Honda Civic Hybrid: Battery unreliable, Consumer Reports says

High Gear Media

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Automaker Honda used to be the darling of Consumer Reports, with its models perpetually scoring better than average in CR testing.

The 2012 Honda Civic dampened the publication’s enthusiasm for the Honda brand; it was the first Honda Civic we can recall that wasn’t recommended by CR, thanks largely to a redesign rushed to market to cut costs.

Now comes word from Consumer Reports that earlier Honda Civic Hybrid models, previously deemed reliable, may suffer from premature high-voltage battery pack failures.

As Autoguide explains, the April issue of Consumer Reports contains a look at hybrid vehicle reliability. The earlier Honda Civic Hybrids, particularly the 2009 model, don’t measure up well against the competition.

Over a 12-month survey period, nearly 20 percent of 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid owners required a battery replacement, while the replacement rate on 2003, 2004 and 2010 Civic Hybrid models exceeded 10 percent.

For owners outside of warranty, the cost of replacing the battery that feeds the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system can range from $2,000 to $4,000. That's a substantial expense for a non-luxury vehicle that’s less than a decade old.

Though Honda has not issued an official statement on the matter, a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) published in late 2012 extends the warranty on the IMA drive battery.

Cars that were previously covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles are now covered for 11 years or 137,000 miles, while cars originally sold with an eight-year, 80,000-mile warranty are now covered for nine years or 96,000 miles.

Customers who’ve already replaced the drive batteries are also extended a warranty, though only for three years or 36,000 miles.

Honda claims that a software update (for 2006-08 Civic Hybrid models) helped to extend IMA battery life, and the automaker promises it will “continue to provide the most updated technology to our customers as it becomes available.”

That’s little solace to the owners who’ve had to replace IMA batteries, especially outside of the new and extended warranty coverage.
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