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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.

Honda Civic 2007


As oil supplies tighten, gas prices rise and concerns about the environment intensify, public interest in alternative fuels is growing. Lots of interesting new automotive technology is in development, but little is actually on the market.

There's one big exception: the 2007 Honda Civic GX, which runs on compressed natural gas (CNG). The Civic GX is consistently considered the most environmentally friendly car available and has even received the EPA's Smartway Elite designation.

We have reviewed the Honda Civic in many of its different incarnations. But we've never had a vehicle in our long-term fleet that has been powered by natural gas. We're expecting that the real story here is not so much the car (we know we like the Civic) as the lifestyle that surrounds it. For example, where do we buy compressed natural gas? Is it cheaper than regular gasoline? How well does the Phill home refueling unit work in filling the GX's tank?

We'll answer all these questions and many more in our Long-Term Road Test Logbook.

What We Bought
There aren't any choices when you buy the Honda Civic GX. You can choose from five colors and two interior colors. That's about it. Even conveniences like a remote trunk release aren't included in this bare-bones car.

Features aren't what it's about. What it's about is low emissions (PZEV or partial-zero-emissions vehicle), low fuel costs and access to the carpool lanes. An unexpected advantage is that oil changes are stretched to 10,000-mile intervals, since natural gas is less corrosive and leaves more engine oil on the cylinder walls. Similarly, engine components remain cleaner in the long term because natural gas creates fewer carbon deposits.

The GX comes standard with a five-speed automatic transmission (which some editors have already mistaken for a buzzy continuously variable transmission). Its power plant is a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder internal combustion engine that produces 113 horsepower and offers 109 pound-feet of torque at 4,300 rpm — obviously, this car isn't built for speed. Another compromise lies in its limited fuel capacity of just 8 gallons. Even with an EPA rating of 28 mpg city/39 mpg highway, the GX's driving range is just over 200 miles (and our testing so far has shown that the range is highly variable). Moreover, the high-pressure fuel tank forces a reduction in trunk capacity.

Since the GX is not exactly at the top of everyone's shopping list, there aren't a lot of Honda dealerships that carry it. We contacted Miller Honda of Culver City and we were assisted by Fleet Manager Sarah Lovett. We bought the car for our True Market Value (TMV®) price of $24,432, which included the $595 destination fee. Lovett handled the delivery of the vehicle and provided us with a folder full of information about how to get the Phill and where to find fueling stations around the Los Angeles area. In addition, she set a record for efficiency in preparing and explaining all the sales contracts.

Why We Bought It
The GX seems a natural way to get serious about alternative fuel vehicles. Additionally, we plan to install a Phill home refueling unit in our Edmunds parking structure (if the superintendent allows it) or, if not, in an editor's garage. The Phill delivers CNG at a lower price than buying it from a local pump.

The GX has been available for a number of years and yet it has remained largely below the radar. Those who know about it sing its praises as a commuter car, and this made us curious to see how it stacks up against other environmental choices, such as gas-sipping hybrids. Recently, the California carpool stickers and federal tax rebates for the Toyota Prius have expired, which has left the GX as a standout choice because it's still eligible for these perks. We've applied for carpool stickers and are anticipating several thousand dollars in federal tax credits.

Perhaps our biggest question about the GX regards access to fueling stations. One editor took a previous GX test car to Northern California and located only one station between the metro areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Does this rule out long trips in this car? Or will careful and creative planning give it a broader range and use? Stay tuned and we'll fill you in.

How Far Are You Willing To Go?
The GX is really a one-of-a-kind car. From the get-go, it's obvious there will be compromises. It is even likely to be controversial. The real question that is likely to emerge is: How far are you willing to go to save the environment? Is there much in the way of inconvenience and expense? And just as important, will driving a car like this really make a difference?

Current Odometer: 1,780
Best Fuel Economy: 34.7 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 24.1 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 26.8 mpg

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Compressed Natural Gas

August 31, 2007

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.

Read the Introduction to the Honda Civic GX on

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Deja Vu in the (Natural) Gas Line

September 13, 2007

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.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor, @ 2,689 miles.

Top 10 Things I Learned

September 25, 2007

I had the long-term Civic GX for the past week, or at least its keys. I got to see how it performed in a variety of driving conditions, taking it on different errands — daily commute, trip to Universal City for a press event, taking me to an excellent Editors concert at the Wiltern, and an airport venture that included four days parked while I was in Toronto. Here are some of the things I learned over this period of time.

1) It took too long to fill up the NG equivalent of 3.477 gallons of gasoline. If you don't have a Phill unit, you'd get sick of visiting the natural gas station.

2) I've now watched the NG station video three times. I really need to remember the pass number, but at least I now know not to smoke around a gas pump. So that's why I kept exploding.

3) The Civic GX doesn't do steep hills. I had it floored going up the very steep Hotel Drive in Universal City, but the Civic just couldn't crack 21. It was like going up the opening hill of a roller coaster without the clackety-clack.

4) The trunk can only hold two standard-sized roller bags. That's it. (see photo above)

5) Don't buy a car in Canada. The American and Canadian dollars are now even, but car prices sure aren't. A review of a VW Passat 3.6 Wagon in the Toronto Star listed an as-tested price of $52,820 — before tax. That car is too expensive here (fully loaded around $40K), but Jiminy Christmas.

6) Speaking of expensive, the Civic GX is the most expensive Civic model, yet has fewer standard features than an LX (no aux jack for instance).

7) The Civic GX isn't sold in Canada. That's a good thing, it would probably cost $38,000. You'd also need a pack of huskies to get it up a snowy hill.

8) After standing for four hours in a cramped Wiltern Theatre, you'll find that the Civic GX has the world's most comfortable seats.

9) If you hold up your digital camera and/or cell phone during a sizeable portion of a rock concert, you're both a tool and an idiot. Congratulations, you've just watched a concert going on right in front of you through a 2-inch screen. Your friends really don't care, the photo quality will be lousy, and the video will sound like Marlee Matlin was operating the sound board.

10) Despite being slower than maple syrup, the GX is still a Civic and it's pretty fun to drive around town.

James Riswick, Associate Editor @ 3,111 miles

Draining it Dry, Almost.

December 10, 2007

They told me when I joined the Edmunds team that I would probably be the designated driver for the long-term 2007 Honda Civic GX because I was the "green" guy and because, frankly, nobody wanted to put up with the hassles of finding the natural gas pumps the car requires and worrying about running out of fuel and being left high and dry.

A look at our fuel log over the almost six months the GX has been in the fleet bears that out. Only eight members of the staff have driven it, and most of them only once.

The average distance traveled between fill-ups of compressed natural gas has been well under 150 miles and only once has anyone had to put more than the equivalent of 6.5 gallons of fuel into the 8-gallon tank that's supposed to be good for an average of 224 miles.

Well, we pushed the limits the other day, watching the little light bars on the fuel gauge about 0.4 gallons-equivalent per bar — blink out until they all were gone and the bright amber "low fuel" light was all that was aglow on that side of the instrument panel.

