REVIEW: 2022 Honda Civic e:HEV RS previewed in Malaysia – first impressions of the upcoming hybrid

Given its aggressive push on the e:HEV front in recent times, it’s no surprise to find Honda Malaysia (HM) planning to introduce yet another hybrid model, with the announcement that the local line-up for the 11th-gen Honda Civic will soon include an e:HEV variant.

The Civic e:HEV hybrid will arrive as a RS-badged version in Malaysia, and when it does, will sit on top of the range. While no pricing details have been revealed, the order books have officially opened for the car. As a gauge, the petrol RS is currently priced at RM150,700, and in Thailand, the hybrid RS commands a 25% premium over the petrol, so we can expect it to be costlier – the question is, by how much.

Ahead of its full introduction, the company held a preview of the hybrid FE in Sepang. As is usually the case with HM previews, we’re only able to present the exterior of the car, with visuals of the interior being saved for the launch proper.

REVIEW: 2022 Honda Civic e:HEV RS previewed in Malaysia – first impressions of the upcoming hybrid

Exterior-wise, the RS styling treatment for the car means that it looks very much like the petrol RS at a quick glance, with an 18-inch twin-style five-spoke wheel (or 10-spoke, in dual tone, if you will) providing the main visual cue to differentiate it from the petrol version.

Look closer and you’ll see smaller, but distinguishable, elements, like the blue accents on the Honda logos as well as an e:HEV emblem at the rear to identify the variant. The hybrid also gets dressed up with more chrome bits, with the front grille, headlight inner bezel and window line getting the sparkly treatment. It also comes with a single tailpipe finisher.

Under all that skin, the Civic e:HEV features the most powerful version of Honda’s Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) system, with the setup in the car consisting of an electric motor rated at 184 PS (181 hp or 135 kW) and 315 Nm, driving the front wheels.

Like the Accord Hybrid, it’s paired with a 2.0 litre naturally-aspirated Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine, which provides the juice for the lithium-ion battery. However, unlike the Accord, the petrol mill on this one is direct-injected. On its own, the unit offers 143 PS (141 hp) at 6,000 rpm and 189 Nm of torque, output numbers that are marginally higher than that of the Thailand-spec version.

Also on, a new 72-cell battery that forms part of the smaller and lighter Intelligent Power Unit and an electric continuously variable transmission (E-CVT). By and large, the petrol engine acts as a generator, with the i-MMD system operating pretty much like an EV, with the electric motor doing most of the work. However, at higher speeds, the engine can provide direct drive – via a lock-up clutch – for better efficiency.

Very little technical details were presented during the preview, but the Thailand-spec version – which went on sale in June – offers enough info of what to expect from a general viewpoint, away from kit specification.

In terms of dimensions, the hybrid is virtually identical to the petrol version, measuring in at 4,678 mm long, 1,802 mm wide and 1,415 mm tall, with a 2,734 mm-long wheelbase (2,733 mm for the petrol). It does however ride a bit higher off the ground at 128 mm (126 mm, petrol), and the associated hybrid components means that it is heavier, on the Thailand-spec cars by around 100 kg.

Inside, there’s a 9.0-inch touchscreen Advanced Display Audio infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay support and Remote Engine Start, among other things, and the RS specification in Thailand adds a black interior, dual-zone climate control and 60:40 split-folding rear seats as well as a Qi wireless charger, so these should also be on here. What is confirmed is that the Malaysian Civic e:HEV will feature a Honda Smart Key Card, which the current Civic line-up Civic (E, V and RS) doesn’t get.

The local car will also come with Honda Sensing as standard, with the suite of driver assistance items consisting of autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, auto high beam, adaptive cruise control and front vehicle departure alert.

The preview session for the car at Sepang also contained a short drive programme, and so there was a chance to sample the car briefly on track. Granted, it’s a bit at odds of what the idea of a hybrid is all about, given that the brief with that is about fuel economy, but the idea was to show that the hybrid is no slouch when it comes to performance, and an even better bat than the Turbo when it comes to shove.

Even with half a track and there being a need to reduce pace for a slalom in the middle of the layout, the hybrid made short work of the petrol – which feels brisk enough – under full acceleration, both from a rolling start at 60 km/h from the pit lane exit and also through a drag race from standstill to 100 km/h. On the latter, it aced the Turbo by more than a car length over the three runs.

The course also contained another exercise to show off the car’s speed progress up the range from a dead stop, this time going uphill from standstill right after Turn 9. Compared to the petrol, it was easier to carry more speed by Turn 11, lending to a pacier – but quieter – attack into the Turn 12 and 13 esses.

REVIEW: 2022 Honda Civic e:HEV RS previewed in Malaysia – first impressions of the upcoming hybrid

Here, the hybrid retains all the composure of the petrol in terms of body control, with the added weight imperceptible. Aided by the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubbers, there’s plenty of grip, and the car places accurately to steering input, no less exacting than the Turbo, and at a higher speed at that.

While the session showed how capable the hybrid is in terms of speed off the line, the expectation is that almost all who will own one eventually won’t be gunning it along in such fashion, and that efficiency will really be the drawing point. A road test in the future will show how well it measures up in this regard. For now, it does reveal one thing – when it arrives, the Civic e:HEV will be the fastest 11th-gen Civic this side of town, until the new Type R appears.

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