2007 Honda Civic: What's It Like to Live With?
Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2007 Honda Civic GX as our editors live with this car for a year.
What do you want to know about?
- Compressed Natural Gas
- Deja Vu in the (Natural) Gas Line
- Top 10 Things I Learned
- Draining it Dry, Almost.
- Fire Hazard Recall
- The Phill Is Coming!
- Boredom As Bliss; Phill Update
- Fueling's a Treasure Hunt on Weekend Trip
- Trials and Tribulations
- CNG Comes Home
- Figuring Fuel Economy With Phill
- Reality Check
- Long Time Between Oil Changes
- Home Pump Cuts Pocketbook Pain
- Fuel Economy Up, Costs Down
- A Different Kind of Fill-Up
- MPG Update
- Brakes Wear, Shifter Compromises Fuel Economy
- Cold Nights = More MPG
- It Won't Be Rushed
- 30,000-mile service
- An Inconvenient Truth
- Never Say Never
- 20 Minutes and Still Not Full!
- Two-Speaker Stereo Revisited
- Pros and Cons
- Almost Ready for Primetime
- Less Compromised Than a Prius, Sort Of
- Seating Position Also Feels Natural
- Open Thread
- At $1.22 a Gallon, What's Not to Like?
- The Two Extremes
- An Afternoon at the Pump
- Phill is Back!
- Keeps on Ticking, But Phill Won't
- No Rug Burn Here
- The Clean, Green Routine
- Which Do You Prefer?
- Phill Error Hobbles Home Refills
- Easily Upset
- New Pump Alert
- Why I Picked It Over the Camaro
- What's the Code, Kenneth?
How far are you willing to go to save the environment?
What kind of compromises will you have to make in order to 1) reduce emissions, 2) lower fuel costs, 3) get into the coveted car pool lanes?
We're going to find out. We've added a Honda Civic GX to our long-term fleet. It runs on compressed natural gas (CNG).
We have a CNG station near our offices in Santa Monica, but there aren't many around.
The Civic GX only has a range of about 200 miles on a good day, so long trips could be awkward. So, we're also planning to install a PHILL home refueling unit, which should make refueling more convenient and help reduce costs.
This would have made sense had I done a lot of acid back then, but the 70s for me were a pretty clean decade.
Why then, was I having this weird flashback? A gas line. In 2007?
It wasn't a hallucination, though.
I really did spend almost 20 minute the other morning, sitting in line with our longterm 2007 Honda Civic GX, waiting for the guys ahead of me to fill their cars and vans so I could gas up and hit the road.
This time, though, the problem wasn't a gas shortage. When you've driving a car that uses compressed natural gas, the problem is a pump shortage. I'd pulled into the pump (yes, the singular is intentional) in Garden Grove, just off the 22 Freeway, about the same time half the taxis in central Orange County had decided it was time to fill up.
"It's not like this all the time," the cabbie behind me said as I sat there alternately glancing at my watch and watching the guy in the big Yellow Cab van sloooowly fill his tank. "But it can get bad when we're all trying to fill up at the same time.
In retrospect, a line with four cars wasn't quite like the 50- and 60-car lines common during the '73 gasoline shortage.
But it made me realize that, in Southern California at least, a whole lot of taxis use natural gas, as do myriad school and transit buses, short-haul delivery trucks and other commercial vehicles. That's because CNG usually costs a lot less than gasoline and cuts down on engine maintenance because it burns far cleaner.
And that made me wonder why, if we're so concerned about air quality, auto emissions and the price of gas, there isn't a whole lot more effort by state and federal governments and private businesses to boost the use of natural gas as a vehicle fuel.
Then, maybe, the stations that dispensed it would be closer together and more conveniently located, and a group of cabbies who lose money every minute their cabs are sitting idle would have to answer questions from a nosy reporter intrigued by the fact that you can still find gas lines in 2007.
Fire Hazard Recall
We received a letter in the mail from Honda today regarding an open safety recall on 1998-2007 Civic GX compressed natural gas vehicles. A faulty fuel tank heat insulator is to blame.
