The Civic e:HEV is a curious confection: an EV - but not an EV. There's certainly an engine - a 2.0-litre normally aspirated petrol unit - but its main role is to generate energy for a little 1.05kWh lithium-ion battery that drives two electric motors. Unlike Toyota or Hyundai full-Hybrids, this one has no gearbox between the powertrain and the wheels. Instead, the e:HEV system itself shifts seamlessly between 'EV', 'Hybrid' and 'Engine' drive phases as you move along. 'EV' drive propels you from start off and at low speeds and 'Hybrid' drive cuts in when extra acceleration is called for. Only at steady high speeds does 'Engine' drive kick in, but that happens only briefly because as you approach top speed and the required drive energy becomes higher again, the system switches back into the 'Hybrid' phase to re-unleash the full output of the electric motors.
Honda promotes this as a 'driver's Hybrid', based around the fact that a lot of the stuff you can't see was engineered around the high performance needs of the new 'FL5'-series generation Civic Type R hot hatch, a 315hp manual gearbox shopping rocket which is determinedly un-electrified and isn't our focus here. This Hybrid Civic is of course a very different kettle of fish but it's still decently rapid, making 62mph in around eight seconds if you engage 'Sport', the most urgent of the three provided drive modes. You might want to as well because unlike other Honda e:HEV models we've tried, this one actually responds to your right foot, instead of merely considering your request with infuriating slowness, as is the case with brand's Hybrid SUVs. Thanks to a stiffer chassis, a wider rear track and revisions to Honda's 'Agile Handling Assist' torque vectoring system, it goes round corners with surprising agility and we've appreciated Honda's re-tuning efforts with the more feelsome steering rack.