Honda Civic GX Natural Gas Powered Sedan: By The Car Family: Internationally Syndicated

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Large fuel tank reduces size of Honda trunk

(Tank makes trunk cargo space quite limited.)

Let’s correct one common assumption about natural gas powered vehicles; they don’t get better fuel mileage. They do burn cleaner giving you access to high occupancy lanes and the fuel does cost less and the engine oil stays cleaner. You pay for that with a much smaller trunk as the natural gas tank resides there. Resale prices are lower and most importantly, there are far fewer places to literally gas up. Throw in slightly less performance and you wonder why someone would pay $25,195 for a Honda GX? Well. If you live in the city, commute daily, and don’t like the extra maintenance costs of a hybrid or the possibility of ever having to go to a gas station again this is an excellent buy.

It is easy to drive the Honda and the heater works better than any car we have ever tested. It has enough power, but it is not a snappy powerplant as the compressed natural gas (CNG) reduces the energy from the 1.8-Liter engine to 113@6300 and 109@4300 pounds of torque that has the best pollution rate the government gives. Despite this reduced output you don’t get better fuel mileage. Look for 30 mpg in mixed driving whereas we got nearly 34 with the unleaded fueled Civic.

There are very few refueling stations for the Honda and with a range of about 200 miles you need to be aware of this and plan accordingly. When you pull into a station it is a simple matter to attach the high powered gas line to the car and let the pump do its thing. You have no control over the amount going in. In other words it is fill up or nothing and the price can rise dramatically because of the lack of competition.

There are significant tax breaks that the government offers to encourage the use of natural gas vehicles such as this Honda and the last we checked it amounted to $4000. With that in mind you can equip your garage with a “Phill” (http://www.myphill.com)*system that runs off your home’s natural gas supply which costs $3500 and carries a $1000 tax credit. The wall-mounted unit can refill your vehicle every night, at takes several hours, and every morning you have a full tank. We definitely recommend this system, as you never have to worry about a gas shortage, embargo, or world conditions. The price of home gas is much less than that purchased at stations, too. If you truly want to be independent and plan ahead this is the way to go and you have the extra benefit of knowing you are treating the environment with more respect and access to the high occupancy lane and you have an ideal niche vehicle that should appeal to more people than it has at this time.

Please note that exact fuel mileage for the CNG Honda is difficult to determine because some pumps don’t compress the gas in the tank as much as others. The 3600-psi required for the Honda means you must find a station that has that compression capability. Some just have 3000 psi, but most offer both.

Mom’s view: People are under so many misconceptions about this car it is difficult to communicate the facts. Everything from comparisons to the Hindenburg disaster to expensive maintenance fears to exploding fuel tanks and gutless performance are the types of false rumors that prevents this car from expanding its sales. Here are the facts. First of all, the new Civic has excellent crash scores and ample safety features. Secondly, natural gas is a domestic product and has been run in commercial vehicles for many years so it is a proven commodity. My research it is also more difficult to ignite compressed air in case of an accident due to it lighter than air nature. Next, the car does have slightly less performance than an unleaded powered vehicle, but this is not noticeable around town. Finally, maintenance costs are essential the same as for any vehicle.

Among the other great reasons to buy a CNG powered vehicle is the fact that natural gas is a domestic product and thus does not have to be imported from countries who have policies your might find offensive. Add to that the fact that natural gas is much, much cleaner burning and you have a vehicle that pollutes very little and is not as rough on engine oil.

Driving the CNG is not sporty. It is basically a reliable appliance that gets you there unobtrusively, but with the high occupancy lane ability. Indeed, you become addicted to using the high occupancy lane as you whiz by all manner of hotted up cars as they spew vapors into the atmosphere while numbly idling in traffic. Horsepower be damned, you are, excuse the expression, the Man as you arrive on time and relaxed thanks to that HOV sticker.

Dad’s view: It takes well over 11 seconds to get to 60 miles per hour and so this Honda’s forte is not going to impress the tuner crowd. In addition, the ABS brakes aren’t record setters either and the pedal feel is a bit mushy. In other words this is a vehicle for those that enjoy being a bit different, like a nice ride, and love passing stalled traffic. You pay for this privilege as the CNG model carries a significantly higher price than a comparably equipped Civil. Even given the fact that some governments offer a hearty tax incentive, it is going to cost you more to own and drive this model than a standard Civic. Added to that reality is the fact that you can’t just put a couple bucks of gas in this Honda, but have to fill it up every time due to the nature of the natural gas pumps, which only shut off when, the tank pressure is maximized. That means you better have your credit card handy. In addition, the price of natural gas is as erratic as unleaded gasoline so although you save some money, it is going to take you many years to pay for the additional cost of the CNG Civic. A considerable consideration must also be given to finding compressed gas refueling stations. They are few and can be far between and you run out there is no spare can that can save you from being towed.

Although it is easy to grown accepting of the CNG Honda the stark reality is that it is a commuter car pure and simple. It you go for the home filling station (Phill) and its pricey nature you can certainly save over the long haul, but be prepared to sacrifice in terms of performance and cargo room. The bottom line for me is that I actually preferred it to the Honda hybrids and would opt for the CNG as a second car if it came with the high occupancy lane sticker and the government offered a substantial tax savings as it does now. By the way, some communities are willing to give you a tax break on the home filling station.

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College going male’s view: The gas tank really eats up most of the trunk and even requires room for rear speakers so they must be relocated. It is a hoot to drive as you can put the pedal down and not worry about exceeding the speed limit on most roads. I loved the idea of it. Imagine leaving the Earth a better place to live than you found it thanks to an AT-PZEV emission rating, which is the best the government offers. I also love the idea of refilling at home by plugging it in every night. Most cool and no smelly gas hands or being hit on by the homeless looking for a handout. I would want my lady to have one just to know that she didn’t ever have to worry about going to a refueling station in a seedy neighborhood. This CNG Honda has more going for it than you would imagine and it is definitely worth a try. As for the electronics and stereo, aftermarket is what is clearly needed here.

Young working woman’s view: The CNG Honda is not sold in many places, including where I live and so I didn’t get a chance to test it. However, from the data I would say it is a great value if you intend to keep it over eight years.

Family conference: This is an honest vehicle that is priced a bit dear to generate popular interest especially now that Toyota is discounting its Prius model. That aside, the CNG Honda is going to require less maintenance than a hybrid and you don’t have to worry about replacing those expensive batteries in a few years. We wholeheartedly recommend you take a test drive,

The Phill System*

This is from the manufacture and is a must if you are considering buying the CNG Honda:

“Phill is currently only available in California and a few select cities across the country.

The price of Phill is $3400 US plus shipping ($150) plus installation. An indoor installation will also need a mandatory external gas sensor for $120. An outdoor installation requires an external flow valve for $30. In our experience, a typical installation (with the gas and electrical supply close to the desired installation location) in

California usually ranges from $1000 to $1500. Please note that Phill is designed to work only with vehicles that have a tank pressure rating of 3600 psi, and cannot be run on well gas. We have the federal tax credit of $1000. You may also visit our

website at www.myphill.com for more information on Phill.”

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