Today’s brand-new Honda Civic is an amazing car to buy if you are looking for a non-hybrid, well-made, high-MPG automobile.
All my friends who have one love theirs, my brother drives one, and I once owned a 1994 Honda Civic that lasted 8 years and 150,000 miles before it started having a single problem. (Now that I think about it, I never should have sold it!) I was thinking about it the other day when car shopping and remembering how well it did on gas – that car got well over 30 MPG on the highway, which is more than most cars get today…and it was 16 years ago! However, that doesn’t mean it’s even better today. With the fuel efficiency standard stuck at 27.5 MPG from 1985 until 2012 (now that the Obama Administration has made some changes), the Honda Civic of 2010 actually gets less miles per gallon than one built in 1987!
1987 Honda Civic
The 1987 Honda Civic HF got an estimated 57 MPG (51 under today’s guidelines) – more than even the best hybrid averages today. A friend of mine had one and it was a great car. So why can’t we accomplish these same numbers today? Americans want bigger cars, and manufacturers have struggled to find a comfortable balance between what “we” want to drive and amazing fuel efficiency. When the smallest car that most people are willing to drive is a 4 door Civic or Prius with all of today’s necessary safety features, and no mandates to increase efficiency, it’s no wonder that gas mileage has suffered. From power everything to 12 airbags to enough trunk to haul around 10 bags of Cheetos from Costco, Americans want bigger cars…and they are paying at the pump for the priviledge.
The 1987 Civic was quick, stylish, and made a great commuter car – which is what most people use their cars for anyway. How often do you travel with more passengers than just yourself? A small, two-seater car like this would be great today, with gas prices approaching $4.00 per gallon in places like California. Granted, back in 1987 not everyone and their grandmother drove a hulking SUV to the grocery store, but still…we could do with smaller cars that get better mileage, even without having the advantage of hybrid technology. That is until they can get the plug-in, solar-powered hybrid cars available at affordable prices that have been the dream of environmentalists everywhere.
2010 Honda Civic
The 2010 base Honda Civic gets an estimated 25MPG city/36MPG highway – a far cry from the base Civic of 23 years ago. Granted, the cars are safer (they have to be, with all the traffic and trucks on the road), have more bells and whistles, and can carry more people – but the gas mileage has basically been cut in half to get it to that point. I am sure today’s Honda Civics are incredibly well-made and will last forever, but with gas mileage averaging about 30 MPG, it’s not much better than my AWD Subaru Forester, which is a shame. If you are going to buy a small, economical car you should be getting amazing gas mileage, but compared to the Hondas of the past, you are no longer getting it. And to buy the hybrid version will cost you an extra $8500 or so…which is a huge jump in price for someone looking for an economical car.
So sure, our cars are safer, heavier, bigger, they have power windows/doors/brakes/steering/trunks, and they are probably better made and might last a little longer. But with all those improvements, our efficiency has been cut in half. And with today’s oil & gas prices, that is a big drop to deal with! Imagine if your car was getting double it’s current mileage and you didn’t have to own a hybrid to get it to that level…that would be both a big savings for your wallet and a big cut in our oil consumption.
It is time for both us the consumers and the manufacturers to start deciding on what is really important in today’s automobiles and start implementing just those features, while continuing to work on hybrid/solar/battery technology. There has to be a way to be able to own and use the features of an automobile that we truly need (cause let’s be honest – people will not give them up until the last drop of oil is gone) while working on new technology to get us to the next level.
We know we can get double the mileage we are getting currently; it is just going to take some determination and possibly some sacrifice to get us back to those levels.
David Quilty is publisher of The Good Human, a site that encourages people to be better humans through working to clean up the environment, being active in political issues and being more aware of one’s life and surroundings..