In the event of a severe interior fire in the area of the rear seat, the CNG tank may be heated unevenly, preventing the pressure relief device from venting the contents of the tank properly. This could result in a tank rupture, or its ejection from the vehicle.
This situation was discovered after studying an act of arson on a Civic GX earlier this year.
Parts are not yet available, but a secondary notice will be sent once they are.
In the previous post, I laid out how we were going to be computing fuel economy in the 2007 Honda Civic GX now that we're using a home fueling unit that doesn't provide a way of measuring the amount of compressed natural gas being pumped.
After a lot of calculating, estimating and talking to Honda engineers, we decided to assign a value of .368 gallon-equivalent to each bar on the Civic GX's fuel gauge. Thus, if we were down 10 bars and refilled overnight, we'd figure we'd pumped 3.68 gallons.
To double check, I ran the tank down by 12 bars this morning and pulled into the neighborhood Clean Energy retail CNG pump to fill it back up on a pump that does measure gallonage.
At our assigned value of .038 gallon per bar, I expected to pump 4.416 gallons
The readout on the pump said we got 4.471 gallons when the tank registered full.
So our "best guesstimate" method of figuring fuel use was off by just fifty-five thousandths of a gallon (0.055 gallon, to be precise).
Phill home CNG unit has cut fuel costs 30%, and best is yet to come.
When we posted our methodology for computing fuel economy in the natural gas Civic GX now that we're using a home CNG pump, several people wanted to know how much the fuel cost.
We didn't have an answer back then because we hadn't received our first home gas and electric bills and had no basis for figuring out a cost per gallon.
Well, the bills are in, we've done the conversions (one therm of natural gas is the equivalent of .784 gallons of gasoline) and the math and submitted our first expense report.
We pumped the GNG equivalent of 51.888 gasoline gallons through the Phill home unit during March, and figure that electricity to run the pump cost $40.29 while the natural gas itself cost $91.69, for total cost of $131.46, or $2.53 per gallon.
That's $1.18 less than the prevailing price of unleaded regular gasoline in our part of Southern California, and anywhere from 7-cents to 32- cents a gallon-equivalent less than the various retail GNG pumps in the area are charging for their natural gas. (The range is so great because one pump is operated by a city and is priced pretty much at cost — it was $2.60 a gallon when we checked two days ago).
But that's just the first step.
We have just received authorization from our natural gas utility for a home refuling unit discount that should drop the cost of fillling up with the Phill to well below $2 per gallon.
We're expecting the first bill that reflects the discount to arrive at the end of the month and we'll let you know what the new cost-per-gallon is as soon as we crunch the numbers.
The Civic GX NGV is pretty high tech - it runs on compressed natural gas. It's quite economical and has clean emissions, too (Senior Editor O'Dell has an upcoming summary). But this Civic NGV is too, uh, normal.
It drives and sounds just like most underpowered econoboxes, with hard, skinny tires that like to wander a bit down the Four-Oh-Five. Except for a small NGV (Natural Gas Vehicle) sticker on either side of it, and a small CNG sticker on the back, it looks just like any other Civic. Therein lies the problem: it doesn't look like a spaceship, nor does it emit electrical motor noises. It has no fancy power meter. It doesn't shout from the Vegan Co-op or Latte Shop on the mountaintop, "I'm doing my part to take down global climate change: Yes we can!" It just motors quietly along in the car pool lane. I'm not sure that's enough to carry it in this image-conscious segment.
Our 2007 Honda Civic GX is the kind of car that doesn't generate much news. If gas prices go up the story is always the same: Hey, you can buy natural gas at the equivalent of $2.99 a gallon! If gas prices are down, the story is also the same: This thing doesn't have much power.
But this week something actually happened.
A pickup truck stopped short and we were two inches away from missing him. That's how far his trailer hitch punched into our front bumper. It also popped out the side of the bumper but one of our editors hammered it back into place. Boring? Well, we tried.
Now, back to gas prices.
The GX is usually driven by John O'Dell, editor of the Green Car Advisor, but since he was out of town, I took the wheel. I babied the car, drove during off hours, loved the car pool lanes and got a high of 34 mpg.