The occasion was a round-trip drive to La Jolla from the city of Orange in Orange County near D-land for those not familiar with the geography.

Most of it was done at speeds of 65-85 mph on the San Diego Freeway. The top end of that range certainly isn't best for fuel effiicency, but if you travel at less than 80 on the stretch between the San Onofre nuclear power station and the city of Oceanside you are liable to be run over by everyone else makes you think everyone's trying to get as far from the power plant as quickly as possible.

Anyhow, at the end of the trip, with that fuel warning light burning away, we pulled in to a CNG station near home and pumped in 6.345 gallons. Paid $16.81 for it, or $2.649 a gallon on a day regular gasoline was going for about $3.30.

The trip odometer read 210.4 miles the first time it's topped 200 and our fuel economy for the trip came out to 33.16 miles per gallon. The GX is EPA rated at 24 mpg in the city, 35 on the highway and 28 for the combined cycle.

A friend from Northern Califonria who's been driving a GX for several years says CNG stations abound up there, so for our next distance run we're thinking a spring trek to the Russian River wine country just below Mendocino. That'll let us test the fuel supply infrastructure, push the mileage a bit and see how much old vine Zinfandel we can squeeze into the GX's truncated trunk.

And if we run out of fuel before we run into a CNG station, we'll also be able to report on the eficiency of the Northern California AAA tow service.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Edmunds Green Car Advisor @ 6756 miles.

Fire Hazard Recall

December 17, 2007

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.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Coordinator @ 6,800 miles

The Phill Is Coming!

January 11, 2008

It's like a second Christmas.

Mike, or Dr. Drain, as his business card identifies him, showed up at noon Thursday to rough-in the mounts and run the gas line for the Phill natural gas fueling unit we're installing in my garage.

If you drive a Civic GX, the home unit would seem to be a reasonable thing to lust after.

Without it, you stop every 175-200 miles to fill up, and natural gas stations aren't quite as plentiful as the regular kind.

For me, with a 116-mile round trip commute, that 's meant a stop every other day at least.

There happen to be five natural gas pump locations on my route Southern Caliofrnia along the 405 Freeway corridor from Santa Monica to Orange County apparently is a pretty gassy place but using them requires detours off the freeway and delays my arrivals at home or office.

With the Phill, I'll be able to hook up the hose when I pull into the garage at night and, presuming it works as advertised, Viola!, I'll have a topped-up tank every morning when I leave for work.

And I'll be saving money gas from a Phill home unit is billed at the residential rate and, last time I checked, that worked out to about $2.00 for the equivalent of a gallon. At the retail stations in my neighborhoods, compressed natural gas runs from $2.40 to $2.65 a gallon these days.

We started ordering the Phill from its Canadian manufacturer, FuelMaker Corp., back in November. (I'm using the plural because getting the Phill has been a joint effort , with Edmunds paying for it and me providing the location and doing all the ordering and scheduling to get it installed.)

After telling them by phone that we wanted one, they sent us to a website to download a form we filled out and faxed to the local natural gas utility, which had to certify that we had the proper type of gas service at the hous. That took about a week.

Then we had to contact Dr. Drain the only installer FuelMaker has authorized in our part of Southern California and set up an appointment for him to come scope out the garage. We also sent him a bunch of photos of the inside of the garage to help him give us his installation estimate ($1,800).

After he notified FuelMaker that he was good to go, customer service agent Patricia Mwita nicely asked us to send the full price of the Phill unit in advance — less a $2,000 discount we got because we're installing it in an area in which the local auir quality agency gives two grand grants to Phill purchasers. The total rounds out to $2,200.

Add the installation fee and we'll be at $4,000, but there's a also a $1,000 federal income tax credit (which Edmunds gets, darnit!) which brings the out-of-pocket back down to around $3,000.

At a roughly 60-cents per gallon-equivalent difference between the price of home-brew and retail CNG, it will take 4,615 gallons to break even with the Phill. That's 129,000 miles at the 28 miles per gallon we've been averaging, so we'll probably not have the thing amortized when time comes to sell the longerm Civic GX.

But there's a market for used Phills, which often are sold along with the car they've been filling. So we may break even.

And if I were paying for it out of my own pocket, there'd be another rationale for the expense: the extra 10 minutes the home fill will give me for a little more sleep in the mornings, or to savor a glass of wine and a little conversation with my wife in the evenings.

Plus, I have to clean out the garage, 'cause all the junk – kayak, ladder, bike rack, dart board etc. – takes up wall space the Phill will need.  A clean garage will make my wife happy and that, as the commercial says, is priceless.

But back to business.

Patricia says FuelMaker is assembling our Phill right now and will ship it to Dr. Drain in early February. He says he can install it within a few days.

We’ll keep you posted.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor @ 8,470 miles.

Boredom As Bliss; Phill Update

February 04, 2008

A landmark, of sorts.

The odo passed 10K on the way home Friday (it is difficult to get a decent picture of a lighted digital odometer while stopped, in the dark, in the carpool lane – but as the traffic was cooperating, I tried!).

I've put most of those miles on our 2007 Honda Civic GX, a point driven home Friday morning when managing editor Donna DeRosa asked me whether I got bored driving the GX all the time.

What can I say?

It is a bit boring, but hey, it's a basic Civic, a slightly underpowered basic Civic, and most of my driving is on Southern California freeways during Southern California rush hours. Driving a Ferrari is boring when stop-go-stop-go-slow down-stop-go-stop-stop-go-slow-go is the pattern and top speed rarely rises above 40 miles an hour.

Still, it is a Civic, so it starts whenever you ask it; goes where you point it, is comfortable, has a radio (audio system is too proud a term to describe the two-speaker AM/FM/CD setup), turns corners without tipping over and stops promptly when required.

Add to that a single-occupant carpool lane permit and better-than-average CO2 emissions because of the lower carbon content of its compressed natural gas fuel, and the Civic GX becomes a blissful commuter car.

Every once in a while there's even is a soupçon of excitement: wondering how much farther you can drive once the fuel gauge hits empty (haven't run out yet); getting the recall notice that says the CNG tank could take off like a rocket if we lit a big fire in the back seat (we still haven't taken it in for the fix — a new seal of some sort); visiting Honda dealership at 7,000 miles for the first scheduled oil change (the first time its been to a dealership since we picked it up at the end of June; and getting the Phill.

Actually, we don't actually have the Phill — the natural gas compressor and pump unit that will let us fill the GX overnight in our garage. But we got word Friday that FuelMaker Corp., the Canadian company that, well, makes it, finally has shipped our Phill to the installer.

It's supposed to arrive around the end of this week, and we're hoping we can get it installed, inspected and approved by the 15th.

In preparation, we updated the fuel log this morning and can report that at 10,083 miles, we're averaging 28.43 miles a gallon. That's unchanged from the then lifetime average of 28.4 mpg posted at 5,234 miles back in November.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Edmunds Green Car Advisor @ 10,083 miles

Fueling's a Treasure Hunt on Weekend Trip

February 19, 2008

Took the Civic GX €“just named greenest vehicle sold in the U.S. on a 611-mile weekend trip. It takes a little planning when your fuel isn't the easiest to find, but all went well.

