It’s no secret that we like the all-new 11th-gen Honda Civic. Some of us liked it so much that they even dubbed it “the best C-segment sedan you can buy right now” (spoiler: that person is me). A mature but still handsome design, roomy interior, and an actually fun driving experience – clearly, the all-new Civic already ticks many of the boxes car buyers are looking for, judging by the sheer number of them roaming the streets today. So what happens when you put a more powerful engine in it?
Okay, labelling it just “a more powerful engine” is perhaps underselling it a little, because underneath the bonnet is one of the most complex hybrid systems currently on the market, which Honda calls “e:HEV”. On this particular instance, it’s made up of a 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle naturally-aspirated four-cylinder mill, two electric motors, and a tiny 1.05 kWh battery.
There’s no need to understand the intricacies behind Honda’s e:HEV system. In fact, the car doesn’t even want you to know, as it does without any charging ports, nor hybrid drive mode selectors. All you need to do is step into the car, press the glowing start button, shift it into drive, and off you go. In a world where cars are increasingly turning into computers-on-wheels, there’s actually a certain kind of comfort in simplicity – at least on the surface.
But more than just simplicity, the hybrid powertrain also gives the all-new 11th-generation Honda Civic an appreciable performance boost, offering some 2 hp and 75 Nm more than the regular 1.5-litre turbo. That might not sound like much on paper, but the extra torque is immediately noticeable, especially with a near-instant power delivery thanks to the e:HEV’s unique drivetrain set-up.
The numbers back this up, with the hybrid variant accelerating from 0-100 km/h in 7.9 seconds, compared to the turbo RS’s 8.5 seconds. But more importantly, just like driving an EV, the responsive throttle response makes it so much more exhilarating to shoot out of corners, with none of the usual CVT pitfalls.
At full pelt, the electric drive system even simulates gear shifts, even though the power that drives the wheels doesn’t actually go through a gearbox. Paired to the adjustable regenerative braking selector via the paddles behind the steering wheel, the e:HEV hybrid actually feels more engaging to drive when compared to its turbo counterpart – if you can get past the fake engine sound that’s piped in through the speakers in sports mode, that is.
Thanks to the additional electric components, and a larger engine no less, the Honda Civic e:HEV hybrid does weigh in a little more than the non-electrified variants. But the little extra weight (83 kg on paper) isn’t a bad thing, as it actually gives the sedan some tasteful body roll in the corners, making it feel more natural and playful – especially in transitioning corners.
All that, without ever feeling unwieldy, as the reworked dampers and spring rates essentially negate most of the extra fat. Turn in the nicely weighted steering, and the car tracks as well – if not even better – than the non-electrified brethren.
The 10 mm lower centre of gravity and factory-fitted Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres probably helped in no small part here, but the natural (albeit a little long) brake feel is all down to software smarts – initial decelerating is done via regenerative braking no matter what driving mode you’re in, and the switchover from regenerative to actual braking is pretty much imperceptible.
The Civic’s sporting credentials doesn’t detract from its comfort, too, with a somewhat continental quality to its damping character. Its relatively firm set-up does mean that the pockmarked roads are a little more apparent inside the cabin (especially with the 18-inch wheels and low-profile tyres), but larger undulations are all pleasantly soaked up as the dampers masterfully resisting rebounds, resulting in a supremely comfortable – yet engaging – ride.
With a minimalist yet premium-feeling interior appointment, and the supportive microfibre-upholstered seats (which I understand is divisive), the Honda Civic e:HEV RS proves itself to be a competent highway tourer, too… except for the fact that the tyre noise does become quite intrusive especially at higher speeds. Granted, it’s already quite a bit better than its predecessor, but when everything else has improved leaps and bounds, the NVH performance – despite being improved – does unfortunately feel as though it’s been left behind.
At the end of the day, though, what’s probably most important to a hybrid buyer is its fuel consumption – and the Honda Civic e:HEV RS continues to impress here. Over a weekend of mostly enthusiastic driving (with how nice the car feels like to drive, we really just had to…), we managed to clock in a fuel consumption figure of 5.9 l/100 km – nearly twice as fuel efficient as its petrol counterpart in our tests.
Thanks to how the e:HEV system works, though, driving around city streets is actually where the hybrid Civic is most efficient. Considering what a Honda Civic will be doing most of the time, i.e. crawling in traffic jams day-in day-out, Honda’s own claimed 4 l/100 km fuel consumption figure really doesn’t seem too far-fetched.
Obviously, your mileage will vary based on your driving style. But if you’re looking for a C-segment sedan that sips as little fuel as possible, there really isn’t anything else that does it as well as the Honda Civic e:HEV RS.
Evidently, the Honda Civic e:HEV RS is not just a Civic with a more powerful engine. Sure, it is notably faster than its turbo counterpart, but much more than just performance, it’s also taken what’s already great on the “regular” Civic, and made it even better with best-in-class fuel efficiency, more equipment, and an enhanced driving experience.
While we wouldn’t go as far as comparing it to the BMW 3 Series, the Honda Civic e:HEV RS does at least present itself as a decent alternative for those shopping for a sports sedan, all at a much cheaper price. There’s a reason why it was awarded Best Performance Car in the 2022/2023 Japan COTY, after all.
2023 Honda Civic e:HEV RS Hybrid, as reviewed:
|Engine||1,993 cc; naturally-aspirated inline four, e:HEV hybrid system|
|Max horsepower||184 hp @ 5,000-6,000 rpm|
|Max torque||315 Nm @ 0-2,000 rpm|
|0-100 km/h; Top speed||7.9 seconds; 180 km/h|