One morning, while filling up, another GX slid up beside me at the pump. This gentleman commutes 100 miles a day from Santa Monica, to Ontario, CA. He bought the GX for fuel prices and to get into the carpool lanes. With gas prices shooting up he is bursting with smugness over his decision.
I input the GX's fuel data and found that our lifetime average in this green vehicle is 30.1 mpg.
The 2007 Honda Civic GX, fell into my hands for two wonderful weeks and I had a chance to really experiment with stretching every last whiff of natural gas (as opposed to every last drop of gasoline). I filled it five times and got an average of 35 mpg over about 700 miles. With the price of natural gas at $3.15 a gallon, this seemed like a real bargain. For the record, the best tank I got was 41.2 mpg and the worst was 31.4 mpg.
My two weeks in the GX didn't evoke any new impressions. There were moments when the power was definitely missing such as when I climb an onramp to the freeway and needed to go from about 45 mph to 70 mph with all manner of vehicles hurtling up my tailpipe. But that one moment is largely erased by low cost fuel, life time car pool stickers and the Honda refinement present in the GX.
One thing that irritates me is how people just don't get this car. Is it a once-a-year family vacation vehicle? No. Is it a once-a-month canyon carver? Absolutely not. Is it a break-the-bank exotic? Forget it. It's an everyday commuter vehicle plain and simple. And it does that beautifully.
The Civic GX takes its own sweet time getting things done. It starts at the pump. Compressed natural gas apparently takes a long time to inseminate fuel tanks. I only put about the equivalent of three gallons' worth of gas in the GX, yet the experience at the pump dragged on for what felt like an eternity. On the next go-round, I'll bring a novel to pass the time.
Honda's GX also follows its own clock when it comes to acceleration. There's just 113 horsepower and 109 pound-feet of torque on tap — the car takes over 12 seconds to hustle from zero to sixty. This makes sudden maneuvers kinda challenging, as I found out while trying to change lanes on the freeway. Once up to speed, the GX does just fine.
Quickness isn't everything, though, and relative to other greenmobiles, the GX really is fun to drive. Ride quality is pretty impressive — the car manages to feel solid and connected to the road without too much stiffness or harshness.
Yes, we've still got our long term Honda Civic GX and it's managed to crest the 30,000-mile mark. Soon after meeting that impressive milestone, we got a warning lamp in the shape of a wrench and a flashing counter displaying the miles elapsed since we were first warned. (You can see that in the picture, I managed to catch it during a flash.)
The GX's 30,000-mile service is the big one in the GX schedule. Air filter, AC filter, oil change, transmission fluid change, tire rotation — you know, the usual dealer stuff that we certainly could have saved a few bucks on by doing it ourselves.
The car was left with Honda Santa Monica at 9:00 this morning and we picked it up at 15:15 this afternoon. Zero days out of service.
Total Cost: $468.68
There's nothing like the convenience of having a gas station on every corner. When you're driving a natural gas vehicle like the Civic GX, however, that kind of convenience is a luxury that simply isn't within your grasp, and this can sometimes be problematic. Case in point: I've had the car for the past few days. Was running low on gas, but figured, "No problem — there's a station just a couple of blocks from work." Got to that station to do the deed, but found that the pumps weren't operational. Located another station, on the UCLA campus. Spent 45 minutes unsuccessfully trying to find said station — no one I spoke to, not even the security guard, had any knowledge of it. By now the tank's running pretty low. I locate another station, this one near the airport. Get there, finally achieve a fill-up, and breathe a sigh of relief.
A friend of mine has a GX, and drives 10 miles to the nearest station to fill his tank. That's dedication, man. I couldn't imagine owning this car without having a (costly) Phill installed.
Argh! You guessed right with the Honda Civic GX.
But I did get you debating for a little while.
Just a quick FYI for you Civic GX owners — if at all possible, fuel up at the natural gas pumps that are rated at 3600 psi. Use the 3000 psi pumps and, as my colleague Mr. Clark suggested, you best not be in a hurry. I recently filled the GX twice in succession — once at a 3600 psi pump (near LAX airport) and once at a 3000 psi pump (located near our office in Santa Monica).
