Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Thursday, February 02, 2006


So, have had the hybrid for just over a week now. How is it settling in? Slowly is my answer. We purchased the car so quickly we really didn't get a chance to learn about it. Which is fine - I'm liking it more and more every day, but the first week was ... anxious. (granted, this is typical for me anytime we make a decision that hasn't been agonizingly gone over beforehand.)

You want a hybrid? Rent one for a few days or week to figure out what it is about. Better yet, rent two or more models. We decided on the Civic over the Prius just based on the website pictures of the interior. Crazy? Probably. Fortunately David did also take time to go drive a Prius just before making the commitment on the Civic, and that sealed the deal for us. It is just plain weird. Too weird. Like, you don't have to have the key. Doors are keyless (no surprise), but the ignition is a push button... that works as long as the key is in proximity of the car. AND, when you push the button, the car may take 30 seconds or so before it decides to start. And then most of the console display is actually in the middle of the dash, between the driver and passenger. Yeah - too weird for us.

The immediately apparent weirdness about the Civic Hybrid is the auto-stop feature. Once warmed up, when you come to a stop light (or stop in traffic, or waiting to go through the drive-through) the engine shuts off. This can be disconcerting - I was expecting it so it didn't throw me but never the less. When you release the brake peddle, the engine starts automatically and quickly. Quickly enough unless you are eager to jump right through that green light. But then as people say on the forum, if you want to do jackrabbit starts, don't bother with a hybrid as those driving habits just defeat any mileage advantage of the hybrid anyways.

Never the less, this feature was giving me no small source of frustration. Took me days to figure out why. Finally I realized that I typically don't keep my foot on the pedal. I brake enough to slow the car to near stop, then take my foot off the pedel entirely. If the car is still rolling too much, I just re-press the brake. This method totally defeats the auto-stop. You need to keep your foot on the pedal to keep the engine off. I'm still trying to learn how to brake without causing the engine to restart itself as well as getting the car to continue rolling forward to take up extra space between me and the car in front. I have to say - I managed one of those this morning. Yea!!

The second feature, of course, is the mileage. Never before have I been so aware of how much I rev the car, how much I coast. Cause there are cute little displays telling you when the electric motor is working - assisting the engine, or when it's charging - recapturing spent energy back into the batteries. Charging - i.e. coasting - is good. I know this because the charging lights are green where as the assisting lights are a very carefully neutral white.

I think I also fell into the trap of thinking that once you buy a hybrid I'd never have to buy gas again! Hardly ever at least. Well, that's just not true. You drive 4-500 miles a week, and yeah, that gas gauge does go down. We've filled up once, so at the end of this tank I should be able to manually check my mileage and compare it against that which the car reports. I've heard the car computation has bug in it that is just silly (averages only over 64 miles at a time then restarts?) I'll have to report on that after a few fill ups.

Another tip - checkout the online forums and find out what other people are experiencing. I did so last week and heard about the mileage computation bug. Then on Monday night on our way to the concert I noticed that the auto-stop feature (which was still giving me fits) decided to not kick in at all. I was going insane - was I somehow modulating my brake-use totally to the point of defeating it altogether? Seriously, I was concentrating very hard on just braking normally, even allowing the car to jerk to a stop (gently), and it just would not shut off. This continued through my trip to work Tuesday, so I logged into the forum to see if anyone knew anything about this.

Voila! Someone else with a 06 HCH had not only had this trouble, but had been to the dealer with it several times for diagnostic work, to not much avail. Finally somehow, I have no idea how, they figured out that the keyless entry feature was messing with the auto-stop. Seriously?! I replied? On the way home Tuesday I used my key to get into the car... and auto-stop started working again. THIS is crazy.



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