2012 Honda Civic EX Sedan HD Video Review
For years Honda Civic has kept the competition awake at night. Its closest competitor in volume has always been Corolla but really, the two have stood apart. Toyota built reliable transportation, Honda added that elusive element called soul.
Civic’s combination of practicality, reliability and a touch of sport has drawn everyone from college students to families to the tuner crowd. All that and the name is a palindrome.
Now comes the 2012 model. In case you missed it Consumer Reports has broken its long-standing love affair with the Civic stating the LX model scores too low to be recommended. Ouch. This is like Popeye shunning spinach. Says CR “Stopping distances are long. The steering is lightly weighted and comes up short on feedback. Body lean appears early in the corners. The ride is marred by frequent short pitches. And road noise still remains an annoying companion.”
Honda responds “In a broad sense, we disagree with Consumer Reports’ findings. Without question, the small sedan segment is more competitive than ever. In virtually every way, the completely redesigned 2012 Civic is a step forward. The new Civic excels in areas that matter to small-car customers, including fuel efficiency, safety, and reliability.”
Honda had dropped off a Civic EX with Navigation press car a few days before the CR announcement. I generally don’t read other reviews until after I’ve photographed and written my own. That’s remains the case with this one. I purposely didn’t look at Consumer Reports comments until my opinion was solidified.
CR bought a lower end LX model that retails for $19,425 with destination which is built to a price point with rear drum brakes. My tester is one level shy of top-shelf at $22,775. Only the EX-L with Navi is higher.
Enough of CR. Time to concentrate on Civic like any other review.
It’s tough to choose a Civic these days with five different models to select. There’s the standard version I’m driving with three trim levels, a fuel efficient model called HF and another that runs on compressed natural gas that will be available in most states this fall. There’s also a hybrid, and the performance Si. You’ll also need to choose between coupe or sedan variants.
Let me just say the launch ads that stressed the choice of models with a zombie, lumberjack and “wild thing” were at best bizarre. Kids, it’s why you shouldn’t do drugs.
Generation nine looks similar to the outgoing car, retaining the rakish silhouette which was very daring for its day. For 2012 the details within the overall shape have become more conservative. Window trim is no longer completely flush, there are pieces on the B and C pillar that jut out just a bit, surprising in this nit-picky age of keeping things as aerodynamic as possible.
Ultimately Civic remains the best looking Honda to my eye. I’m encouraged by the “concept” CR-V photo that was recently posted.
Moving inside, the cabin keeps the polarizing two-tiered instrument panel design, adding a nice color display to the upper level. It shows warnings, radio station info and phone activity to name a few functions and visually broadens the upper hood piece. The dash is made of hard plastic with a texture that looks like rice paper. The instrument panel is less amorphic now, I prefer the new shape though the cabin appears somewhat more spartan looking overall.
EX with Navigation gets iPod and phone integration (including Bluetooth audio streaming) a decent sound system with XM tuner and (duh) a voice activated navigation system that gets traffic updates. There’s also a sunroof.
The woven floor material and headliner have a budget look about them. Do you stare at the floor and the ceiling much? I do, that’s my job. Putting less expensive materials where they aren’t as noticed is part of the black art of keeping a car affordable. Those with kids would be advised to go with darker fabric than the “stone” colored seats in my tester.
As expected in a modern car there’s electronic stability and traction control on board (required by Uncle Sam now). Honda makes it easy to max out fuel economy. Drive hard and bars that flank the digital speedometer turn from green to blue, signaling you could drive more efficiently Mr. Speed Racer.
Unlike Focus and Elantra, keyless ignition is not offered on Civic. You’ll also have to migrate to other brands if you want a car with auto climate control, remote start or heated back seats.
Speaking of, the rear passenger space is comfortable for two full-sized adults or three skinny ones. There’s a good amount of foot and leg room, storage in the doors, and a folding center armrest. No power port in the rear and just one seatback pocket.
We Make It Simple
More than just an old Honda ad slogan, Civic EX only comes with one powertrain. The transmission is a five-speed automatic with no manual shift mode. For those keeping score, Cruze, Elantra and Focus get six gears. It’s hooked up to a very clean and smooth 1.8-liter 140 horse four-cylinder. EPA rates this setup at 28 city, 39 highway. The HF model adds 1 to 2 MPG largely by way of aerodynamic tweaks and low rolling-resistance tires.
An “econ” button on the dash helps drivers to eek out a few extra miles per tank. It softens throttle response, remaps the transmission shift points, affects AC operation, and allows the cruise control to be less draconian about holding speed when climbing hills before it downshifts. This mode makes Civic noticeably more sluggish. I’ve turned it off.
Acceleration is about par for the course in this class. 0-60 runs happen in the low nine-second range. Honda, historically known for allowing more road noise through says there’s less of it now, though Civic doesn’t seem as quiet as Chevy Cruise.
New Driving Dynamic
For 2012, Civic’s ride quality gets tuned for the masses with suspension dialed toward comfort. That’s great when cruising but the revered touch of athleticism is now gone from this car. There’s more body roll in corners and the steering is light. Want a sportier dynamic? Go directly to the 201 horsepower Si model.
Anti-lock brakes are discs all around on EX. Pedal modulation is good, stopping distances are a bit longer than some of the others in class. Edmunds Inside Line says they are prone to fade with repeated hard stops.
For average sized owners, Civic’s visibility is terrific. Smaller people positioned close to the wheel could have their left-side vision blocked by the windshield pillar. It’s thinner than the outgoing car’s and you have to be pretty petite for that to happen. Civic is not alone here, it’s something that’s more common as cars become more aerodynamic. Just ask my 5’1” wife who’s looking for a new car.
In the unfortunate event of an accident the ACE body structure has proven itself in IIHS and NHTSA crash tests. Civic comes with the expected six airbags.
My How You Have Grown
Civic isn’t much bigger this time around but in case you haven’t noticed it’s no longer the tiny car it once was. It’s about the same size as an Accord from a number of generations back. That helps cargo capacity.
Some mid-sized sedans hold only six packs of Kirkland brand bath tissue, Civic gobbles up seven and can carry more with the split folding rear seats.
So the 2012 Civic is roomy, fuel efficient, safe and most likely very reliable. For a new model though it’s no more compelling than the outgoing one and in driving dynamics slips a notch for enthusiasts. Because Cruze, Focus and Elantra are substantially improved from their predecessors they give Civic real competition, something it has never really had.
Back To Consumer Reports
Include CR in your decision but like any information source treat them as a guide not a bible. Look at multiple reviews, opinions vary. Cars.com for example does recommend Civic. Even CR says “Not all of the news is bad. Fuel economy is very impressive, despite the Civic’s seemingly low-tech powertrain. There’s decent rear seat room, too.”
The automobile industry is a crazy business these days folks. Many of the charges leveled at Civic apply to the newest Volkswagen Jetta, another car that didn’t move the needle much with its redesign. The result? VW has never sold more of them. For Honda, that can’t be determined until their supply chain gets back to normal. Let’s check back in a year, shall we?
I’ll close with my three favorite tips- Test drive, test drive, test drive. You’re spending over 20 grand. Take a day or two to experience all the vehicles in the segment you’re buying, even the ones you might dismiss at first. A car is a personal choice, the smallest details can make a difference to an individual. Make sure the one that ends up in your driveway is best for you.
FULL GALLERY BELOW. ALL STILL PHOTOS PROVIDED BY HONDA.