2015 Honda Civic Natural Gas

As its name suggests, the Civic Natural Gas a variant of Honda's popular Civic compact that runs on the Earth's cleanest-burning fossil fuel. Although it's heavier, slower and more expensive to purchase than the standard Civic, the Natural Gas model's impressive green credentials and low ownership costs make it an appealing choice for certain buyers.

The latest Civic Natural Gas model is distributed in 37 states, bringing it one step closer to the mainstream. Like the rest of the Civic lineup, the Natural Gas model recently gained an updated lower bumper with chrome accents, a black honeycomb mesh grille, clear-lens corner lights and a more sculpted hood. Out back, the Civic gets new-look bumper as well as a lower diffuser panel with a honeycomb mesh vent.

Additional updates are found in the cockpit. A newly squared-off center stack and redesigned air vents lend the dashboard a much more cohesive feel while soft-touch material has been added to the door panels and the top of the instrument cluster. The interior is quieter thanks to a raft of NVH-related tweaks including thicker windshield and side window glass, a stiffer subframe and more sound-deadening materials in the trunk, the doors and the floor.

Green Powertrain
What makes the Civic Natural Gas special within the Civic lineup is, of course, its CNG-burning engine. It's a version Honda's familiar 1.8-liter inline-four that produces 110 horsepower and 106 lb-ft of torque - figures that represent decreases of 30 horsepower and 22 lb-ft from the standard, gas-powered Civic. One other notable difference in the powertrain department compared to a standard Civic is the lack of an available manual gearbox; a standard five-speed automatic is the only transmission available.

Fuel economy checks in at 27 city, 38 highway, just slightly lower than its gasoline-burning counterpart. However, as natural gas typically costs about 30 percent less than conventional fuel, this Civic variant can help owners save a decent amount of money over the vehicle's lifespan. The tanks can be topped up in less than five minutes at any CNG station across the country.

There's no doubt that the Civic Natural Gas is one of the most environmentally responsible vehicles on the market - the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared that it has the "cleanest internal combustion engine on Earth," and it has also been called the greenest vehicle in America by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). For its part, Honda claims reductions of 25 percent, 75 percent and 90 percent in CO2, NOx and particulate matter, respectively, compared with the standard Civic.

Civic Natural Gas includes Honda's ECO Assist technology, aimed at enhancing efficient vehicle operation at the touch of a button by providing visual feedback to promote and confirm an efficient driving style.

As with the standard sedan, the CNG variant is designed with aerodynamic features such as flat under-body construction and functional aerodynamic strakes in front of the tires help to increase fuel-efficiency.

Standard and Optional Features
The Civic Natural Gas comes standard with a 15-inch alloy wheels, a tire repair kit in lieu of a spare, a rear-view camera, daytime running lights, remote keyless entry, a tire pressure monitoring system and power mirrors.

The unimaginatively-named Civic Natural Gas with Leather/Navigation adds automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-upholstered seats, heated front seats and side mirrors, a 160-watt stereo system with six speakers, a navigation system with a database of CNG stations and XM Radio.

Occupant Safety
The Honda Civic Natural Gas sedan's safety features include two-row side curtain airbags, dual-stage, multiple-threshold driver's and front passenger's airbags, driver's and front passenger's side airbags, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) and anti-lock braking (ABS) with Brake Assist.

Key Competitors
No other natural gas-powered compact sedans are available straight from the factory, making the Civic Natural Gas's closest rivals green cars like the Volkswagen Jetta TDI, the Toyota Prius c and the Chevrolet Cruze Eco.

The sedan represents an especially appealing proposition in California, where it qualifies for carpool lane access regardless of the number of passengers aboard - potentially saving the buyer a major amount of commuting time. Notably, it is the only non-plug-in hybrid vehicle to receive carpool privileges in the Golden State.