Part of the reason for taking the GX, usually just a commuter car, was to see if we could stand sitting in it for hours on end. Part was to see how difficult it would be to find the compressed natural gas it needs once we got out of the greater Los Angeles area.

Neither proved problematic, although figuring out the fueling logistics is a bit like planning a treasure hunt. And when you get to some of the stops, you find that CNG pumps aren't often in spots you really want to hang around in after dark.

Before departing, we plugged our starting point and destination into the mapping function of the federal Energy Department's alternative fuels site.

 Following the instructions provided a nice map that located 30 compressed natural gas stations on two possible routes from Southern California up to the central coast resort town of Cambria, about 6 miles south of Hearst Castle.

Each station was indicated by an interactive red triangle that, when moused and clicked, opened to give precise details including the station's hours, the types of credit cards accepted, driving directions and whether the station was open to the public€“ many aren't.

After picking out five that would suit our needs, I printed out the specifics and for extra insurance loaded the addresses into our portable GPS navigation system.

The whole exercise took about 20 minutes and left me feeling assured that we'd not run out of fuel in the middle of nowhere.

To be doubly sure, I earmarked stations that were about 100 miles or a little less than half a tank apart.

The first fill was supposed to be at a local station near home, but it was out of order (the DOE info has phone numbers and advises calling in advance to make sure the stations are open and functioning, but that takes all the fun out of it).

We had started out with a nearly full tank, so we just headed up the freeway and stopped at the CNG trough near Edmunds' office in Santa Monica for our initial fill, and began calculating mileage and fuel consumption from that point.

We stopped again in Santa Barbara, where the pump is located just off the freeway in an industrial area near the city's maintenance yard€“ dark and deserted territory late at night.

The third and final fill on the way to Cambria was in the city of San Luis Obispo, at a well-lighted site that also had about 20 diesel and gas pumps used by city buses and work trucks.

Although the sign on the CNG pump there said it accepted Visa cards, it wouldn't take the one I've been using for the past six months at other natural gas pumps. I had to drag out a backup, which was also a Visa card, and listen to the two-minute training video again before I could get a new ID code and start pumping.

We reversed the gas stops on the way home, but omitted the Santa Monica stop as we took a different route down from Santa Barbara. Still, the GX fuel gauge registered only half-empty at the end of that final 161.8-mile leg. That was good for best-of-trip average fuel economy of 40.02 miles per gallon.

Fuel wise, we pumped in a total of 18.33 gallons, for average fuel economy of 33.3 miles per gallon. Not bad for a trip that included a lot of high speed driving, about half of it uphill travel through California's coastal mountains. On the commute treadmill, the GX has been averaging 28.5 miles per gallon, so the trip helps show how hard the daily stop-and-go grind is on fuel economy.

The car ran fine, held all the luggage for a two-day trip (not to mention my big bag of electronics€“ camera, laptop, electrical adapters etc.) and remained comfortable even after five hours behind the wheel.

We wasted a lot of fuel, though, flooring it on many of the uphill sections of our route to keep up with traffic€“ the drawback of the somewhat anemic1.8-liter, four-cylinder CNG engine is that it provides 18.5% less horsepower and 14.8% less torque than the comparable gasoline engine.

Trials and Tribulations

February 22, 2008

The Civic GX works fine, but there are some frustrations when you're driving a car that requires specially trained repair people and special fueling equipment that comes from a sole source.

Mostly it boils down to time spent waiting.

Two cases in point are the ongoing saga of our Phill home natural gas fueling unit, and a recent recall to install a thermal insulator between the fuel tank and the back seat.

We ordered, and paid for, the Phill just before the end of the year and were told by the Canadian manufacturer, FuelMaker Corp., that holiday season delays meant it would be a few weeks before work would start on the unit. We waited.

On Jan. 31 we got an e-mail letting us know that the Phill finally was being shipped to the only installer in our area, a Southern California plumbing company called Dr. Drain.

We waited.

It was supposed to take five to seven working days to get the unit from FuelMaker to the good doctor. That should have had the Pill arriving by Feb. 12, so installation was tentatively set for Feb. 15. Dr. Drain told us on Feb. 19 that the thing had just landed at his shop.

We're still waiting, with Feb. 26 the new tentative installation date. 

As for the recall, well, we got the notice back on Dec. 17, nicely worded so as not to scare us, but basically cautioning that if we had a big fire in the rear seating area of the GX, the heat could cause the fuel tank to make like a rocket.

We couldn't do anything right away, though, because Honda told us that the part needed to fix things wasn't available yet.

We waited.

A letter arrived in mid January telling us the fix-it part was now available. (Good thing no one tried to have a backseat barbecue in the interim).

Mike Magrath, Edmunds' vehicle testing assistant, called a local Honda dealer to order the part.

Then we waited.

About two weeks later, the dealer's parts department called to say the part had arrived. So Magrath called the service department to schedule an appointment and was told that, sorry, that dealership wasn't authorized to work on the GX fuel system, which required specially trained service personnel.

No explanation was offered as to why they didn't tell us that when we ordered the part, Magrath says, adding that he encountered the same disconnect between parts and service (yes, we can order the part, no, we can't install it) at another area dealership before being told there was only one in all of the sprawling Los Angeles-Orange County area authorized to do the repair.

We finally got the fix done on Feb.8 and are happy to report that a) the work was done quickly and, so far as we know, properly, and b) the fuel tank is still attached to the car.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor @ 11,822 miles

CNG Comes Home

March 03, 2008


The Phill has been installed.

After waiting almost two months from the time we placed the order for the home fueling device at the end of December, I pumped the first made-at-home CNG into our long-term 2007 Civic GX on Friday evening, after the electrician did his thing and hooked the machine up to a 240-volt circuit.

Dr. Drain, aka Michael Fossler,  the only Phill installer in my area of  Southern California, had delivered, unpacked and hung the nifty little natural gas compressor/pump unit on the garage wall on Thursday.

Took about 3 hours to do the job, which involved boring a 6-inch hole through the wall for an external vent; hooking up the gas intake and exhaust plumbing (there's an exhaust line that lets natural gas spew to the outside in case of a breakdown) and a gas leak sensor and alarm and checking things out to make sure it all works.

I'll probably get in trouble, but I couldn't resist trying things out even before the system has been inspected by the city (that's supposed to happen this week). But honest, your honor, I only used it a little bit, and only once.

One thing with the home unit is that there's no gauge or readout to tell you how much gas it is delivering to the vehicle, and it is not metered separately from regular household natural gas consumption, so there's no really accurate way right now to continue tracking the GX's fuel economy.

We're trying to work out a system with Honda engineers for making accurate estimates of gasoline gallon-equivalents pumped as the retail CNG pumps do by assigning values to each of the 20 little bars that track fuel usage on the car's instrument panel.

