As its name suggests, the Civic Natural Gas is a variant of Honda's popular Civic compact that runs on the Earth's cleanest-burning fossil fuel. Though it's heavier, slower and more expensive to purchase than the standard Civic, the Natural Gas model's impressive green credentials and low ownerships costs will doubtless prove appealing to certain buyers.
Unlike previous Civic Natural Gas models, which were available for purchase in just a few states, the latest sedan is offered throughout the U.S. - bringing it one step closer to the mainstream.
As with the rest of the Civic lineup, which includes the super-thrifty Civic HF and Civic Hybrid, the sporty Civic Si Sedan and the stylish Coupe, the Civic Natural gas received a significant update for the latest model year.
To address concerns that the latest Civic's exterior looked too similar to that of its predecessor, Honda added an updated lower bumper with chrome accents, a black honeycomb mesh grille, clear-lens corner lights and a more sculpted hood. Upper-trim models now get integrated fog lights. Out back, the Civic gets a new-look bumper as well as a lower diffuser panel with a honeycomb mesh vent.
The biggest changes come inside, however. A newly squared-off center stack and redesigned air vents lend the dashboard a much more cohesive feel, and upscale soft-touch materials now reside atop the instrument panels. The door panels have also been revised and are covered in similarly upgraded trim. The interior is now quieter than before thanks to a raft of NVH-related tweaks, including thicker windshield and front-side window glass, a stiffer subframe and more sound-deading materials in the trunk, doors and floor.
Underneath its revised sheetmetal, the Civic Natural Gas features numerous handling-focused modifications. The suspension has been reworked with stiffer springs and rear bushings along with thicker roll bars front and rear, while the body structure benefits from a number of strengthened components. A retuned electric steering setup is also among the changes, as are upsized 11.1-inch front brake rotors.
What makes the Civic Natural Gas special within the Civic lineup is, of course, its CNG-powered 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 comes 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 should help owners save a decent amount of money over the vehicle's lifespan.
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.
There's no doubt that the Civic Natural Gas is one of the (if not the) most environmentally responsible vehicles on the market - the Environmental Protection Agency recently declared that it has the "cleanest internal combustion engine on Earth," and it has also been awarded the ACEEE's "Greenest Vehicle in America. 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.
New for the latest generation Civic Natural Gas is the availability of satellite navigation, including a database of available CNG refueling stations.
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/C, power windows and locks, a four-speaker, 160-watt AM/FM/CD sound system with USB and AUX inputs, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity with Pandora radio compatibility and 15-inch alloy wheels with. Notable upscale standard features that were added for the latest model year include a rearview camera and a five-inch LCD information screen mounted atop the center stack.
An extra-charge satellite-linked navigation system is available.
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.
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.