“When your team is leading the league, you don’t want to mess too much with the line-up.”
That’s the case with Honda and the 2012 Civic. Honda’s made some changes that won’t shock its current fans while potentially picking up some new supporters along the way.
This league has a lot of players, but Civic has been the star for most of its previous eight generations.
The ninth generation team has a slightly different playbook and its uniform has seen some minor alterations, but the goal is the same: win.
My test car this week came from Honda Canada in EX trim – not a glitzy offering to be sure, but the player most people will keep their eyes on when they’re looking for reliability and fuel efficiency.
Some have criticized the design for being too “safe,” but I don’t think you have to make radical changes to make progress.
Granted, it’s hard to tell the 2012 version from the previous one, unless they’re side-by-each, but the new car has a slightly longer hood, different headlights and some crease lines that weren’t there before. The wheelbase is shorter, too.
It looks good, but it’s certainly not the kind of ride that will turn heads or draw thumbs up from fellow drivers.
Inside, rear seat passengers get more leg room, but tall people are still in danger of bumping their heads if the going gets rough.
I find the tilt/telescoping multi-function steering wheel lets me run through a wide variety of functions without ever looking away from the road and I’ve still got a two-tier dash design. The top tier stretches farther across the dash to accommodate increased instrumentation, most notably the i-MID (intelligent Multi-Information Display) that’s certain to be a home run for the tech fans. It’s one of the easiest systems I’ve ever used—I found my way around its features without having to consult the owner’s manual).
Eco-friendly folk will like the big green Econ button on the left side of the dash. Push it and the Civic becomes even easier on fuel. It’s accomplished by having the transmission upshift sooner and more smoothly and cutting down on air conditioning output.
If you need extra power to pass, push Econ to add some oomph. You will need it, especially with the five-speed automatic transmission hooked up to the 1.8L four-cylinder engine. Power hasn’t changed – it’s still 140 horses at 6,500 rpm and 128 lb.-ft of torque at 4,300 – so unless the revs are way up the band, response is less than brisk.
Hey, you can always revert to green by pushing Econ again.
On the road, occupants are well isolated from the outside world. The car allows little wind or road noise to get inside and the ride is a nice balance of agility and comfort.
When called upon for quick changes in traffic, this version of Civic is up to the task. The steering has been given a more linear feel and it doesn’t transmit quite as much feel for the road as before, but it’s still a fun little car in which to zip around city streets.
With people occupying the rear seats, the trunk is capable of carrying a reasonable amount of stuff…drop the 60/40 split folding rear seatback and there’s enough room for two people to go on a long road trip and take all the gear they need.
In short, Civic is still the team to beat in an increasingly-competitive league.
It’s got game!
- 2012 Honda Civic
- Price as tested
- Trim level
- Automatic transmission ($1,200)
- EnerGuide fuel economy ratings
- 7.2 L/100km city; 5.0 L/100km hwy
- Observed fuel economy
- 6.7 L/100km over 392 km
- Warranty (basic)
- 3 years/ 60,000 km
- Warranty (powertrain)
- 5 years/ 100,000 km
- Chevrolet Cruze; Ford Focus; Hyundai Elantra; Kia Forte; Mazda3; Nissan Sentra; Toyota Corolla
- excellent fuel mileage
- lots of standard equipment
- Value for the price
- Lots of bang for the amenities buck
- unremarkable exterior.