For those keeping count, the all-new 2012 Honda Civic is the ninth generation of Civics to grace America’s roads. The car has been a top seller in its class since being introduced in 1973 and was often the benchmark competitors used to chart their own progress.
That was then. Today, the competition in the compact sedan market has tightened considerably. As a result, the overwhelming advantage that many people saw when comparing past Civics to the competition may have diminished.
In many ways, the 2012 Civic marks incremental improvements over prior generations.
“Ninety percent of the improvements have been with technology inside the car. [Styling] is not dramatically different,” says Jason Behan, Internet sales manager at Liberty Honda in Hartford. “It’s very driver friendly.”
This new Civic is offered as a four-door sedan or two-door coupe in seven trim levels: DX, LX, EX, EX-L, Si, HF and Hybrid. All but the sporty Si and fuel-sipping Hybrid feature a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine. A five-speed manual transmission is standard equipment on DX and LX vehicles. A five-speed automatic is an option in these two trim lines and standard equipment on EX, EX-L and HF Civics.
The sporty Si has a more powerful 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and comes only with a six-speed manual transmission. Ignoring the Hybrid, the HF is the fuel economy leader of the current Civic lineup. The HF comes only with the automatic transmission, which produces better fuel economy scores in EPA testing than the manual.
The Civic has gotten a slow start with sales held back by supply problems that resulted from the March earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan. “Supplies are getting back to normal,” Behan said. “We have a steady supply, but we are still not back to where we were last year.” Behan adds that so far, they have gotten only one Hybrid and one Si.
In the Civic EX that Honda loaned us, the 1.8-liter engine delivered a smooth performance. Acceleration is more than adequate for family use, with a zero-to-60 time of 9.8 seconds. The five-speed automatic transmission was impressive for its shift quality and timing. Behan notes that the EX and the EX-L, with its leather upholstery, are the most popular trim levels.
The ride is firm and well controlled. The ride can become jittery, even choppy, over some surfaces, but it wasn’t harsh. Noise levels are slightly higher than in some competitors, but not terrible overall.
Civics have long been noted as driver’s cars, with handling to make any trip fun. The new Civic is stable on the highway and secure in brisk cornering. The all-disc brake system on the EX (DX and LX models have disc brakes in front and drum brakes in the rear) provided secure stops. Steering feel was a little disappointing, however.
The interior is roomy, with good head room front and rear, even in EX and Si models with their standard sunroof. Rear seat leg room will also suffice for taller adults.
There is a letdown, however with the interior materials Honda used. The hard plastic on the bi-level instrument and door panels has been given a crinkle-like finish, which improves appearances a bit, but the overall impression is of an interior that was trimmed by the cost accounting department.
The new Civic is roomy and economical and it feels exceptionally solid and secure on the road. The drivetrain also gets top marks. “I tell people to get out and drive one,” Behan says. “People who do, don’t leave disappointed.”
Engines (all 4-cylinder): 1.8 1.8 HF 1.5 Hybrid 2.4 Si
HP 140 140 110 201
Torque 128 128 127 170
EPA Manual 28/36 22/31
EPA Automatic 28/39 29/41 44/44
Starts at: $15,605