Having written about these cars before (here, here, etc.), you’d think I would have been psychologically prepared to encounter an honest-to-goodness, CNG-powered Honda Civic GX. I wasn’t, and immediately opened the car up and started pulling knobs and levers.
“Hi,” said the charming Honda marketing rep, noting my press badge. “Can I answer any questions about the new Civic for you?”
I’d been ignored by most of the factory reps all morning, so the warm welcome was a bit … I think “disconcerting” is the proper term. See, most press guys (and gals!) show up at these auto shows dressed like actual human beings – which is to say: business slacks, jacket, dress shirt, shiny shoes. This is because 1. this is their “real job”, or because 2. this is not their “real job”, and they are trying to weasel an impromptu job interview out of one some factory bigwigs in an effort to make this their “real job”. At that moment I looked down at my Freddy Krueger sweater, jeans, and USAF basic-training issue boots (with hot pink laces!) and muttered something eloquent, like “Yeah, what’s up with the GX?”
“This is a 2011 model Civic,” he said, still chipper. “The new 2012 Civic concept is over there (points over there).”
“I know,” I said, “but I’m not interested in that one. I want to know about the CNG car. They just started selling these nationwide, didn’t they?”
At that moment, he looked at me like I had 9 heads. I could only imagine the Honda rep’s thought-process, seemingly grinding to a halt as this person in front of him, oddly dressed and clearly disinterested in the new Honda hotness, insisted on asking about an “old” oddball Civic squirreled away in a corner of Honda’s lavish display. He kept looking at my chest, though, which seemed odd … until I followed his gaze.
Right there, on my ID badge, were the magic words: IMPORTANT MEDIA.
Ding ding ding! We have a winner! Suddenly drunk with a sense of power, I told him “I don’t write for a normal car blog. I’m here asking questions about the environment and technology. I don’t care about that stuff.” I waved dismissively at Honda’s 2012 Civics (which quite nice, but still).
At that, I got the full scoop. The Civic GX’s had been available for a while, but very few dealers were properly trained to sell and service them. The new home filling stations were available now, however, and could be “rolled into the financing” on the cars.
Personally, I was very surprised how utterly invisible the Civic GX was. Except for some easily removable stickers on the rear, the car itself looked just like any other Civic – which is to say: not bad. There was no visual clue to tell the people around me that I was driving one of the cleanest-burning vehicles on the planet. Perfect.
As we walked around exploring the car, the Honda rep did encourage us (!?) to take some snapshots of the trunk, pointing out that the Civic GX car did ask you to make some sacrifices …
… which are all there. In the trunk.
In order to offer similar cruising range when compared to the standard Civic (240-260 miles, per Honda’s rep) the CNG tank had to be larger than the standard gasoline tank. In addition to displacing the spare tire and jack, the tank also cut trunk space by almost two-thirds, and rendered the fold-down seats virtually useless.
All things considered, however, this is still an ideal commuter or passenger car – especially if your cargo-hauling duties are limited to grocery runs and briefcases. As for me, I’d do this as a primary car (possibly sooner than later) but I’d like to keep some pick-up owning friends handy, just in case.
Source: 2011 Chicago Auto Show.