2023 Honda Civic e:HEV LX review (video)

Brett Davis

And here I was thinking Honda is starting to forget about its heritage and core values, and the the 2023 Civic e:HEV comes along. Sure, it is an ‘eco-focused’ vehicle featuring hybrid power, but it does boast a high-revving petrol engine and it handles like a dream. This could not only be Honda’s redemption card but also the best small hatch on the market right now.

Well, one thing that instantly stops it from holding such credentials is the starting price. How does $55,000 sound? It’s a bit ridiculous for this market segment, with only pure hot hatches that include extensive engineering, over and above their everyday counterparts, retailing for a similar price. Is Honda suggesting this also includes over-and-above development and technical expertise?

There are a lot of questions we want answers for regarding this new model, so let’s take a closer look. Just quickly though, the e:HEV is currently available in a single trim level called the LX, which is quite well equipped and includes a generous layer of luxury.

2023 Honda Civic e:HEV LX – THE SPECS

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]Engine: 2.0-litre petrol hybrid four-cylinder
Output: 135kW@5000-6000rpm / 315Nm@0-2000rpm
Transmission: CVT auto
Drive type: Front-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 18×8.0, 235/40
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 1478kg
Power-to-weight: 10.94:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 4.2L/100km
Economy during test: 4.7L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 40L/91 RON[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]Power efficiency: 32.14kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 3.54 seconds*
0-100km/h: 7.05 seconds*
60-110km/h: 4.80 seconds*
1/4 mile: 15.37 seconds at 148.0km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.772g*
100-0km/h braking: 2.92 seconds at 38.49 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.513*
Decibel at idle (on standby/idle in D): 25/48*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 75*
Priced from: $55,000[/column][end_columns]

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2023 Honda Civic e:HEV LX – THE PACKAGE

It looks really nice on the outside. I like the tidy proportions of the new-shape model, with smoother edges than before and more conventional corners and shapes, with slightly angled headlights and slim LEDs adding some attitude and aggressiveness. And then the black contrasting highlights throughout give it a genuine sporty vibe. This Crystal Blue colour seems to go very well with those black highlights, too.

Around at the back the fastback-style hatch swoops down gradually to create an elegant side silhouette. It also portrays a sense of length and helps to cement its image among traffic. A nifty diffuser element under the rear end suggests some performance appeal – uncharacteristically sporty for a hybrid.

Speaking of character, these 18-inch shadow-finish alloy wheels look superb. The dark finish matches all of those black trimmings around the windows, front grille, and lower skirting. If you don’t like this rich blue paint colour I reckon the Platinum White Pearl would also look stunning against the dark garnishes.

Inside, the interior is spacious and feels well put together, with some finer attention to detail aspects, such as the mesh grille across the dash and intricate vent locators, helping to justify the high starting price. It feels a bit luxurious in here too, with mostly dark tones and sophisticated switchgear, along with leather wrapping for the seats and steering wheel.

The driving position is perfect. And although I’m not tall, there is a lot of adjustment available which should help to support a wide variety of shapes and sizes. To top it off, the three-spoke steering wheel feels great to hold.

The rear seat is one of the most spacious in its class, with ample legroom and plenty of width, and the centre tunnel does not intrude on centre seat space as much as it does in some rivals. Climate vents and twin charging ports (USB) come standard, along with a flip-down arm rest with cup holders. Bottle holders are also featured in the doors.

Up at the back the boot is a good size for this category, measuring in at 409L (including 5L under the floor). That’s down from 449L in the regular Civic hatch due to electrical systems relating to the hybrid. But it is a bit of a shame there is a small hump towards the deeper end. I mean, it doesn’t really take away the overall practicality, but sometimes it’s handy to have a completely flat loading space, such as when you’re trying to squeeze in a new wall unit from Ikea.

