Honda Civic IMA. Road Test
"..With just 116g/km of carbon dioxide emissions, the Civic falls into the lowest tax bracket..."
Building on the pioneering Insight, Honda introduces the Civic IMA.
The Civic is the first commercial application of Honda’s new petrol-electric system known as Integrated Motor Assist (IMA). Having already sold over 15,000 models in Japan and the US, Honda now brings the eco-friendly IMA to Europe.
The second generation IMA unit works in tandem with a 1.3 petrol engine to deliver the car’s impressive green statistics.
The technical benefits of the IMA are clear - fewer emissions and higher
fuel economy. With just 116g/km of carbon dioxide emissions, the Civic
falls into the lowest tax bracket, and is exempt from the dreaded London
Congestion Charge. However the most important issue for the possible commercial
success of the IMA is of course the overall quality of the car, and how
well it can position itself into the mainstream.
Honda is clearly confident that it’s hit the hybrid nail on the head this time, and has plans to expand the IMA technology into other models across its range. The Green Consumer Guide took a Civic IMA on the road, to test Honda’s claims.
Driving the IMA for the first time was a rather surreal sensation. The feather-light gear-shift and accelerator, coupled with the near-total lack of noise at low speeds were the main contributors to this feeling, but it was not a difficult situation to get used to. In fact, the IMA drives almost exactly like a regular Civic saloon.
The electric motor assist is constantly either powering the car or charging up. A dashboard indicator lets you know which of these tasks the IMA is performing, but there are otherwise no signs that anything cutting-edge or hi-tech is taking place. There are no real audible shifts from electric to petrol, and the ride remains as smooth as ever.
Going into neutral and applying the handbrake during a journey, say, at traffic lights, immediately disengages the engine. This is one of the key energy saving features of the IMA, and green plus points. A significant amount of air pollution comes from cars crawling at low speeds, or stationary vehicles still pumping out fumes. Honda’s thinking behind this scenario is - why use energy when you’re not moving? So in the IMA, you don’t. Clicking back into first gear to get going restarts the engine, and you’re off again.
A further nod to energy saving comes in the shape of a gear-shift indicator, which urges a change up or down when you’re in an uneconomical gear.
The IMA offers a fairly refined ride. The car doesn’t feel like it is being stretched at motorway speeds, nor is it cramped in the city.
Fuel economy is hyped as one of the main benefits of the IMA, and our road test emphatically backed this claim up. For general city commutes, with plenty of stopping and starting over runs of around 10 miles, the IMA offered between 50 and 52 mile per gallon. On longer journeys we found this stretched to around 54.5.
This is where the IMA can make a significant commercial impact. Offering a car with low emissions at a premium, no matter how green it is, will never break into the mass market. Honda’s Insight, and Toyota’s Prius demonstrated this. However, the IMA’s quite remarkable petrol consumption will certainly raise eyebrows, especially for long haul commuters. For anyone who considers petrol costs a significant factor of their motoring, the IMA represents a shrewd choice.
The IMA comes with a fairly high specification. Cream leather, air conditioning and CD player are all standard, along with heated seats and wing mirrors. These features lend the IMA a genuinely luxurious feel, and at no point do you feel like you’re sitting in something experimental or prototype. The interior is roomy, with well-proportioned rear seats. Boot space is impressive, especially considering the placement of the (suitcase-sized) electric unit behind the rear seats. Storage space in the IMA is easily comparable with other saloons, and any fears of a compromise with the housing of the new technology are quickly put to rest.
Green motoring breakthrough?
All in all, the Civic IMA is very easy to live with, and is a pleasant daily drive. The environmental benefits have all been delivered without any compromising essential elements that would let the car down. It is hard to believe that the car is such a step-forward in eco-friendliness, given its performance and familiarity.
If we are to see a green motoring breakthrough before the distant hydrogen introduction, the IMA certainly has the innovation, quality and style to deliver it.
For more information on the Honda Civic IMA - click here.