In each instance, the GX's tank was down to about a quarter (five bars showing on the gauge). It took less than five minutes to fill it (19 bars — though it reads to 20, that's the most we've ever seen) at the 3600 psi pump, where, after nearly 20 minutes at the 3000 psi pump, it still wasn't full.
Both times, the pumps quickly filled up the tank to 80 percent or so (the fuel pump shows the percentage of fill) but where the higher pressure pump topped off the tank in short order, the lower pressure one took forever and still didn't fill it. Which brings up another FYI — even though the pump shows "100 percent", the tank isn't really full until the "100" stops blinking. That sucker blinked for a quarter of an hour (while the pump gauge's "Gallon's Equivalent" numbers moved ever so slowly) before I had to abort the mission and get back to the office, the end result being 17 bars showing.
Due to overwhelming popular demand, i.e. a brief conversation with colleagues DiPietro and Magrath last week, I headed for the parking garage yesterday with my trusty test CD, determined to find out whether my long-ago statement that "this is the best two-speaker stereo I've ever heard" still holds water.
Oh, you betcha.
Granted, the competition isn't exactly stiff. We're talking about a 1985 Tercel, a 1987 Toyota pickup, a '90s Daihatsu K-car in Japan...not what I'd call leaders in mobile audio technology. But seriously, this GX stereo does pretty damn well for a boombox. Not surprisingly, clarity and separation aren't particularly impressive, but bass response is satisfying at the "+4" (of 6) setting, and the soundstage is remarkably full given that it's being created by a pair of ankle-level speakers. I actually suspected this was a stealth 2+2 system — two speakers, two dash-mounted tweeters — until I came across a CarSpace post to the contrary.
Yes sir. Still the best two-speaker stereo I've ever heard.
There are definite disadvantages to driving a compressed natural gas Honda Civic. If you don't have a PHILL home refueling unit, where do you fill up? You need to know where you can get the stuff. Then there's how long it takes to fill up.
But then again, one of the great advantages is you get to drive in the carpool lane. In Southern California, that's a big plus. And you get to drive a Honda Civic. Nice car.
Oh, and I guess there is this thing about the environment or something.
Our Honda Civic GX is Car of the Week.
I've been hearing about the merits of the Civic GX for a few years now from my hairstylist Sue, who drives one from Lake Arrowhead to Pasadena nearly every day she works. Under the conditions she drives, I think the GX is a great choice...here's why.
Most of Sue's 70+ miles each way is on the highway, and in most cases traffic isn't nearly as snarled as it is near our Santa Monica offices. Even if traffic was bumper-to-bumper, she could make use of the HOV lanes as a single-occupant vehicle. She has a Phill station that she plugs into every night and she has another mode of transportation for longer trips into uncharted territory.
For the rest of the populace, the Civic may end up being more of a pricey novelty. Even though the Civic GX is has a short list of creature comforts, it is still one of the highest-priced Civics ever. The trunk is tiny, eaten up by large pressurized gas cylinder. It's slow to get up to speed...any speed, and the Phill station is expensive, even after any/all tax credits are applied.
But let's also remember that the GX is an adaptation of a Civic — a car that was not originally designed as a CNG vehicle. I'd like to see a natural gas-specific vehicle someday — one that offers the optional features we now expect of most cars and one with a proper trunk. I'm especially fond of CNG as an alternative because the infrastructure is already in place for many people to refill at home. Given the trend that technology eventually becomes inexpensive enough for the masses, perhaps the Phill stations will begin dropping in price after its popularity and demand increase. With legislation in the works that will likely be even more favorable to alternative-fueled vehicles, maybe we could expect even more savings in the near future. Let's hope so.
What can we tell you about the Honda Civic GX? Any questions?
Have any of you driven one? If so, write your review in the comments section. We look forward to reading what you have to say.
We've been left in an info vacuum about the future of the Phill home natural gas fueling device for our 2007 Honda Civic GX since FuelMaker Corp., the company that used to make and service it, when belly up.