Soon as we get a good system going we'll lay it out right here.

Meantime, I can report that the car had 82.3 miles on the trip odometer when I started the Phill at 4:35 pm Friday and that eight of the fuel gauge bars had disappeared. Today I'm also down eight bars, but with 109.5 mileson the trip meter.

It took almost 9 hours to top up the tank (the Phill pumps for a while, stops to cool itself down and run a drying cycle to purge any water vapor that came in from the home gas line, then repeats the cycle until the tank is full.

It's slow FuelMaker Co., the manufacturer, says it takes about 12 hours to fill an empty GX tank pumping the equivalent of about 7.5 gallons, but ambient temperature, the state of the car's fuel tank when you start and a few other things can affect the fueling time.

The slow pace is supposed to help it give a better fill than a retail pump.

The Phill fills until its sensors read that the tank has reached full pressurization of 3,600 pounds per square inch.

That slow trickle at full pressure puts more fuel into the tank than do retail pumps that are listed at 3,600 psi but often only pump to around 3,200 pounds because the gas in the underground storage tanks isn't up to maximum pressure. I've noticed more than once that at least one of the bars on the fuel gauge isn't lit up after I've stopped to top off the tank and the readout on the pump says the car's tank is full.

Now I'm in the process of emptying the tank as much as possible to see if filling with the Phill gives me any more distance on my daily commute route than does filling at a retail pump.

Stay tuned.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor @12,561 miles.

Figuring Fuel Economy With Phill

March 21, 2008

A full tank is 20 lighted bars on fuel gauge. Each represents 0.368 gallon.

The city inspector has signed off on it, so our Phill home natural gas pump is officially up and operating. For the 1,395 miles the Civic GX has traveled since at-home refueling began, average fuel economy has jumped by a little more than 3 miles per gallon – an extra 21 miles per tank as best I can figure it.

Warning: What follows is a lengthy discourse on how we are computing fuel economy with a system that doesn't tell us how many gallons are being pumped into the tank.

For those who don't care about the how, the net result is that we're now averaging 29.38 miles per gallon in our compressed natural gas Civic GX after 13,562 miles, up from a little over 28 mpg at 10,000 miles. The boost comes mainly from the average of 32.34 mpg we're recorded over the 1,395 miles that we've been using the Phill.

If you do care, or are hoping to catch me in an error (not hard to do), feel free to read on 'til your eyes glaze over.

Physics explains the jump, but I'm not a physicist, so the best that I can do is pass on the explanation I received from Eric Rosenberg, assistant manager of American Honda's alternative fuels unit:

The Phill pushes more compressed natural gas into the car's tank than does a rapid-fill pump at a retail station; so even though the fuel gauge reads full with either type of fill-up, there's more fuel, so more miles per gallon, in a tank filled by the Phill.

It's all about heat and pressure.

The Phill reads the pressure in the tank and fills until it hits 3,600 pounds per square inch. Because it is a very slow fill, averaging the equivalent of just 0.4 gallons an hour, the Phill doesn't cause much of a heat build-up in the tank.

Retail pumps, however, shove the gas in at a rate of close to 2 gallons per minute, which causes a heat build-up which causes the internal tank pressure to rise which fools the pump into thinking the tank is full when it isn't. Additionally, the retail pumps merely pump til the fuel tank pressure is equal to the pressure in the pump's storage tank, and that's often well below 3,600 pounds

I've put 1,395 miles on the GX since the first fill-up with the Phill, and under a system co-developed with Honda's Rosenberg, figure that it's pumped the equivalent of 43.138 gallons, for a fuel economy average of 32.34 miles per gallon.

We averaged 29.05 mpg for the first 12,173 miles we put on the car and had been seeing fuel economy increase a little with each tank.

The denser Phill fill explains the fuel economy increase, although, as Rosenberg admits, there's no easy way to get a really accurate read on gallon-equivalents delivered by the home pump.

Some gas utilities provide a separate meter for it, but here in Southern California, the Phill unit is hooked into the home meter, so it's hard to figure out exactly how many therms went into the car versus the hot water heater, clothes dryer, stove-top, gas fireplace and whole-house heating system. Best you can get is a pretty good estimate by comparing several years of gas bills on a month-to-month basis, and I've not received a new bill since I started using the home system.

Using the Civic's fuel gauge isn't any more accurate.

It has 20 bars that all light up when the tank is full, and then disappear one by one as the compressed natural gas in the tank is depleted. But with the Phill, at least with our Phill, the system shuts off and registers full when 19 of the bars are lighted.

Rosenberg says that he's received a mix of reports from GX users, with many others also reporting that their cars' tanks appear to be full when that penultimate 19th bar lights up and that they never see the20th bar.

Amber light and no bars means you're into reserve of about one-half gallon.

We know that the GX's tank holds the equivalent of 8 gallons but that only about 7.5 gallons are usable. "Approximately" half a gallon always remains because by the time you get down to it, the pressure in the tank is too low to deliver it, Rosenberg says.

What's more, an undetermined amount of useable CNG – somewhere between 0.25 and 0.75 gallon – remains in reserve when the last bar disappears. I've driven 20 miles with a blank gauge, but the mileage depends on a slew of variables including ambient temperature and the vehicle's acceleration and braking pattern.

So the system we've come up with is a pretty straightforward averaging.

Because we've determined that our tank is full at 19 bars on the fuel gauge, with perhaps a gallon equally divided between the useable and unusable reserves, we've divided the remaining 7 gallons by 19 and assigned a value of 0.368 gallons to each bar. If nine bars have been depleted since the last fill-up and all 19 are lighted again when the Phill says the tank has been refilled, we multiply 0.368 by 9 and come up with a value of 3.312 gallons.

If the tank is run deep into that last half-gallon or so of reserve, we add it in and use 0.385 gallons per bar to calculate that fill-up.

This isn't exact — the Phill fills by reading tank pressure and the pressure is higher when the tank is half full than when it is empty. That means that the last bars of a fill up contain a little less CNG than did the first ones. It all averages out in the tank, but means that by assigning a static value to each bar we get a reading that's slightly off when the tank is refilled before it is completely empty.

But, as Rosenberg says, "that's the best you can do." Not even the alt fuels team at Honda, which has a vested interest in knowing as much about the GX, the Phill and CNG refueling as possible, has come up with a better method.

So until someone out there develops a gas flow meter that can be attached to the Phill's nozzle and gives an accurate gallons-equivalent reading, this is what we'll be doing.

I have emptied the tank as much as possible on two occasions since the first Phill fill (a Phill-up?) on February 28, logging 228.2 miles on the first tank and diving deep into the reserve, and 203.7 on the second., traveling only about a mile after the last bar on the fuel gauge disappeared.

The rest of the time, I "plug in" the Phill's nozzle and turn it on when I park the car each evening, usually refilling somewhere between 8 and 11 bars overnight. It can take 19 hours to refill an empty tank, and form 9 to 12 hours to do half a tank. The last half fills more slowly than the first half because the pressure in the tank builds as it fills, and the flow of gas from the pump nozzle slows as it meets resistance.

