The shift towards hybrid cars in Dhaka is gradual but persistent. It's still not completely mainstream, but the focus on hybrid cars in the brand new cars segment shows that the dealerships are pushing for a cleaner, more efficient alternative to CNG conversion in the country, offering up high-quality hybrid cars that are also more environment friendly.
Shift featured Saif Al-din Abdullah's 2010 Civic soon after it started being published, and when his dad's company went looking for a new company car, it had to be a Honda.
The brand new Civic is equipped with a 1.5 liter four cylinder petrol engine combined with Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system, wrapped in an all new body with a redesigned interior. Combined efforts produce only 110 horsepower, but naturally torque figures are high enough for city driving: 127 lb-ft. The powertrain is almost silent at low speeds, and the combination of petrol and electrical charge result in astonishingly smooth and effortless acceleration characteristics. Braking regenerates the electrical motors, and on Dhaka's streets, there's very little chance of the battery being drained completely since the brakes need to be applied every two feet on the jam-packed roads.
When we ask Saif about the differences in the drive between his 2010 non-hybrid Civic (which he still owns) and the new one, Saif nods his head appreciatively, saying the new one is more refined and smooth by comparison, and the added fuel efficiency benefits make it noticeably better.
One issue he has faced so far is getting used to the kick of the electric motors when they're engaged suddenly. The surge of electric power during frequent stop-starts in heavy traffic is unnerving at times, especially when the car in front is just a few paces away. Eventually it's easy to adapt to, gauging the distance in front and braking/accelerating accordingly gets easier with more practice.
The design is a lot more upmarket, and the influence of the executive segment Accord on the design is clearly evident. The front end is longer and the rear end nicely slopes up to meet the C-pillars, and the boot-lid makes it look a bit like the Ford Fiesta sedan. Rakes and surface changes make the rear bumper look less bulky, and the LED effect taillights are a very nice touch. The windows are tall and stretches to the front, giving an airy feel to the interior, with lots of light reaching in.
The interior itself has a ton of space in the front and rear for tall-legged passengers. The instrument cluster is driver focused and the heads up display shows the vital information you'd need, from amount of charge left to the mileage you've achieved so far. The boxier, edgier design is a bit of a step down from the funky dash layouts of the previous generation, but the 2013 Civic is still a nice place to sit in.
Are the fuel efficiency gains worth it? Saif says the increase in MPG is significant, the car comes with a ton of standard safety, and entertainment features, so overall, the new Civic is well worth it, providing great value for money, priced at 38.5 lakh taka.
As far as a company car goes, though, the Civic makes a brilliant option, the quiet little Honda having all the necessary up-market touches but at a relatively low cost. Best bit, the reduction in fuel bills will save the company a huge amount of money.
2014 Honda Civic Hybrid
Engine: 1.5 litre i-VTEC SOHC I4 (90 horsepower and 97 pound-feet of torque)
Battery: Lithium-ion battery pack
Mileage figures: 53 mpg (imperial units, manufacturer's quote)
Transmission: CVT gearbox
Curb weight: 1,294–1,304 kg
Words: Shaer Reaz
Photos: Rahin Sadman Islam