TOKYO -- The remodeled Honda Civic, due in showrooms this fall, has a more efficient hybrid powertrain than the current model.
The electric motor saves gasoline by driving the wheels alone at low speeds -- a first for Honda hybrids. Toyota Motor Corp.'s hybrids and the Ford Escape already work this way.
Honda Motor Co. says the Civic hybrid will burn at least 5 percent less gasoline than the current version.
The current Civic hybrid with a five-speed manual transmission has an EPA rating of 46 mpg in the city and 51 mpg on the highway. Hybrids use a gasoline engine and one or more electric motors to power the wheels.
At low speeds, the current Civic's hybrid powertrain uses both the electric motor and gasoline engine.
The new system also raises total power output by about 20 percent, making it comparable to a 1.8-liter engine. That was made possible partly by using an electric motor with high-performance magnets and high-density coils.
Honda's hybrid sales trail Toyota's. For the first six months of this year, U.S. sales of the Civic hybrid fell 9.9 percent from a year ago, to 12,631. The Accord hybrid, launched last December, sold 7,939 during the same period.
U.S. Prius sales more than doubled in the first half of 2005 to 53,308, from 21,783 in the year-ago period.
You may e-mail Yuzo Yamaguchi at