipe emission levels untouchable by any other internal-combustion production vehicle.” — Green Car Journal 

What Drivers Say: 

  • Driving the Honda Civic Natural Gas is no different from driving a car that runs on gasoline, says Irma Vargas of Los Angeles. “I mainly use the car for daily driving. I can fill up at home, and I know where all the filling stations are,” she says.
  • Scott Tucker of Santa Monica, Calif., says filling up at home is convenient and saves him money. “With home fueling, I figure fuel costs me less than $1.50 per gallon equivalent — not factoring in the cost of the unit. At the local pumps, the gas is anywhere from $2.10 to $2.79.”

Honda CR-Z

Hybrid, Coupe 

Honda-CR-ZPrice Range: $20,300 – $24,300
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 35/39/37
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,550
Air Pollution Score: 8
Greenhouse Gas Score: 8
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 50/Superior
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick; 4-Star NHTSA rating
Space: 49.1 cu. ft. p.v./seats 2
Drive Score: 4
Similar Used: 2011

Good to Know: 

  • The 2012 CR-Z is zippy and stylish — but fuel economy is not entirely hybrid-like at 37 mpg combined.
  • Critics say the $20,000 price tag is too much for a two-seater that lacks size and practicality and produces a relatively tame 122 horsepower. Owners disregard critics, saying the CR-Z is a fun ride.
  • Some reviewers deduct points for horrible rear visibility and high road noise.
  • It’s the only two-seat hybrid on the market, and the only one available with a manual transmission.

What the Press Says: 

  • “The Honda CR-Z represents a compromise between eco-friendly fuel consumption and excitement. It doesn’t excel in either category, but if you’re looking for a little of both, the CR-Z is a solid pick.” — Edmunds.com  
  • “Handling is more responsive than the Insight’s but it isn’t very sporty and the ride is jumpy.” — Consumer Reports 
  • “Fortunately, the Honda CR-Z is capable of much better fuel economy in real-world driving than the EPA numbers suggest ... selecting the Economy setting and driving conservatively allows the CR-Z to sip fuel with the best of ’em.” — Green Car Journal 

What Drivers Say: 

  • The CR-Z drivers that we heard from were generally satisfied with the car, noting that it gets great mileage for a sports car. One Indianapolis reader reported that she regularly gets mid-40s when driving on the highway. “It’s a good car for the price, a nice sporty alternative,” says Kiara Morris of Norwich, Conn.

Honda FCX Clarity

Fuel Cell, Sedan 

Honda-FCX-ClarityBase Price: $600/month lease
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 60/60/60
Annual Fuel Cost: N/A
Air Pollution Score: N/A
Greenhouse Gas Score: N/A
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: N/A
Safety Ratings: N/A
Space: 100.8 cu. ft. p.v./seats 4
Drive Score: 5
Similar Used: Only available through lease program

Good to Know: 

  • The FCX Clarity is one of just two hydrogen fuel cell vehicles offered in the United State — the other is the Mercedes Benz B-Class F-Cell.
  • Honda plans to lease about 200 of the vehicles for $600 per month as part of a test program, with most of those cars going to Southern California.
  • Honda has said it will begin mass production on the Clarity FCX by 2018. A handful of other carmakers say that they plan to begin selling hydrogen-powered cars in 2015.

What the Press Says: 

  • “Driving dynamics rival everyday hybrids like the Prius. Sophisticated suspension design and light curb weight provide for solid handling behavior. ... Fuel economy numbers and 270-mile range are all the more impressive considering Clarity’s zero-emissions vehicle status.” — Automobile 
  • “Feels like the family car of the future as its compressor whirs outside air to the fuel cell stack. Sort of like an electric Accord, except it looks better than an Accord.” — Car and Driver 

What Drivers Say: 

  • “It’s luxurious, and it’s futuristic looking, but as a mode of transportation it’s just like any other automobile,” says Jack Cusick of Irvine, Calif. “I think that’s kind of the point, actually, of developing a zero-emissions car.” He says the car gets the equivalent of 65 mpg and has been very reliable. The car is fun to drive, too, and he especially loves cruising past gas stations. “That keeps a smile on my face,” Cusick says.

Honda Fit

Gasoline, Compact Hatchback 

Honda-FitPrice Range: $15,900 – $20,300
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 28/35/31
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,800
Air Pollution Score: 5
Greenhouse Gas Score: 7
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 48/Superior
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick; 4-star NHTSA rating
Space: 90.8 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 4
Similar Used: 2009 to 2011

Good to Know: 

  • The Honda Fit offers an impressive package of affordability, practicality, reliability and efficiency.
  • It has a deceptively large interior for a small hatch. The back seat has plenty of space for three adult passengers.
  • The Fit’s ample interior space and flexibility are due in part to the car’s clever 60/40 “Magic Seat” that folds up as well as back.
  • Unlike with some competitors, zooming around town for errands is fun with the Fit. It’s equipped with a 1.5-liter, 117-horsepower engine and well-tuned suspension.