If you can possibly want to know anything else about the Phill and how it works, the manual is available on-line and you are welcome to it.

If you've got a better way to compute mileage, or find a significant error in our methodology, we want to hear from you, so shoot me an e-mail.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor @13,620 miles

Reality Check

March 28, 2008

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).

John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor @14,192 miles

Long Time Between Oil Changes

April 02, 2008

When I bought the 2007 Honda Civic GX for the long term fleet last year I remembered hearing that one of the advantages of this car, besides low pollution and low fuel costs, was that you could go a long time between oil changes. The Honda brochure said that the natural gas it runs on is less corrosive than gasoline so the oil remains uncontaminated longer. And, since it has a maintenance minder, it just tells you when you need service.

When I got into the car I noticed the little wrench light icon and a "B1" in the odometer window. Looking in the manual, I saw that this called for an oil and filter change, a tire rotation, check fluids and various inspections. I emailed my local Honda service department to ask if they could work on the GX and what this would cost. They replied that the B1 service was $104 but that they also recommended two other filter changes that would run $165 so the total would be $269.95. There was nothing in the manual about these other filter changes so I decided to skip it for now.

As consumer advice editor, I'm going to be beefing up our "how to" section, so I decided to tackle this modest mechanical task myself and call it research. I was also inspired by reading Dan Edmunds' excellent post about performing a similar service on the 2008 Scion xB. I used to really enjoy working on cars so I cheerfully headed to the dealership for supplies. I purchased a Honda oil filter, four quarts of 5W-20 oil and a special wrench for removing the filter. Total after tax was $31.89 (oil from an auto parts store would have been much cheaper but I didn't want to make two stops).

The only tricky part was getting access to the filter and oil pan drain plug. The clearance is low and there wasn't room to simply silde under there. I had to jack up the car, put it on a jack stand and remove the filter and drain plug, then lower the car to make sure it drained properly. That was a hassle, but I had to rotate the tires too, so it wasn't wasted motion. I also did the inspections and checked all the fluids. The old oil I put into containers provided by the City of Long Beach to be picked up along with my recycling stuff.

I'm puzzled about whether this is the first or the second oil change. At 14,411 miles, that would be an awfully long time. But there were no records in the maintenance book or posts about an earlier oil change. I'll check further and report any findings.

It took an hour and a half to do all the work which doesn't break any records. And with the expensive dealership oil and the special wrench I didn't save a lot of money — this time. Next time around it will be faster and I'll trim the costs down even further. Still, the best part of it was actually working my own work on a car. There's precious little chance to do that these days.

Philip Reed, senior consumer advice editor @14,411 miles

Home Pump Cuts Pocketbook Pain

April 17, 2008

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.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor @ 15,147 miles.


May 07, 2008

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.

Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 16,026 miles

Fuel Economy Up, Costs Down

May 09, 2008

Hey, Hey! We Won't Pay! Home fuel unit has CNG cost down to $2.04 a gallon. After just over 16,000 miles hard plastic , intruding hand brake, pitifully poor acceleration and boring exterior notwithstanding the Civic GX is humming along quite nicely, and economically, thank you.

For sheer driving pleasure it's way down the queue, but as a daily commuter on Southern California's [insert colorful adjective of your choice here] freeways, it ranks way up at the top of my list of cars I want to keep using.

Except for two scheduled oil changes at 7,000 mile intervals, a recall to install a safety gasket and a round of tire adjustment when we discovered during's Earth Day tire pressure project that inflation was high by about 2 pounds, or 6 percent, per tire, we've had no problems, although one might be developing.

We'll be making a service appointment because several of us have noticed a very slight and intermittent shiver or shudder when the car is idling. It's unpredictable, but most assuredly there. Feels like it might be caused by a clogged fuel injector nozzle.

It's not so significant that we're thinking of an immediate check up, but we'll be asking the service guys at the dealership to look at it during our next scheduled oil change, in about 5,000 miles.

Aside from that, things couldn't be better, especially since the home fueling unit was installed in my garage. That has ended the daily detour to find a retail CNG station and has lowered the GX's fuel bills considerably.

Regular gasoline is selling for $3.839 a gallon in my part of Southern California and CNG at the admittedly pricey Clean Energy pump near the office is going for $2.849. But $2.036 per gallon is what fuel from the natural gas pump in the garage cost during the past month.

That's a 46.8 percent savings over the cost of fuel for a conventional gasoline-burning Civic LX and is 28.5 percent cheaper than fuel from the Clean Energy outlet.

The per gallon cost for the GX for April also is down considerably from $2.53 per gallon we computed for March, largely because the April bill from the Southern California Gas Co. included a discount the utility offers households that have a home CNG fueling unit.

It cut the average price of natural gas to $1.11 per therm (that's equal to 0.784 gallon-equivalent when the gas is compressed and pumped into the car via the Phill fueling unit.

Add the Phill's share of the monthly meter fee from the gas company (about $4.50 in April) and a few bucks for electricity to run the pump (based on our five-year averaging method it was $7.29 for April) and you'll get a total of $53.93 for the CNG equivalent of 26.496 gallons of fuel.

The per-gallon price will bounce around a bit each month because of minor adjustments based on total household usage of both natural gas and electricity, but I'm expecting it to stick close to the $2 per gallon mark and will let you know if it gets off that mark by more than a dime on either side.

Meantime, fuel economy continues creeping up, thanks in large part to the increased density of fill we're getting with the home fueling unit. (A denser fill means more energy per gallon, thus better mileage.)

Overall average since we put the Civic GX into our longterm fleet last June is now is 29.96 mpg, up from 29.38 mpg the last time we figured it 2,385 miles ago and a 5 percent, or 1.5 mpg improvement, from the 28.4 miles per gallon average we recorded over the first 5,234 miles we drove the car.

Better yet, in the month since we computed the first home fueling bill, the Civic GX has averaged 31.16 mpg.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor @ 16,171 miles.

A Different Kind of Fill-Up

May 27, 2008

Everytime I open the trunklet on the Civic GX, I bleed a little for Honda.

Gasoline prices are driving sales of this nifty compressed natural gas commuter car now, but for most of its life it has been relegated to the commercial and government fleet market because it has not been perceived as a very useful everyday vehicle for the consumer.

That's in large part because CNG isn't a fuel that's readily available in all states, making the Civic GX a car in which you wouldn't want to essay a cross-country trip.

But it's also because the trunk is so small, much of what had been a spacious cavity in the conventional Civic being occupied by the tanks for the GX's pressurized fuel.

Still, I've been driving it for quite a few thousand miles now and have found that for most daily uses you can think to put a car to, it does just fine.

When my wife and I go shopping on weekends – even, sometimes, to the local big box discounter where everything comes king-sized or larger – we find that the GX trunk, at 14 inches deep, 20 inches tall and 55 inches long, is more spacious than it looks.