About the only letdown to this interior, in my opinion, is the touch-screen. It’s a 9.0-inch unit and it runs Honda’s latest software suite, with easy-to-understand menu flow and clearly marked apps. However, it does its job and not much more. For a $55k small hatch, I’d expect something more than just doing its job. Honda has always been about form following function, so perhaps some leeway could be allowed.

As standard this LX variant (the only hybrid variant) comes packed with everything. Highlights include a 12-speaker Bose sound system that produces brilliant audio, as well as wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, over-the-air map and system update capability, surround-view parking cameras, rear cross-traffic alert, fully adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow function, and all active and reactive safety systems you could possibly need or expect from a product in this segment.

2023 Honda Civic e:HEV LX – THE DRIVE

Okay, so this hybrid powertrain. We were not expecting the performance it delivers. And it sounds surprisingly rorty from the inside. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder is a proper Honda engine, running an insanely high compression ratio of 13.5:1, yet it requires only 91 RON fuel. We’re not sure how the engineers have managed that.

Across the usual performance sprints we clocked a best 0-100km/h in 7.05 seconds, or 8.05 seconds using the artificial stepped ‘gears’ function with the CVT automatic. It does sound really cool when running through these so-called gears, but it’s interesting to see this function provides slower acceleration.

In terms of the driving modes, the e:HEV offers four different settings; Eco, Normal, Sport and a new Individual mode which allows you to mix and match the different parameters to create your greatest hits. The powertrain can run in electric-only form but only for short distances and at low speeds.

However, taking off from the lights, you’ll feel a strong torque pull right from the get-go, similar to what is experienced in a full electric vehicle. It’s actually quite punchy because of this, quickly escaping traffic without seeming like you’re trying too hard. This obviously helps during flat-out performance as well.

The system incorporates a 1.1kWh lithium-ion battery and two electric motors. These help provide an impressively low fuel consumption of 4.2L/100km on the official combined cycle. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t cause the real-world figure to rise above 5L/100km. It is amazing considering its performance.

Surprisingly for a hybrid, this is actually a pretty light vehicle, tipping the scales at 1478kg. Some rivals weigh about the same as that without carrying the heavy electrical gear of a hybrid system. Honda has included a proper multi-link suspension system at the back as well, which is heavier than a torsion-beam setup typically applied to a small hatch like this.

As a result, the handling and driving dynamics are among the best in its class in my opinion. This is genuinely a great little driver’s car. And there’s heaps of grip thanks to the standard-fitment Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, measuring 235/40 front and rear – fat for this class, and this isn’t even a hot hatch.

The steering has that light yet secure and mechanical feel that Civics are renowned for, so it feels good to toss down a string of twisty bends. And there’s heaps of feedback at all times. Despite offering very precise steering and tight handling, the ride quality is perfect. Mind you there are softer setups out there, but for overall balance and fun, I can’t think of any competitor that tops this.

2023 Honda Civic e:HEV LX – THE VIDEO

2023 Honda Civic e:HEV LX – THE VERDICT

In many ways I think yes this is the best small car on the market right now. It’s very spacious for its class; it comes with a lot of top-spec features and some luxuries; it seems to be very well made with a real ‘together’ feeling; and it offers leading driving dynamics for this segment. This hybrid powertrain also proves it is possible to be both fun and fast as well as environmentally conscious.

But this all comes at a price. A steep price. If we look at the competitors, most of them in flagship form (aside from the hot hatches) are priced from around $45,000 these days. For this to command another $10k on top seems unreasonable in my opinion. However, if Honda priced this more closely to its rivals we’d call this our ‘2023 PerformanceDrive small car of the year’.

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]PROS:
– Real-world consumption below 5.0L/100km when not even trying
– Roaring four-cylinder ‘Honda’ engine is back
– Great performance for only 135kW
– Smart yet practical interior, near biggest in class
– Outstanding handling, steering and ride control balance
[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]CONS:
– Price is too high for this segment
– Would be an even better driver’s car without CVT auto; manual and/or 8spd auto please[/column][end_columns]

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

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