One of the frustrating things about running our Honda Civic Hybrid as a long-term test car is that nothing much happens. The only thing I've had to attend to in six months is the windscreen washer reservoir. You can't squeeze much entertainment out of that.

I've driven it for about 7,000 miles and there isn't anything that's gone wrong, fallen off or failed in any way. It's comfortable and refined about town, though the suspension does have a slightly stiff-legged feel because the car is fairly heavy, laden as it is with all those batteries to help its fuel economy and emissions performance.

On the motorway, things can be a little frenetic and noisy because the petrol engine is small and has to work quite hard at those speeds, and because the constantly variable automatic transmission is pretty whiny. Still, that's not too much of a price to pay for being a friend of the earth. However, how much of a friend of the earth have I been?

I've only ever coaxed about 40mpg out of it. Now that's relatively better than if it was equipped with a conventional petrol or diesel engine, but maybe not by very much, and maybe not at all.

So when it comes to the Honda Civic Hybrid, the boring bits are the best - the usual blend of Honda reliability, ease of use and lightness of control. The supposedly exciting new technology in the car - integrated electric motor helping the engine along, clever computers to control the flow of power in and out of the batteries - is the more disappointing aspect of the car. It looks contemporary, especially the dashboard, but it is the car's traditional virtues that make it attractive - to me at any rate. Its being a four-door sedan reinforces that conventional appeal.

The Honda is rare, much less well known than its glamorous hybrid rival the Toyota Prius, a favourite with Hollywood stars. But in our real world, the Civic is almost as green and economical as the Prius. It's also cheaper than the Prius and, while the Prius is a hatchback, its luggage space is actually quite shallow, while the Honda's boot is commendably deep. The batteries are tucked between rear seat bench and the boot, and that arrangement seems to work well.

The one alarming thing about this Honda can be found in the handbook. Usually car makers are so paranoid about litigation that they put all sorts of nonsense in the handbook that can be either safely assumed or ignored. Stuff like "Warning: leaving your car unattended on a hill, in neutral and without the parking brake engaged can lead to serious damage to your vehicle." Or, "Caution; Do not attempt to drink the transmission oil." However, the Honda Civic Hybrid contains this injunction: "Notice: If this vehicle is left unused for over one month the service life of the nickel metal hydride battery will be reduced and the battery may be permanently damaged."

I just thought I would mention this if you were thinking about buying one and were, say, in the merchant navy or liable to be spending much time detained at Her Majesty's pleasure. It seems a strange frailty in what has been an outstandingly tough car.

motoring@independent.co.uk

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