Civic in the City
When Honda introduced the all-new Civic in April, it came with a tantalizing bit of standard equipment: fuel economy combined with power. The seemingly contradictory goals of achieving high fuel mileage and satisfying power output were supposedly embodied in the 1.8 liter sedan. The car promised the power of a 2-liter engine with the fuel economy of a 1.5-liter. Key to this achievement is Honda’s iVTEC variable valve-timing and lift technology. i-VTEC infinitely varies the valve timing to optimize fuel efficiency at low revs and power output at high revs, while also extending the valve lift when needed.
We verified Honda’s claims of excellent mileage each time we drove the Civic 1.8, and it also delivered pleasing acceleration. To reinforce its claim, Honda decided to conduct a fuel-efficiency challenge for its mainstream sedan, for its customers and the media.
Fuel-mileage challenges are run frequently in this market, and some end up publishing incredibly high-efficiency results. For this edition of its Fuel Eco-run, Honda decided to field not its usual fuel-sipping City or Jazz but the Civic 1.8, and to do the driving not in optimum highway and early-morning conditions. The goal was to prove its fuel efficiency claims for the Civic, and conduct a realistic city-driving mileage run.
The route was shorter than most fuel eco-runs, covering roughly 34 km from San Juan to Makati. The trick was we had to take a circuitous route from Greenhills to Katipunan to Quezon Avenue to Quiapo to Roxas Boulevard, then finally to Kamagong in Makati. On a late Saturday morning. This was a route that any traffic-phobic motorist would hate, and it would surely drive down the efficiency of the test cars.
Before fueling the cars, the drivers were also loaded up with a heavy breakfast. Then the Civics were filled to the brim with Total Unleaded. After a one-minute pause, the tanks were again filled, and then sealed up. As soon as Arnel Doria of Honda Cars, Raymond Decena of Total Philippines, and Mario Marasigan of the Department of Energy waved the ceremonial flag, the cars were off.
We peeled off gingerly along Ortigas Avenue, eyes on the tachometer. Revs are not free, as far as efficiency is concerned, and we were determined to keep them down. The Civic thankfully provided sufficient torque from just off idle, and we had enough acceleration even keeping the engine from going past 2000 rpm. The four-cylinder was eager to rev, but we had to resist the impulse to let her rip.
The drive along Ortigas Avenue through White Plains was smooth, with light traffic all the way to Katipunan. We passed two of our friendly competitors, our colleagues from Top Gear led by Vernon B. Sarne, and the Manila Times-Business Mirror tag-team Ira Panganiban and Andy Sevilla. They seemed to be squeezing their accelerator even more gently than we were, but we couldn’t second-guess our own driving style.
MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando’s revolutionary U-turn scheme had freed up Katipunan Avenue and Quezon Avenue from traffic lights; at this time, the scheme was mostly successful in ensuring slow but steady traffic flow. We just had to gauge when to jink right and left to avoid traffic build-up near the U-turn slots. The Civic’s responsive steering and tight turning radius helped us to weave our way forward.
No amount of maneuvering could help us move forward as we crawled among the jeepneys along España. We watched helplessly as one block of the Civic’s bar-graph fuel gauge finally blinked off, while staring at the back end of a stationary bus. We estimated one block to be about four liters’ worth. We weren’t doing so well, we thought.
As a further challenge, the eco-run rules required that airconditioning be turned on. Our onboard marshall from Honda Kalookan made sure we kept it on. We set it to the lowest fan speed and warmest thermostat setting. The heat threatened to build up during long waits at stop lights.
There was a bit of relief along Rizal Park and Roxas Boulevard. We had to endure one final bit of crawling traffic turning from South Expressway. Then we breezed through the final stretch along Kamagong. Our Civic ended up with a fuel consumption of 4.258 liters for the 34 km route, for a mileage of 7.985 km / liter. We can confirm that that’s a realistic run in city driving with heavy traffic. A drive with varied conditions can bump up the Civic’s mileage to double-digits.
At the awarding ceremonies, Honda Cars President Takashi Sekiguchi and Total Manager for Corporate Affairs Malou Espina handed out the certificates and prizes. As it turned out, we didn’t fare too badly. Auto Review’s Ronald de los Reyes and teammate bagged the first prize, by just tenths of a liter.
We didn’t drive to Pagudpod and back for this eco-run, but we experienced just how daunting the exercise can be. Discipline and some measure of driving skill, with luck thrown in, can spell the difference. Having the right car is also essential, and the Honda Civic proved its worth during the morning’s challenging drive through the city.
By Jason K. Ang | Photos By Ulysses Ang