The CNG Honda Civic GX has returned to the Chicago Auto Show this year. Named the 2012 Green Car of the Year by the Green Car Journal, the unassuming sedan looks just like any other 2012 Civic. The only indication that this is not a car running on standard gasoline is the CNG badge on the back, proudly but quietly claiming that this car is one of the cleanest-burning in the world.

CNG vehicles (NGVs) are still somewhat of a niche, mostly due to natural gas stations being a little hard to find (the US Department of Energy does have a locator application to find alternative fuel stations), but natural gas burns very cleanly. Just about the only way to be greener with your vehicle is to get something purely electric and then power it with solar panels alone.

In addition to being much cleaner-burning than gasoline-powered cars – the Civic GX has an AT-PZEV (Advanced Technology Partial Zero-Emission Vehicle) rating as certified by CARB – the mileage is great. The Civic GX has a 31mpg EPA rating (combined – 27mpg city and 38mpg highway, gasoline-gallon equivalent). The actual volume of fuel burned, since it’s natural gas, is a little higher, and that brings us to the one sacrifice that an NGV driver will be making.

The 2012 CNG Civic has not solved the problem of the 2011 CNG Civic, which is namely this:

There’s very little trunk space, since the fuel tank has to be quite a bit larger than a standard Civic. On the other hand, low emissions plus good mileage plus eligibility for energy efficiency incentives more than make up for a lack of trunk space in my book. The Civic GX is available in California, New York, Utah, or Oklahoma.

Questions or opinions? Let us know in the comments below the gallery.

Source | Images: 2012 Chicago Auto Show.