The 2012 Civic. The same but different
||2012 Honda Civic EX-L
||1.8L-4 (140 horsepower)
|Price as tested
The EX-L comes lavishly equipped. Standard features include an automatic transmission, leather
upholstery, a sunroof, a navigation system and a power driver's seat.
Released in the spring of 2011, the 2012 Civic is the ninth generation of the model.
Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Mazda 3, Nissan Sentra and the
While the silhouette is familiar, all body panels are new. The styling is busier than before
The 2012 Civic's 1.8L four is virtually unchanged from the engine that powered the previous
generation of Honda's best seller. While it may lack the direct injection of rivals like
the Ford Focus or the turbocharger of the Chevrolet Cruze, the Civic's basic four
delivers ample power in a linear fashion, and unless pushed right to its limits, does so
smoothly and quietly. The five-speed automatic transmission tells a similar story. It may lack
the lack the extra gear and manumatic shifter many rivals boast about, however, with smooth
upshifts and eager, but not too eager, downshifts, the operation of the Civic's automatic reflects
how careful development can easily trump more impressive specifications. The transmission is
also geared to facilitate very relaxed highway cruising (2000 rpm at 100 km/h). Honda eliminated
the engine-driven hydraulic power steering pump, which reduces fuel consumption, by adopting
electric power steering for the new Civic. While the steering is nicely weighted and affords good
directional stability at cruising speeds, it feels numb, lacking feedback about what is going on
under the tires.
Although it exhibits some lean in tight corners, the Civic is an agile machine that maintains its
composure even when encountering big, mid-corner bumps. This handling prowess is not at
the expense of ride, which exhibits great resilience at all times, and swallows major bumps
effortlessly. The Civic's equilibrium is unaffected by a full load of passengers. Road noise, long
a complaint about Hondas, is excessive and omnipresent in the new Civic. With good pedal feel
and no lost motion, the Civic's powerful brakes are reassuring.
The Civic's low beltline affords good outward visibility despite the raked-back windshield.
Honda replaced the triangular window placed in front of the door opening that was a
feature on the last Civic with a longer door window which gives drivers a better view to
the sides than before. The higher trunk has reduced visibility when reversing.
Conventional Civics now have an Econ button previously reserved for the hybrid variant.
Pushing the button alters performance parameters with a view to improving fuel economy.
In Econ mode, the car performs faultlessly, but you would need to operate two Civics under
the same conditions in a controlled test to determine whether using the Econ mode saves
Strong air conditioning. The Civic EX-L's audio is unimpressive for a top-of-the-range
car. Mediocre audio quality on lower trim levels.
There is much to praise in the new Civic with regards to cabin space and comfort. There
is good legroom (though seat travel is limited for very tall drivers), front and rear, and
the large, deeply-padded seats are most welcoming indeed. Passengers riding in the
middle of the rear seat can rest their feet comfortably on the totally flat floor. In spite of the
low roofline, headroom is ample, even on sunroof-equipped cars.
The dashboard, which continues on with the dual level theme explored in the last
Civic, is less worthy of praise. The large tachometer resides at the centre of the
instrument cluster just below the driver's line of sight. The digital speedometer inhabits
a central location in a brow that hovers above the tachometer. The speedometer is
flanked by a bar graph fuel economy readout on one side, and a bar graph
fuel level indicator on the other. To the right of the fuel indicator is a digital readout for
audio functions. The layout looks attractive enough at night, but some drivers found
the digital readouts wash out in direct sunlight. The audio and climate look like they were
adapted to fit predetermined holes rather than being integrated design elements of the
dashboard. The climate controls work well enough, but the audio controls are more
complex than necessary.
Another disappointment with the new Civic is its unattractive cabin materials. The upper
dash and door panels are clad with a plastic intended to resemble high-quality handmade paper.
While the pattern itself is interesting, the concept is undermined when rendered in shiny
plastic. The plastics that make up the audio and climate control surfaces only accentuate
the cut and paste nature of their design. The attractive leather upholstery in the EX-L model
only serves to highlight the cost-cutting suffered by the rest of the cabin. The rough, moulded
headliner in the Civic compares poorly with the attractive knit fabric finish used by many
For a car of its size, the Civic has a roomy, regularly-shaped trunk. The rear seats fold down to
accommodate longer items, but the elliptical opening between the trunk and the cabin restricts
what can be carried.
Honda retained the eccentric two-level instrumentation. Digital gauges are hard to read
in direct sunlight. Controls and materials reflect cost cutting
Capacious trunk for a compact sedan
Rear seats lay almost flat when folded. Oddly-shaped pass-through limits cargo versatility
The new Civic is a very good car. In fact, it recently earned first place honours in an APA
four car test which also included the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. While
it wasn't a standout in any area, it was deemed to be the best car of the quartet overall for its
intended purpose, to comfortably transport a family of four with a minimum of fuss.
Some have commented that the exterior redesign was too timid. It may not be the quantum
leap forward its predecessor was, but it is still an attractive and contemporary design.
The cabin is where this Civic disappoints, and some Civic-intenders may venture no
further once they sit in the car. This is unfortunate as the 2012 Civic is a car that reveals its
innate goodness the more you use it, and some people may not give themselves the chance
to know it.
New model, not rated. Above average reliability predicted due to proven drivetrain. With
good resale value, fuel economy and long-term durability, the Civic is generally one of the
least expensive ownership experiences on the market. Three year/60,000 km bumper to
bumper warranty, five years/100,000 km on the powertrain.
Bereft of air conditioning or automatic transmission, even as options, the DX model is merely
a marketing exercise to advertise a low base MSRP. Upgrading from the DX to the LX trim level
represents very good value, as does stepping up from the EX to the EX-L. The supplement
demanded for the EX model over the LX neatly reflects the additional content the package
contains. Currently (September 2011), the Honda Civic sedan is an impressive lease deal.
Seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags. The 2012 Civic sedan was an IIHS Top Safety
Pick, rated good in the IIHS frontal, side, rear and roof strength tests. ABS and ESC are both
The higher trunk line and curvier rear lines are the most obvious changes to the 2012 Civic