I drove a used '07 Civic Hybrid yesterday, and the brakes felt weak compared to other cars I've driven (2006 Lexus IS250, 2016 WV Jetta, Chevy Volt, Chevy Spark, even an '03 Corolla if I remember correctly).

I haven't driven hybrids though, and I've read that regenerative braking should feel differently. But shouldn't braking feel more effective on hybrids? This Civic felt like I had to drive extra prudently, to the point where it might be impossible to brake in time if, say, a kid jumped in front of a car, while one of the other cars I've mentioned would "grip the pavement" and brake effectively.

The owner said there was nothing wrong with the brakes, they replaced the tires 3 months ago, and that's just how hybrids brake. Is that accurate?

The car has 140k miles on it. It's important to me that the car brakes well - maybe hybrids aren't for me?

UPDATE: To be more specific, I drove a new Chevy Volt today, and if I pushed the brakes hard (but not slam), it would brake from 20mph to (almost) a complete stop within one car length, on dry pavement. That felt safe and comfortable.

  • Your driving experience is very subjective, did you slam on the brakes to see if they truly worked? All cars have to meet certain standards, do you have any objective measurements?
    – GdD
    Sep 12, 2018 at 7:55
  • Isn't the Chevy Volt a hybrid? Sep 12, 2018 at 10:36
  • I wonder why this question is proposed to be closed. Poor braking can be related to maintenance and there may be mechanical problem in the car.
    – juhist
    Sep 12, 2018 at 13:31

2 Answers 2


Brake "feel" has more to do with the specification of the brake servo than anything taking place at the calipers / tyres.

I've driven and owned several cars which didn't even have a brake servo. Their brakes "felt" awful but were perfectly effective at stopping the car.

I personally find many modern cars are over-servo'd for my own personal preference. The lightest of touches on the pedal sends the nose of the vehicle and the speedometer needle diving. This is not because anything is wrong, it's just how the vehicle is setup.

Many years ago my grandfather used to borrow my fathers car and everytime this took place my father would complain the my grandfathers Datsun (now Nissan) was far too "light" and my grandfather would tell my father that he thought the clutch on his Volkswagen was about to fail because it, along with the other driving controls, was so "heavy".

You'll find that the more cars you drive, particularly if you get into much older vehicles, will all feel significantly different. Yet travel a few hundred miles and you'll feel right at home.

This is of course assuming the car did actually stop when you stamped on the middle pedal.

  • 1
    As regards the servo - I talked to a guy who raced Hillman Imps and he was saying he saved weight by not having a servo on the brakes unlike the other competitors. They said that it was the only way they could get enough braking... He said that when the corner is coming up at 100mph, the adrenaline was enough with his size 11 boot to get more than enough braking...
    – Solar Mike
    Sep 12, 2018 at 14:38

The answer is no, a properly functioning hybrid shouldn't brake less effectively. The reason is that hybrids have power-assisted brakes like regular cars. The only difference is that in the very initial braking portion, hybrids use exclusively regenerative braking.

Note hybrids have a separate power assist vacuum pump because the engine may be turned off for long amounts of time. If the vacuum pump is broken, you may have poor braking. Then the brake pedal will be hard to press for a given amount of travel.

I have had 2011 Toyota Yaris and 2016 Toyota RAV4 hybrid and the braking in both is equivalently efficient, although RAV4 is a hybrid and a lot heavier than the Yaris non-hybrid.

My suggestion would be to take another hybrid car for a test drive and compare the braking efficiency.

The braking feel (not efficiency), however, will be slightly different in the very initial regenerative braking range. You'll get used to it in a very short amount of time.

Can you formulate your problem a bit better? What exactly is happening? Does the brake pedal require huge amounts of force to press a given amount? That would indicate broken vacuum pump. Or does the brake pedal just go all the way down to the floor with poor braking?

If you have a non-hybrid car somewhere, test pressing the brake pedal multiple times with car stationary, after turning the engine off. The first time it's easy to press for a given amount, but then it gets successively harder because the vacuum assist goes away. In the end, the pedal is very hard to press. Is that what you're feeling with the Honda Civic Hybrid? If so, it's definitely a vacuum leak or a broken vacuum pump.

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