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2012 Honda Civic EX sedan Review

2012 Honda Civic EX sedan Review
Photo: Rob Rothwell
2012 Honda Civic EX sedan
I’ve just returned from taking this week’s tester on a good highway run, and I’m more impressed than I expected to be. Sure, everyone knows the Honda Civic is a highly popular, no-nonsense compact economy car, but that doesn’t mean they know how refined and efficient this plebe has become.

Civic is redesigned and re-engineered for 2012
A number of aspects of the new Civic stand out to me in a big way; regrettably styling isn’t one of them. This isn’t an unattractive vehicle by any stretch, but it’s not a looker. What it is arguably is aerodynamic — just look at the rake of the windscreen.

Clearly the ability to slice through the wind with eerie silence was the objective while winning hearts was secondary, and that’s OK with me; there’s tremendous benefit to be gained by cheating the wind out of the friction it would like to impose.

Enlarged cabin – improved functionality
The Civic’s larger cabin has undergone a minor redesign; I came to particularly like the split-level instrument panel over the course of the week. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t really like the arrangement from the perspective of aesthetics but from a functionality perspective it works remarkably well.

The large tachometer beneath the upper panel is easy to read and clearly visibly within the arch of the steering wheel. Other pertinent readouts, such as the digital speedometer, are viewed above the steering wheel in an unobstructed sightline.

Cabin occupants get a bit more space, and Honda has also added more technology and driver-selectable settings to personalize the Civic, most of which are performed through its new intelligent Multi-Information Display screen, or i-MID for short.

I’m not sure that an additional screen was the best use of Honda’s time in revising the Civic’s cabin.

The updated cabin is well constructed and nicely appointed; however, it continues to suffer from large expanses of hard plastic surfaces. Honda needs to soften the shell-like surroundings further in order to match the craftsmanship and materials we’re seeing from others, such as Ford and Hyundai.

Plastic issues aside, the cabin is well constructed and surprisingly roomy for this segment. Worth particular mention is the unimpeded visibility the driver enjoys. Quarter side-windows enhance forward and side visibility significantly, one of the small attributes of this tester I really appreciated, especially when approaching a turn.

Another aspect of the 2012 Civic I appreciated was its petit mill.

Refined, efficient operator
The Civic is powered by a tremendously efficient 1.8-litre SOHC i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine. The days of these powerplants’ being noisy and unrefined are pretty much gone, and this engine is a good example of the huge improvements of late.

Within normal driving parameters, the happy little mill supplies free-flowing propulsion while remaining quiet and unobtrusive. Power is directed to the Civic’s front wheels after making its way through a five-speed transmission. Both the autobox and manual gearbox spin five cogs.

My tester was equipped with the autobox, which worked flawlessly, and despite my preference for a manual box on a four-banger, this unit left me with nothing to complain about. It downshifted quickly when necessary and sufficiently maximized the 140 hp on tap; 128 lb-ft of torque is available at 4,300 rpm. Those ratings may be on the mediocre side but the Civic sedan scoots along quite admirably in town while exhibiting adequate but not inspiring performance in the passing lane.

Squeezing the most from the least
Fuel consumption for the 2012 Civic Sedan is rated at 7.2L/100 km and 5.0L/100 km city and highway driving respectively. Those are impressive numbers indeed but real life has taught us that such ratings are nearly impossible to achieve in normal driving — or are they?

My stint on the highway dropped my average economy to 5.8L/100 km, which I thought was praiseworthy given my less than economical driving style. Once in the city, the consumption inched up to 6.2L/100 km, which eclipses the city economy rating of 7.0L/100 km.

My extended city economy was likely attributable to little traffic on the streets. Most of my city driving was in the evening when traffic was non-existent or flowing efficiently. Rush hour results would definitely be more in line with the expected consumption. Still, it was delightful to know that my tester was saving me money over most of the vehicles that journalists drive.

Not only was frugality topping my list of Civic delights, so were ride and handling dynamics.
 
Solid, composed and safe
The Civic Sedan is a solid-feeling unit that delivers surprisingly spirited cornering without a jarring ride. Ride quality is taut but never harsh or unpleasant. Nothing seems to upset the vehicle’s composure on the road or its sense of civility, which makes for fatigue-free, enjoyable motoring.

Along with sure-footed cornering, the 2012 Civic exhibits strong, progressive braking to ensure quick responses and short stops. All 2012 Civics are equipped with antilock brakes and Honda’s Vehicle Stability Assist with Traction Control.

Should a crash occur, a full suite of standard airbags will protect. Kudos to Honda for taking safety and occupant protection seriously.

Wrapping with value
In wrapping this review of the 2012 Honda Civic Sedan, I want to reference value — and plenty of it. The base Civic Sedan starts at $14,990. My generously appointed EX was tagged at $19,490. This included air conditioning, cruise control, power moonroof, 16-inch alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel, four-wheel disc brakes and upgraded audio.

The new Civic may not be the looker in the field of leading compacts but it’s certainly a competitor in every other way.

By Rob Rothwell,