We crammed a week's worth of groceries and sundries into the trunk this past weekend – eight bags, a case of water and a case of diet cola – and still could have jammed in something long and flat along the top, if we'd purchased something long and flat (a whole halibut maybe?).

And that doesn't even count the back seat, which remained empty this trip but on occasion has held things like a six-million pack of paper towels, a flat of poppies(the decorative kind) and a 50-pound bag of planting mix when the trunk was otherwise occupied.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor @ 16,977 miles.


June 09, 2008

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.

Philip Reed, senior consumer advice editor@ 17,702 miles

MPG Update

July 20, 2008

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.

Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 19,683 miles

Brakes Wear, Shifter Compromises Fuel Economy

November 21, 2008

The Civic GX's odo says it has traveled 25,611 miles, and the last posting about the car on this blog was at 19,683!

Apologies. It is hard to regularly find something new and exciting to write about when you drive the same car day after day. At least it is when the car is a 2007 Honda Civic GX. Barring a natural gas incident (the car, not the driver) , the GX is wonderful but unexciting basic transportation. Period.

This posting is occasioned by three things: The GX's first brake job, a mileage and fuel-cost update and a Honda transmission idiosyncrasy that we've discovered.

We got the brake job — $183.85 for front pads and rotor resurfacing, after we noticed a slight noise not grinding, but not right, either when braking hard at freeway speeds.

Turned out the rotors weren't warped, but were glazed and discolored from excessive heat - the result of all the braking we do in our 100-mile-plus round trip commute in rush-hour traffic.

The service advisor at our local Honda dealership told us we were actually doing pretty good: that the range for a first front-end brake job was 5,000 to 25,000 miles, with an awful lot of people coming it at under 15k. The composition of the Civic's brake pads, he said, can make 'em wear out pretty fast.

On the fuel economy front, we're still averaging around 33 miles per gallon-equivalent, not bad for a car that's EPA-rated at 28 mpg and is usually driven in the worst of all conditions for decent fuel economy - Southern California freeways during morning and evening rush hours.

It should be even higher.

One thing I should have written about a while ago but have been too embarrassed to tackle is my inability to drive the car in the proper gear.

I'm constantly finding myself roaring down the freeway in 3rd instead of in the far more fuel-efficient "drive," which gives you 4th and 5th gears to play with.

Actually, I'm told (by guys at Honda, no less) this can be a problem with many Hondas with automatic transmissions .

The console-mounted shifter is all the way forward in "Park" and as you pull it back through "Reverse" and "Neutral" you'd think the logical stopping point would be in "D."

But Honda's engineers, for reasons known only to them, designed the shifter mechanism so that it easily pulls right through the "drive" position and locks into "D3," which locks out 4th and 5th gears.

If you shift by feel, which I do all too often, you can easily end up winding it out in 3rd, which I do and which gulps fuel .

Fortunately, with a Phil natural gas pump in the garage, our fuel costs are well below market rates - even with gasoline and natural gas prices at the retail pumps down around the $2 per gallon mark now.

We've been averaging about $2.10 a gallon all along, even when retail pump prices were nearly $3.25 for natural gas and over $4 for gasoline.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor @ 25,611 miles

Cold Nights = More MPG

March 03, 2009

What a difference a change in the weather can make!

I've been watching the GX's fuel economy pretty closely the past few months (while studiously avoiding writing about it, to the chagrin of several editors around here!) and can now report with the authority of numbers that although the daily drive hasn't changed, fuel efficiency has improved markedly as nighttime temperatures have dropped.

It all goes back to nature of the Civic GX's natural gas fuel - its molecules expand when warm and contract when cold. The tank, which holds the equivalent of 8 gallons, will contain more natural gas, by weight, when the fuel is pumped on a cold day (or night, which is when we fill up) than on a warm one.

Anyhow, the GX averaged 35.77 miles a gallon over the last 2,719 miles, from Dec. 17 through the most recent fill-up on Feb. 26, a period when nighttime temperatures (we fill up overnight) regularly fell below 45-degrees Fahrenheit.

That's almost 5 percent better than the 34.07 mpg average we recorded for the previous 3,347 miles, between Sept. 30 and Dec 16, when nighttime temperatures in our area were in the high 50s and low 60s.

Continuing our backward march through time, the GX averaged 31.68 miles a gallon for the 11,256 miles before that - Feb. 28, 2007, through Sept. 29, 2008, a period of even warmer nighttime temps .

We're not going back any further because Feb. 28, '07, was when we started using the Phill home natural gas fuel pump, which delivers a denser fill-up than the retail pumps we'd been using since the GX came into the Edmunds Inside Line long-term fleet on June 29, 2007.

(If you are curious, our average for that initial period, covering 12,255 miles, was a flat 29 mpg and our average since, for 17,240 miles, has been 32.79 mpg).

And to reiterate, almost all of the driving, save for two weekend mini-vacation drives, has been on Southern Caliofrnia freeways and most of that during the morning and evening rush-hours. We do get to use the carpool lanes, however, so there's been a bit less fuel-wasting, stop-and-go driving than if we were out there in the scrum every day with the rest of the mob.

Oh, and for the whole time we've been using the home fueling system, we've been averaging under $2.25 a gallon-equivalent for our natural gas and the electricity to compress and pump it, even when regular gasoline was up over $4 a gallon.

For the past few months, with gasoline in the $2.10-$2.40 range here, our CNG fuel at home has run well under $2 a gallon.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Edmunds Green Car Advisor @ 29,479 miles

It Won't Be Rushed

April 06, 2009

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.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 30, 595 miles

30,000-mile service

April 14, 2009

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.

Labor: $320

Parts: $136.66

Tax: 12.02

Total Cost: $468.68

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 30,700 miles

An Inconvenient Truth

May 28, 2009

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.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 31,717 miles

Never Say Never

June 09, 2009

Argh! You guessed right with the Honda Civic GX.

But I did get you debating for a little while.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

20 Minutes and Still Not Full!

June 11, 2009

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.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 32,250 miles

Two-Speaker Stereo Revisited

June 25, 2009

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.

Does it?

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.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor,

Pros and Cons

June 28, 2009

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.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Almost Ready for Primetime

June 30, 2009

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'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.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 32,665 miles

Less Compromised Than a Prius, Sort Of

June 30, 2009

My last experience in our 2007 Honda Civic GX was mostly on the freeway. Aside from the fact that it feels like the whole car is holding its breath as it accelerates, the CNG-fueled, 1.8-liter inline-four provides adequate motivation for commuting — and with none of the odd sensations you get in a hybrid with blended gasoline-engine and electric power sources.

The GX also rides pretty much like any other (non-Si) Civic, though I think it would be better if we got rid of the low-rolling-resistance P195/65R15 89H tires — perhaps that will be soon given our long-termer's mileage. Still, freeway travel in a Civic GX feels more secure and relaxing than it does in a second-generation Prius or our long-term Smart Fortwo, either of which is liable to wander all over the road. I can see why people use the GX for high-mileage commuting in greater LA.