Its assets and technology were purchased earlier this year by Fuel Systems Solutions, the California-based company that also owns Impco Technologies, one of the world's largest manufacturers of OEM and aftermarket natural gas conversion systems.
Several requests for information from Fuel Systems spokespeople since then have been met with silence, leaving s to wonder if we now owned a museum piece. Having a GX and no Phill is like having bread but no butter.
But now, as a Phill owner (we bought one for the GX early last year), we've received an update from one of the company's distributors.
"You'll be pleased to know," the missive states (and we are, we definitely are), "that Fuel Systems...will continue to offer service and repairs for the FuelMaker HRA (Phill)."
The letter also says that Fuel Systems will announce later his year that it has begun producing new natural gas fueling systems at its Italian affiliate, BRC Gas Equipment.
There are about 600 Fuel Maker Phill units out there, and if you own one, or are thinking of getting one, the master distributor in California (and a shout-out to them for giving us the news) is Gas Equipment Systems Inc., in Rancho Cucamonga.
If you don't live in California, home to most of the Honda Civic GXs and about 80 percent of all the Phills, you can contact Paula Hebert at Impco's Texas office - 972 548 9221 - for information about Phill dealers and service facilities.
There's not much new to say about the Civic GX - it still runs like a top, albeit one that's a bit slow to wind up; hasn't given us any trouble and except for a little body work after a fender-bender hasn't been in the shop other than for oil changes and one brake job (a problem with Civics).
The first major service isn't scheduled until 100,000 miles - that's about 67,000 miles from now - and I've every reason to believe it will get there just fine.
Not sure about its home fueling companion, though.
Our Phill is about 25 percent through its apparently artificial lifespan of 6,000 hours.
The installer pointed this out to me when he hung the unit on the garage wall: FuelMaker programmed the software to shut the system down at 6,000 hours to ensure that nothing bad would happen - and, probably, to make a little more money as the approved route was to ship it back to FuelMaker for a $2,000 rebuild.
FuelMaker's gone now, and a new company - Fuel System Solutions - has taken over, promising to continue making home units and repairing Phills.
We don't know yet how FSS is going to handle stuff, but we're hoping that its installers and repair people will be allowed to reprogram the thing so that it keeps running as long as its parts allow.
I ran the "hours of service" check this morning - for the first time - and found that our Phill has somewhere between 1,500 and 1,749 hours on its clock (instrumentation is minimal, just a set of lights that come on in a coded sequence to tell you the range of hours that the pump's been operating.
If anyone at Fuel System Solutions is listening: put a real clock on the new units, please, along with a gauge that records how much natural gas flows through. The lack of either is a big flaw on the present model.
Back to the Civic GX - I haven't been driving it much lately because I've been working from home for a bit and haven't been commuting.
But I'm headed to the airport in the morning and unlike the other 50,000 or so people who'll be crowding the freeway about then, I'm looking forward to the drive - CNG cars here in California are considered "Clean Air Cars" because of their very low emissions and for that reason get a single-occupancy carpool lane pass.
Besides the lower emissions our Civic GX enjoys, there's an added bonus — the refueling experience is much cleaner compared to gasoline-powered cars. There are no liquids spilling at the pump and no ruined shoes. Also, the nozzle is easier to maneuver than the heavier, California-compliant gasoline ones. First-time fillers may feel a bit apprehensive with the different procedure, but it soon becomes as routine as with any other car. It's also convenient that CNG pumps feature a readout that displays how much more you have to fill. Yes, sometimes it'll take longer to refuel, but maybe that'll change someday.
So after spending last weekend in our Mini E and jumping into our 2007 Honda Civic GX last night, I think I'm able to develop a quasi-educated opinion about our two green cars. As you already know the Honda is our natural gas long-termer, the Mini E our electric car.
Honda Civic GX
- Even though it has a small trunk at least you can carry three passengers.
- Awesome fuel range.
- Can fill at home with Phill
- Ours has a single occupant car-pool lane sticker. Woo!