What the Press Says:  

  • “Honda’s five-door Fit is more than just inexpensive transportation. It is frugal on fuel, big on comfort, has lots of cool features, and is darn cute to boot.” — Kelley Blue Book 
  • “The Honda Fit has an amazing amount of interior room and various seat folding arrangements. While the Fit is not overly powerful, it feels responsive, with a smooth and willing engine and agile handling.” — Consumer Reports 

What Drivers Say: 

  • “This car has not gotten enough attention in the affordable, high-mileage category,” says Elizabeth Strub of Weaverville, N.C. She says the car is roomy enough to fit four middle school girls and their backpacks, as well as haul around livestock feed and recycling bins.
  • “It gets great mileage and works like a truck,” says Martha Lynne Owen of Windham, Maine. “I can fit a pallet in the back seat and have brought home two 2-by-12-by-12s stretched out from the passenger seat and out the hatchback.”

Honda Fit EV

Electric, Compact Hatchback 

Honda-Fit-EVBase Price: $400/month lease
City/Hwy/Combined MPGe: 123/95/76 (projected)
Annual Fuel Cost: N/A
Air Pollution Score: N/A
Greenhouse Gas Score: N/A
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: N/A
Safety Ratings: N/A
Space: N/A /seats 5
Drive Score: 4
Similar Used: Only available through lease program

Good to Know: 

  • Honda is taking an ultra-tentative approach with electric vehicles. The Fit EV is only available as a lease in limited markets. The company will produce just 1,100 units over a three-year period.
  • The prototype being driven in Japan is screaming fast by virtue of its 94-kilowatt electric motor. It’s uncertain whether that amount of performance will be placed in U.S. production models.
  • Three modes plus gear choices give maximum driver choice for power, range and the desired amount of regenerative braking.
  • The small-but-spacious format of the Honda Fit is well suited to an electric car — but it’s still a conversion rather than a platform optimized for batteries. The floor is raised by about 2 inches, giving an upright feeling behind the wheel.
  • The nice fit and finish provides a substantial feel to this small car.
  • The U.S. version is not available with a 480-volt DC quick charger.
  • The Fit EV’s ride is solid, the handling nimble, the road noise minimal and the quality on par with anything Honda produces these days.

What the Press Says: 

  • “Rather than rest on the merits of an electric drivetrain, Honda backed this green machine with exceptional road manners that make it surprisingly fun to drive.” — Automobile 
  • “Electricity jolts Honda’s small hatch with a newfound energy the conventional model lacks in most circumstances. The electric powertrain is quiet, and the transmission is efficient and smooth.” — Autoweek 

Honda Insight

Hybrid, Compact Hatchback 

Honda-InsightPrice Range: $19,100 – $24,300
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 41/44/42
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,350
Air Pollution Score: 8
Greenhouse Gas Score: 9
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 53/Superior
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick; N/A
Space: 85 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 3
Similar Used: 2010, 2011

Good to Know: 

  • For the 2012 model, Honda boosted the Insight’s mileage ratings by 1 mpg for both city and highway — to 41 city and 44 highway. There’s also more rear passenger leg- and headroom, and improved rear visibility.
  • Critics see the Insight as a poor knockoff of the Toyota Prius at a discounted price. Others think its design is sharper and its handling is more responsive than that of the Prius.
  • Since its redesign as a five-passenger model in 2009, the Insight was dubbed the “Honda Insult” by those fond of the original two-seat, teardrop-shaped model.
  • Winner of a Kelley Blue Book Total Cost of Ownership Award for the best “real-world bottom line” among hybrid cars.

What the Press Says: 

  • “While it is less expensive than the Prius, it is also less roomy and rear access is awkward.” — Consumer Reports 
  • “Those looking for an affordable Honda have three main choices: the Civic, the Fit and Insight. ... Those purely interested in maximizing fuel efficiency or minimizing greenhouse gas emissions should go for the Insight.” — Autoblog 

What Drivers Say: 

  • Insight drivers told us their real-world mpg matched their expectations, typically landing in the low 40s. “I get between 39 to 46 mpg. I would never go back to straight gas,” says Jacqueline Nulty of New Port Richey, Fla. While one reader said the car was not comfortable for long rides, Linda Clark Baker of Noblesville, Ind., said she liked the size. “I can still fit my two large dogs in the back, and the mileage is terrific,” she says.

More 2012 green cars: Find details about many more green cars from other automakers in The Ultimate Green Car Buyer’s Guide, 2012.

Photos from Honda 





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