But if I owned our natural-gas Honda, I'd mostly use it to run errands within 10-15 miles of my home. Like most fuel misers, it's most pleasant during low-speed stop-and-go driving, even if it this doesn't give it the opportunity to operate at maximum efficiency.

As someone commented on Mark's entry, the lack of a current vendor for the Phill home refueling unit makes a Civic GX purchase far less desirable today than it was two years ago. (Honda's sale of Fuel Maker's assets to Fuel Systems Solutions is now final, and FSS says it will restart Phill production but hasn't yet as far as we know.)

I rent a 1940s-era apartment, though, so I couldn't ever have a Phill anyway. I do have the random luck to live in the Republic of Santa Monica within a half-mile of a natural gas refueling station. So owning a Honda Civic GX could conceivably work for me. But I think I'd rather just get a Fit.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 32,375 miles

Seating Position Also Feels Natural

June 30, 2009

Driving our long-term 2007 Honda Civic GX reminds me how much I like the interior of the current-generation Honda Civic. I've never had a problem with the stacked digital speedo/analog tach combo. And no matter which trim level you end up with, the seats are roomy, well-shaped and instantly comfortable — as they should be in a car that retailed for $24,590 before tax credits.

Even nicer is the seating position itself. The seat is mounted low, but the cowl is also low, so I get in and feel enthusiastic about the drive I'll take — even if the car's 1.8-liter engine (113 hp at 6,300 rpm, 109 lb-ft at 4,300 rpm) and five-speed automatic aren't the most enthusiastic team.

Standard telescope adjustment makes it easy to position the 3/4-scale steering wheel where I want it. Although this isn't the leather-wrapped, three-spoke version I'm used to (Civic Si, Civic Hybrid, Fit, Insight), this vinyl, two-spoke wheel still feels right in my hands.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

Open Thread

June 30, 2009

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.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

At $1.22 a Gallon, What's Not to Like?

July 01, 2009

It's been two months since I last drove our Honda Civic GX, and unlike most of my colleagues, I'm actually looking forward to getting back behind the wheel.

I've enjoyed the natural gas-fueled Civic ever since I started using it back in October of 2007 for most of my daily commuting between my home in Orange and Edmunds' offices in Santa Monica - not because it's a particularly exciting car to drive but because it is the ideal Southern California long-distance commuter car.

It comes with a single occupant car-pool lane sticker, which cuts about an hour a day from my 100 mile-plus round trip; it's saved hundreds of dollars on fuel and, with a Phill home fueling unit in my garage (thank you, boss!) I don't have to worry about where my next tank will come from.

And consider this: Fuel consumption has averaged 32.8 mpg over the last 19,000 miles, and the average cost of fillingl its tank from the home natural gas pump is a mere $1.22 per gasoline gallon-equivalent. That's for both the natural gas and the electricity to compress and pump it.

So even though it's sluggish off the line and pretty basic in the amenities department (power windows and locks, AC, base Honda stereo and that's it), it's been nice to have around - sort of like a longtime acquaintance who's always reliable but doesn't demand much attention from day to day.

I've not been driving it because of a pinched nerve in my back that's made sitting in the Civic's low-slung seat somewhere between awfully uncomfortable and incredibly painful for the 90 minutes I spend on the freeway most mornings and evenings on days I drive into Santa Monica.

What's even more painful though is the time it takes to commute on some of the nation's most crowded freeways without being able to legally jump into the carpool lane - and, of course, the amount of cash I have to fork over to fill the SUV I've been driving because its chair-height seats are easier on the back during a long commute.<

But I've managed recently to get the discomfort level down to a steadily bearable ache - you gotta love those steroids - so I'm climbing back aboard the Civic GX.

In the SUV I've been paying $3.13 a gallon for its required premium fuel and averaging 20.3 mpg on the commute. That's about $17.25 per round trip.

Compare that to the Civic GX's $4.01 per round trip and its easy to see why I'm happy to get back behind its wheel, and to heck with a little back pain.

Warren is absolutely correct in his recent post - having a Phill does make a huge difference. And Erin's right about the temporary unavailability of the Phill (although there are other - albeit larger and more expensive - natural gas pumps on the market).

But I don't agree with Mark's comment that the GX is only for people with a Phill and that for the rest it's a "pricey novelty" at best.

It certainly wouldn't work in Ohio, or Alabama, but there are places were natural gas fuel is readily available: the LA basin is one - there are 5 retail natural gas stations along the main freeway I use when commuting to the office instead of working at home (that's one every 11 miles on average).

There are 79 public stations within a 240-miles radius of the office - the approximate range of the GX, which packs 7.5 usable gallons-equivalent of CNG in its pressurized tank.

A GX can easily make the 385-mile trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco without pump anxiety (although going farther north or heading east toward the Sierra Nevada mountains wouldn't be a very good idea unless youve got a thing for tow trucks).

And in Oklahoma and Utah natural gas is not only abundant, it's incredibly cheap, often less that 75-cents a gallon-equivalent at retail pumps!

If you want to check natural gas availability for yourself, the federal Energy Department's got a nifty alternative fuel finder that'll not only show you where the stations are, it will map a trip for you so you can quickly see whether it can be done in a natural gas vehicle.

A number of people have been asking how we figure our fuel consumption and pricing with an unmetered unit like the Phill.

For the long version I'll refer you to the explanation posted shortly after we started using the home unit early last year.

The short version is that we use educated guesswork, checked by the occasion retail pump fill-up to see how close our estimates (a system worked out with Honda engineers) jibe with the metered tallies at retail pumps certified by the Department of Weights and Measures.

So far, we've been within a few hundredths of a gallon-equivalent, which makes us pretty secure in the fuel economy figures we're posting for the Civic GX.

So yes, it's a great commuter car; no, its not gonna serve many people as their primary vehicle; yes, the Phill is expensive and, right now, impossible to buy new; and no, the GX doesn't make sense everywhere and for everyone.

But it is incredibly convenient if you have a long commute and a handy fuel supply; it is helping Honda gather data that could someday lead to a purpose-built natural gas car; it does free you from the tyranny of escalating gasoline prices, and if (or when) we run short of petroleum, it could keep you rolling right past the long lines and/or rioters at the corner gasoline station.

It also is greener than any other internal combustion vehicle (save the few hydrogen-burning BMW test cars) in the country.

And it makes my commute so much easier !

John O'Dell, Senior Editor

The Two Extremes

July 01, 2009

Say what you want about the Honda Civic, but there's no denying the vehicle's range. You want a cheap A to B sedan? No problem. An inexpensive, fun, little coupe? Got it. A Hybrid? Sure. One that runs on Natural Gas? Okay. A hot rod? Yup.

Basically there's a Civic for everybody and everything. And so I thought it would be fun to compare the track test numbers of the Civic's two extremes, our long-term Civic GX, which drinks (or is it inhales?) compressed natural gas and the Civic Si, which is known for eating American musclecars.