- The limited availability of natural gas fueling stations makes it tricky for planning long road trips.
- Not fun to drive but at all.
- Still retains some of its gokartness.
- I find it easy to drive in stop-and-go traffic once I got used to taking my foot of the accelerator to slow down, etc.
- No gas required.
- Can charge it at home even without a specially installed wall charger.
- With only two seats and a tiny trunk, you can't haul much around.
- Takes a lonnnng time to recharge.
- Very limited driving range means you have to carefully plan your trips or take none at all.
- Would have to be your second car.
Which one do I prefer?
Um. Hmmm. If I HAD to choose one, eeesh.....I guessssss, huh, I'd say the Mini. But remember, I'm a single city dweller who likes fun cars (the Mini for me is more fun to drive than the Civic) and who likes the idea of no gasoline. And for long road trips, I have the Edmunds fleet to choose from. Suffice it to say, not everyone will share my opinion. But then again, after two years in our fleet the Honda Civic GX has inspired only 55 posts. The Mini E after only four months? 70. Just sayin'.
Our natural gas Civic does not like rough pavement. Last night I was puttering home and rolled up to a stop sign. The pavement leading up to the intersection was riddled with small potholes and choppy asphalt and the Civic did not take kindly to it. Under normal braking, I felt the front wheels wash away as the tires struggled to find grip - almost like I was trying to stop on gravel. It was something I hadn't noticed before, so I began paying closer attention to the car's suspension. Next was a right turn that forked-off of the main boulevard. I knew this turn well, since in my earlier years, I used to use a mid-corner bump to gleefully pitch my old musclecar into a brief little slide. Even at sensible speeds without intentionally trying to upset the Civic, it too stepped out just slightly as it rolled over the bump. I was not impressed.
I checked the tires first. The stock Dunlop SP Sport 5000s looked fine with plenty of tread. I can't imagine the shocks are already worn, since we don't beat on the Civic like a sports car, nor do we load the trunk with heavy cargo (especially since the trunk is tiny). According to our specs, the Civic GX only weighs about 100 pounds more than a gas-powered EX, so I can't write it off to any added natural-gas weight. It's a mystery to me, so I'll let keymaster Schmidt know about it. Maybe it needs a second opinion.
On my way back from a night at the movies with some friends on Friday, I spotted something at the 76 on La Cienega and Olympic: a CNG pump. Score! I was pretty stoked — the station's just a couple of blocks from where I live, and the pump's presence meant I wouldn't have to drive all the way to Santa Monica to get the tank filled over the very rainy weekend.
The CNG pump is pretty new to that station. The attendant said it's been there for "less than two months." Nice to see more options being offered for drivers of CNG vehicles.
Why did I pick our 2007 Honda Civic, boring to drive as heck, over the snazzy 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS for my ride last night?
Because it was raining, I had to drive to West Hollywood and I didn't feel like dealing with a manual in rush-hour cross-town traffic amid Angeleno motorists afraid of a little downpour.
OK, let the name calling begin.
But I'll have you know, I wasn't the only one who made this same choice when presented with the same two cars. Editor Warren Clarke picked the Civic GX for his ride this past holiday weekend.
PS: In the end, it didn't rain after all and there was hardly any traffic (took me 20 minutes to get to West Hollywood from Santa Monica when it usually takes double that) since it appeared most Angelenos opted to stay in.
Seems our radio in our 2007 Honda Civic GX is broken. This error message was already on when I got into the car the day before but I wanted to check the long-term blogs to see if anyone mentioned it. No one did.
In any case the satellite radio doesn't work, neither does the CD player or the radio. I looked it up in the owner's manual since this thing seems to be asking for a code but the manual doesn't say anything about a special code or this issue. However, when I Googled it, I came across this: https://radio-navicode.honda.com/
Not sure how this happened in the first place but apparently the anti-theft light turns on when you replace the battery. Although I don't think anyone did that over the weekend.
POST EDIT: OK, that Web site didn't recognize the VIN but I did finally find a card with the code on it in the owner's package located in the glovebox. So that's fixed. Yay.