A new Honda Civic debuts for 2012, packing a fresh face and more fuel efficiency, but in some ways is a step back from its bestselling predecessors.
Available in sedan and coupe body styles, the Civic features plenty of choice for a diverse group of consumers. Four engine and transmission choices available: the volume models receive a 1.8-liter 140 horsepower engine mated to a five-speed automatic or manual transmission. A high-efficiency HF model is also available, as a fuel-efficient stepping stone between the sedan and the Civic Hybrid, which features 1.3-liter engine and 20-hp electric motor paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission. Now available in all 50 states, the Civic GX is powered by natural gas and gets a big powertrain update. Lastly, the sporty Si gets a high-revving 2.0-liter VTEC engine (that takes premium gas) and Honda's excellent six-speed manual.
The Civic remains a competent family compact with a large trunk and great legroom. But for 2012, it's outclassed by competitors from Ford and Hyundai. It doesn't drive as well, its interior doesn't feel as high quality, and its base price has risen. Still, for budget-minded buyers who are banking on Honda's justly-deserved reputation for quality, the Civic is a sensible, familiar choice.
Bodystyles: Sedan, coupe
Engines: 1.3-liter inline-4 plus electric motor (hybrid),
1.8-liter inline-4, 2.0-liter inline-4
Transmissions: six-speed manual, five-speed manual, five-speed automatic, CVT
Models: DX, LX, EX, EX-L, Hybrid, Natural Gas, Si
The Civic is completely redesigned inside and out for 2012. It gains a more mature look, larger head- and taillights, and a fresh strip of chrome on the grille. Inside, the interior has been redesigned, but not for the better: it loses some of the soft-touch materials, although the dash design retains the split-level approach introduced with the previous-generation Civic.
The Civic's overall shape and dimensions remain relatively similar to that of the outgoing model. And given the Civic's ubiquity, it should be instantly recognizable as such. A shinier grille and new lights are the most noticeable changes, while the front bumper and sides get subtle curves in the sheet metal.
Here, the Civic falls behind its competition. The formerly futuristic interior gets harsh plastics and a boxier-looking design. The Civic retains its dual-level LCD display, and blue lights on the side of the speedometer turn green when the Civic is driven more economically. Higher-spec models come with satellite navigation, satellite radio, traffic updates, steering wheel controls, heated seats and mirrors, and voice recognition. Bluetooth and a trip computer screen are standard across all models.
Performance & Handling
The Civic's peppy performance has been dulled as the competition catches up. Steering is light, controlling a wide turning radius. Base Civics remain a benchmark for tidy driving dynamics without the normal tradeoffs to ride quality, albeit with some body roll in lane-change maneuvers. Enthusiasts will exult in the slick shifting, free revving 197-horsepower Si model, while commuters will enjoy the creature comforts of a fully loaded EX-L, or the Civic Hybrid that averages 44 mpg.
Dual front, front-side, and side curtain airbags come standard on the Civic, as do active head restraints for driver and front passenger. All Civic models come with anti-lock brakes, stability control, and a tire pressure monitoring system. The Civic is engineered with Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering structure, to maximize strength in the passenger area in case of a crash.
EPA Fuel Economy
DX, LX, EX, EX-L: 28 mpg city/36-39 mpg highway
HF: 29 mpg city/41 mpg highway
Hybrid: 44 mpg city/44 mpg highway
GX NGV: 24 mpg city/36 mpg highway
Si: 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway
- Large rear seat and trunk
- Easy ergonomics
- Increased fuel economy
You Won't Like
- Cheapened interior
- Lackluster driving dynamics
- Less value for money
Progress, but just barely
If You Like This Vehicle
- Chevrolet Cruze
- Hyundai Elantra
- Ford Focus
- Kia Forte
- Toyota Corolla
- Volkswagen Jetta