Both are front-wheel drive and powered by four-cylinders and both cost about $25,000, but the GX is powered by a 113 hp 1.8-liter engine while the Si is packing a 197 hp 2.0-liter. Oh, and the GX uses a 5-speed automatic transmission. The Si of course get six-speed manual.

Honda Civic GX

0-60 mph: 12.6 sec.

1/4 mile: 18.9 sec. @ 72.9 mph

60-0 mph Braking: 135 ft.

700 ft. Slalom: 62.8 mph

200 ft. Skid Pad: .75g

Honda Civic Si

0-60 mph: 7.0 sec.

0-60 with 1-ft Rollout: 6.7 sec.

1/4 Mile (sec @ mph): 15.3 sec @ 93.0 mph

60 - 0 mph Braking: 123 ft.

700 ft. Slalom: 68.8 mph

200 ft. Skid Pad: .89g

No surprise here of course. The Si performs better. I just thought it would be fun to see the performance range of Honda's beloved Civic. I know which one I'd rather have.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

An Afternoon at the Pump

July 02, 2009

Yep, that's me chilling out while the Civic GX gets filled up with clean natural gas at our local station. With only a quarter tank remaining, it took 24 minutes before I finally gave up and stopped the pump. Before explaining that, lets go back a bit.

Since I hadn't filled the GX in about a year, I had no idea what the code was assigned to my credit card from the filling station. Without that code you need to watch a little movie that explains how to use the pump. Not a bad idea since explosion is bad, but it would be nice if I could hear the video without putting my head up to it, thus making it impossible to see the screen. The photo at right wasn't staged. I then properly secured the pump handle to the Civic, lifted the required handle and waited for the pump to do its thing. And by thing I mean make a scary noise before sending gas into the pump. Again, photo below not staged.

While a gasoline pump provides a constant stream of fuel, natural gas differs in its flow. Sometimes its quick, but most of the time it's glacial, with the thousandths of a gallon increment moving about every half second. As I sat with my issue of Classic Cars, I kept peering over at the gallon equivalent read-out moving ever-so slowly. After 24 minutes, I noticed the Percentage Filled read-out. It read 100. Then I read underneath it that I should have shut off the pump when it hit 100 — there is no automatic shut off like a gasoline pump. The damn video didn't say anything about that. Who knows how long it had been on 100, but the gallon equivalent read out was still slowly going north. I stopped the pump, didn't explode, packed up my chair, magazine and Dr. Pepper.

Turning on the car, the fuel gauge slowly added little digital Chiclets. It finally rested on one short of completely full — after 5.423 gallons and 24 minutes. This has something to do with pump pressures optimized for the tank, yada yada.

Now, yesterday I mentioned how buying a Phill unit is a difficult prospect these days. Yet even if I was parked in John O'Dell's house with his Phill unit, I wouldn't have got the job done any faster. Far from it. According to Mr. O'Dell, it would take about 8 to 10 hours to fill up on an average day, starting with more fuel in the tank than I had. To Phill it completely, it would take 20 hours. Awesome.

I'm not sure what any of this says about the viability of the natural gas Honda Civic, or the Phill, or the Pickens plan in general, but I know I wouldn't like living with the GX as my only car. At least I'd get in some good reading, though.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 32,665 miles

Photos by Mark Takahashi

Phill is Back!

July 10, 2009

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.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor

Keeps on Ticking, But Phill Won't

July 28, 2009

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.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor

No Rug Burn Here

October 02, 2009

Hopped in the long-term Civic GX this morning and noticed that the floormat was scooched up over the base of the pedal.

I wouldn't normally have noticed - it wasn't much of a scooch - but I'd just written a piece about that massive Toyota safety campaign and pending recall for scrunched-up floor mats that were jamming gas pedals, so the subject was on my mind.

The Honda's mat has a fairly elaborate securing system under the front edge of the driver's seat, and best I can figure it wasn't fastened after being cleaned at the car wash.

Fortunately, the Civic GX's pedal is floor mounted, so there's no gap between pedal and floor for the mat to slip into and cause a jam - the problem, apparently, with those 3.8 million Toyotas and Lexuses with pedals that hang down from the firewall and don't touch the floor.

Way to go, Honda!

An yeah, I drove all the way to the office - 54 miles on the freeway - before unscooching the mat and resecuring it.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor @ 34,377 miles

The Clean, Green Routine

October 21, 2009

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.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 34,960 miles

Which Do You Prefer?

November 05, 2009

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.

Mini E


  • 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'.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 35,301 miles (2007 Honda Civic GX)

Phill Error Hobbles Home Refills

December 14, 2009

I've got blowdown failure.

It's not fatal, but it does gets a little frustrating. It's been taking an extra 30 minutes or so to get the job done every night.

Seems like each time I hook the 2007 Civic GX up to the Phill home natural gas fueling system, a red error light pops on before I've walked the 20 feet to the door leading from garage to house.

The first two green lights on the fueling indicator display also light up when I go back and push and hold the Phill's "stop" button, as instructed in the service manual I got when the Phill was installed nearly two years and 2,000 operating hours ago.

The handy dandy Phill error decoder pages in the manual tell me that the problem is "blowdown failure," an apparent obstruction somewhere in the Phill's nozzle or fuel filler hose - or maybe the car's fuel filler inlet.

It's the first problem we've had with the fueling unit since it was installed on Feb. 28, 2008.

I've tried cleaning the visible parts with rubbing alcohol and a blast of compressed air, but so far no good. The light comes on and the fueling stops every time I pull into the garage and plug in with the Phill.

On the plus side, everything seems to work okay after I turn the thing off, wait about half an hour and restart- I've so far not been able to refill the GX's tank.

But I know it's just a mater of time until it all stops functioning.

You may recall that the manufacturer of the Phill went belly up earlier this year and the company that bought the rights is redesigning the system and has relocated manufacturing to its BRC Gas Equipment subsidiary in Italy.

We've not heard when the Phill's replacement will be offered for sale in the U.S., but the new owner, Fuel Systems Solutions, did provide for ongoing service of the existing few hundred home units.

We called today about ours, and left a message with our assigned regional repair provider. We're now waiting for a call back.

Meantime, we're also trying to chase down the new manufacturer to see what's up with that replacement CNG home fueling station.

There's a bill in Congress that would provide subsidies to automakers to build more natural gas-fueled cars and trucks and big tax credits to consumers who buy them, so the demand for CNG and LNG vehicles may be heading up.

Be a real shame if there was no home fueler available if that happens.

Stay tuned for more as we try to find out what's happening here with the Phill (now sold in Europe as the BRC FuelMaker Phill) and wend our way through the mysteries of getting repairs for our no-longer manufactured unit..

John O'Dell, Senior Editor, Green Car Advisor

Easily Upset

January 07, 2010

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.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 36,922 miles

New Pump Alert

January 19, 2010

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.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 36,980 miles

Why I Picked It Over the Camaro

January 20, 2010

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.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 37,015 miles

What's the Code, Kenneth?

January 21, 2010

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:

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.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor