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Say hi to Sparkle, my Civic Hybrid

Say hi to SparkleI’ve been on this car-purchasing odyssey, made wild and crazy because it’s the summer when people will do irrational things to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles, including paying way above reasonable street value.

I changed tactics to a new car late in the game, when I could not find a used Honda that met my specifications through dealers, Carmax, or anything else, only to find that I had now entered the long weird season where dealers are depleting existing stock in a year when they could be turning out small cars like waffles at Cracker Barrel on Sunday morning.

So do not ask how I ended up (at a reasonable price) with a gently-used Civic Hybrid in a pretty sparkly silver (touched with just a hint of aqua blue) with navy cloth upholstery and oodles of time and miles left in its warranty (extended by Honda Certified).

(The “Earth” magnet is one I found in Provincetown in June, with no other plan for it than I was tickled by the sentiment.)

Even Internet dealers, including a very nice one whose mom reads this blog, expressed surprise I had found a hybrid. I suspect I could scalp this car on Peachtree Avenue (just so you know: every other street in Atlanta is called Peachtree Avenue) and with the proceeds buy a bookmobile or a warship. Though after getting over 50 mpg on the drive north (not bad for someone who thinks 65mph is the legal minimum on most highways), I don’t really want a bookmobile or warship. It’s much nicer to have gas in the car left over from the drive.

When I test-drove this car I was puzzled by how much I liked it. I finally realized it’s because it feels like what it is — a Honda –and I’ve long enjoyed driving my 15-year-old Civic (still in the family and doing quite well at 170k, thank you very much). Things were in the right places and did the right things in the right way.

Some things were new to me, though not new to anyone who has bought a car in the last few years. Two cupholders, with cunning prongs to ensure the cup fit just so! A seat I could raise up (and immediately did)! TWO accessory outlets! An MP3 plug! A whoop-whoop (as we call the fob’s homing sound, from Sandy’s dear departed Corolla)! Places to tuck things! A sliding armrest!

But overall, I now understand why people buy the same car; it is for the same reason they sometimes marry the same spouse, several times over. Life is full of surprises. I could see getting used to a lovely green Prius, with its varied amusements and so forth, plus the joy of knowing I was driving an Obvious Hybrid, and there was a mad moment when I almost over-spent and bought one — even though it didn’t have the accessories I wanted and the local dealers are charging a hefty pile of cash above MSRP, which ain’t no peanuts to begin with, so it felt gluttonous and foolhardy and yet strangely underwhelming.

There are even some things the Honda does unequivocably better than the Prius — remember I’ve rented and driven Priuses for very long (but pleasant) trips.

The Civic Hybrid mpg gage is both understated yet positioned in line of sight on the dash, not off to the right on a glitzily distracting panel; after a while, I realized the gage was right above the battery-charge indicator, so I could eye both at the same time. (I’m sure this has been written about to a fare-thee-well, but you don’t drive a hybrid — it drives you, by managing your feet through the consumption data.) You can also see out the back of the Civic Hybrid, and it doesn’t whipsaw when a truck drives by. Plus however solid a ride is the Prius, nothing hugs the road with such eagle-taloned determination as a Honda.

But those are mere quibbles. More to the point, there’s something comforting about not having to relearn my car, for heaven’s sake, in a life where since I last bought a car, I’ve lived in four states and six houses.

Maybe that is why I kept looking for a Honda, and maybe that I got my hands on a hybrid is the best of both worlds. My car is my touchstone to the past, the continuity through homes I no longer live in, rosebushes I gave away, friends I buried, opportunities that will never come around again. Yet my new-to-me car is also, in its own small way, with its modest fuel habits and its alternative fuel technologies, a steppingstone to the future.

One fellow at the dealership made a big case that though it’s a hybrid the Civic “looks like a car,” which made me smile, because I think the intimation was as opposed to that crazy-looking Prius those latte-drinkin’ Obama-votin’ Democrats drive. Beyond the obvious point that all cars look like cars — because they are in fact cars — the bottom line is that I, a latte-drinking, Obama-voting Democrat, am happy to have a sparkly almost-new horseless carriage with an excellent pedigree and well-tended life history, a vehicle that sips delicately of finite resources, has well-engineered cupholders, and feels, at once, both warmly familiar and brightly new.

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11 Comments

  1. Ruth Ellen wrote:

    Mazl Tov!

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 12:37 am | Permalink
  2. Andrea wrote:

    Congratulations on finally finding it. :)

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 10:25 am | Permalink
  3. Paula wrote:

    Congratulations. I am on my third Accord, as DH will not fit in a smaller Honda. I have told him if I didn’t have to haul him around, I would be getting better mileage, LOL

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 11:07 am | Permalink
  4. Dinah PHillips wrote:

    Persistence pays off! It sounds perfect!!

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 11:47 am | Permalink
  5. Robin wrote:

    Karen-
    Congratulations on the new car! Now I have to say that ever since your potential nod toward the Mini, I’ve been noticing them more. It helps that a brilliant yellow one moved in almost next door, but I agree that the vanilla color makes it a bit more attractive… I could see you driving it (until your note on your experience doing so), but I have to agree with you on the Honda Civic. I own a gently used one (now looking less gently “used” because of crammed parking in university parking lots) and would consider a hybrid the next time around…Or whatever’s available in another 10 years because this Honda will last forever.

    And your dealer’s comments about the look hit home – at least with my partner. If we ever get a hybrid, it’ll be a Civic because she just can’t stand the look of a Prius – just doesn’t “look like a good car” to her. Cheers for Hondas!

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
  6. Amy Ranger wrote:

    That’s great news, Karen. I’m happy for you. It’s nice to be in a car that is both familiar and sips gas. Enjoy the ride!

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 9:36 pm | Permalink
  7. Dave Whisenant wrote:

    Welcome to the club! My wife and I have loved our Civic Hybrid for the past 8 months. It’s a great ride, easy on the eyes, and just sips gas. It’s not a Prius, but I think it’s better. (BTW, ours is “Magnetic Pearl.”)

    Hope to see you on the streets of Tally! Oh, and having one now allows you to drive solo in the HOV lanes in Atlanta.

    Dave….From your FPOW…..

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 10:39 pm | Permalink
  8. Yay! So glad you found this car. What a steal! For what it’s worth, I approve! (and am a little jealous) Glad I have all those amenities in my new Civic…they are awesome! Safe driving!

    Thursday, August 14, 2008 at 10:23 pm | Permalink
  9. Hey congratulations! I had no idea it was so difficult getting a good car. But I can relate to the comfort-famaliarity thing – just got my first car, a Yaris, after renting that model 3 times in a row over the past year…

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
  10. Curious,

    Since you were fortunate enough to acquire a hybrid, I wonder if you could comment on your likes and dislikes to date since taking delivery. I am in the market as well, and since I am not crazy about the looks of the Toyota, nor thrilled with the lower than expected MPG users are seeing, I thought I would research Honda’s owner experiences with economy.

    Thanks, Mike
    NEW T-1 SUPER FAST WIFI $19.95

    Sunday, August 24, 2008 at 11:59 am | Permalink
  11. Mike, I’m very pleased with the highway mileage, which has been about 50 mpg, and satisfied with city mileage, which has been about 30 mpg. I think the Prius can actually best the Honda’s mileage, going toe-to-toe, but the Honda is clearly less expensive to purchase. My guess is that’s a wash. It’s more of a question of the car you prefer to drive. Many people purchase the hybrid due to their personal commitment to alternative fuel technologies. That’s not something you can figure out with a calculator. I will say that the way I drive right now — very little around town, followed by very long commutes — has made the Civic Hybrid an outstanding choice.

    Both cars are fun to drive, though the Honda feels more road-aware — which could be just that I’ve spent more time driving Hondas than Priuses (though I have rented Priuses three times, each time for long drives).

    It really depends on what your objective is. I think the Prius is attractive, but so is the Civic Hybrid.

    Monday, August 25, 2008 at 5:32 am | Permalink

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