Green Car Journal logo

Look Back: Honda’s Civic Natural Gas

by Ron CoganJuly 16, 2022
Clean-running natural gas vehicles played an important part in the alternative fuels arena before electric cars captured all the attention, especially at Honda.
Green Car Time Machine.

An array of automakers have championed alternative fuels over the years. One of the most notable examples was Honda with its Civic GX, later renamed the Honda Civic Natural Gas, the cleanest-running internal combustion vehicle on the market. Debuting 24 years ago, the compressed natural gas-powered Civic was with us through the 2015 model year and then disappeared from the lineup. GCJ editors had the opportunity to test drive multiple generations of the natural gas Civic over the years including living with one daily over the course of a one-year test. This report, focused on the eighth generation Civic GX that GCJ customized with a smart graphics design and Honda-available accessory parts, is drawn from our archives and appears just as it ran in our Summer 2005 issue.

Excerpted from Summer 2005 issue: Honda’s Civic has proved a formidable force on the market for many years, providing drivers a popular sedan or coupe at an attractive price. This has only improved in recent times as the model has evolved. The latest iteration, all-new for the 2006 model year, offers the most stylish, safest, and most comfortable Civic in the model’s history.

2006 Honda Civic natural gas vehicle driving on road.

Civic Natural Gas Built in Ohio

As is customary in the auto industry, the alternative fuel version of this latest Civic was destined to emerge many months after the standard model. We’ve waited for the natural gas-powered 2006 Civic GX patiently, and now it is available to fleets nationwide and, for the first time, to consumers in California and New York. We were able to get some seat time recently and were not disappointed.

GCJ editors have many thousands of miles behind the wheel of Civic GX sedans since the model’s introduction as an assembly-line produced fleet vehicle in 1998. Built at Honda’s manufacturing facility in East Liberty, Ohio, the Civic GX today goes for $24,590, qualifying as the top dog in the Civic lineup. That's about $2,000 above the price of a Civic Hybrid and some $5,900 more than an EX sedan.

Hood detail of Honda Civic natural gas sedan.

Fill Up with CNG at Home

Is it worth the difference? It depends on your perspective, but keep this in mind: Natural gas goes for an average of 30 percent less than gasoline at public fueling stations, substantial savings on a gallon of gasoline equivalency basis.

It gets even better for those who opt for Honda’s home refueling appliance, called Phill, that’s made by the automaker’s strategic Canadian partner, FuelMaker. At favorable home natural gas rates, Honda Civics typically drive around at about $1.25 to $1.50 per gallon, offering the cheapest per-mile cost of any production vehicle. Plus, a federal tax credit of $4,000 is available to offset the car’s higher purchase price, with up to $1,000 in incentives also available for the purchase and installation of Phill.

Honda Civic natural gas engine.

Driving on CNG Nets 39 MPG

The Civic GX drives like its conventionally-fueled counterparts, with just a slight decrease in horsepower due to its use of natural gas fuel. Realistically, a driver just won’t tell the difference. Fuel economy offered by this 1.8-liter, 113 horsepower 4-cylinder engine is about the same as its gasoline counterparts at an EPA estimated 28 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. The Civic GX remains the cleanest internal combustion engine vehicle, anywhere.

As you may have guessed, the Civic GX shown here is not exactly the model you’ll see on the showroom floor, but you can duplicate most of the look. It uses readily-available Honda Performance Accessory items including a rear lip spoiler, full aerodynamic body kit, 17 x 6.5” alloy wheels, and 215/45ZR-17 tires. The graphics are one-off custom, so you’re on your own here.

Honda Civic natural gas vehicle on the highway.