While I cannot recall the magazine, I remember reading once that Honda management could not understand that Americans considered Honda a conservative company. They countered that in their home country, Honda was considered a bit of a rebel car company. For 2012, the Civic is a completely new car, but only the most hard-core Honda fanatic will be able to tell the new car from the old-they are that similar in appearance. With that in mind, it’s hard to consider Honda as a radical car company or a risk taker. Truth be told, Honda had great success with the last generation Civic, and in this uncertain economy, Honda decided to play it safe and go conservative.
The greenhouse is practically identical to the last generation Civic, while the front end’s grille treatment aligns it to the Honda Insight. Most improved is the rear end of the Civic, with larger tail lamps and a curvier rear than before. Honda played it extra-safe. While the last generation Civic looked a bit futuristic when it debuted, we’re all familiar with it now. Our grey EX tester screamed ‘commuter car’.
Honda has also maintained the two-tier dashboard from the last Civic-meaning there is a digital speedo on top, with an analog tach underneath. This time around the speedo is joined by a 5″ LCD screen that provides vehicle and audio info. The finish and materials are a tad more upscale from the prior Civic. Honda is known for quality interiors, and the new Civic is no exception. The flat as a pancake front seats were comfortable, but you can forget about any lateral support if you’re feeling frisky. All in all, the Civic is a pleasant environment to be in.
Despite this being an all new Civic, the drivetrain is carryover. What the means is you get a standard 1.8L four rated at 140hp. Buyers can choose from either a five-speed manual or automatic. As you’d expect, the engine is typical silky-smooth, and I would argue that Honda makes the most refined four cylinder engines in the business. Our test car came equipped with the five-speed automatic. Plenty of pep around town, the Civic seemed to offer just enough horses and torque to scoot yourself around with confidence. One new feature to the Civic is an ‘Econ’ button, which changes throttle mapping and shift points. I spent half a week in regular mode, half a week in Econ mode, and the trip computer registered about a 2mpg improvement. The EPA gives the Civic a 28/39 MPG City/Highway rating, but I never got anywhere close to those figures.
The Civic offers an exceptionally refined ride for it’s class. The car manages to offer a creamy smooth ride while being able to maintain composure when the road gets twisty. The tranny is working with you, not against you, and there’s just enough heft in steering feel for me to keep telling my friends to buy a Civic over a Corolla. This is no sports sedan, but Honda has kept the Civic’s reflexes just a bit quicker than the competition.
Our test car was the top-spec EX model, with an as delivered MSPR of $21,255. With that, you get power windows, locks, mirrors, power moonroof, six-speaker stereo with USB input for an MP3 player and Bluetooth. If you want a Civic with satellite radio, you must opt for GPS navigation. After about five minutes in the Civic with me, my wife declared this was the most boring test car I’d ever had. In defense of the Civic, it bears mentioning that I once owned a 2003 Civic Si, and our Civic EX tester caters to a different crowd.
Still, I am shocked that Honda went as conservative as they did with their new Civic, and hanging out at the Honda stand at this year’s New York Auto Show, the disappointment from the automotive media was palpable. Newcomers like the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra have their sites aimed squarely to the Civic. I have no doubt Honda will not have any trouble selling their new Civic, but with new competition beating at their door, it will be interesting to see if Honda made the right decision in staying the course.