Vital Stats

Engine:
1.8L I4
Power:
140 HP / 128 LB-FT
Transmission:
5-Speed Automatic
0-60 Time:
9.2 Seconds (est.)
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
2,765 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
12.5 CU-FT
MPG:
28 City / 39 HWY
Industry Staple Grows Up, Forgets How To Have Fun


Have you ever stood around, nervously checking your wristwatch as a friend or significant other cycled through their entire wardrobe trying to find the perfect outfit? If your experience were anything like ours, they probably started with a perfectly acceptable look and finished with an ensemble almost exactly the same as the first one, albeit painstakingly composed of entirely different pieces of clothing. Most people would never notice the difference without the subtle changes being pointed out to them. The 2012 Honda Civic sedan's new duds are kind of like that.

Honda stylists have taken great pains to tug and pull at virtually every bit of clothing their new Civic is wearing. In spite of this, the car looks largely the same as its eighth-generation predecessor, a model that first bowed in 2005. This, despite the fact that the wheelbase has been cropped from 106.3 inches to 105.1 (you'd be hard-pressed to notice unless you had a tape measure handy), a change that helps make it the shortest car in its class.

This all-new-yet-same-as-it-ever-was judgment isn't really the slight it might seem – the 2006 Civic was a groundbreaking design, and its slippery form and delicate features have worn well over the years. At the very least, this new model is still unlikely to be confused for anything else on the road. Honda has determinedly avoided the trend toward oversized headlamps and gaping air intakes, and has similarly shied away from the big-pillar look in favor of improved visibility and cockpit airiness. Even still, we can't help but feel this new Civic has gone a bit conservative – particularly in the rear, where distinctive eagle's head taillamps have given way to more traditional fixtures.

2012 Honda Civic EX Sedan side view2012 Honda Civic EX Sedan front view2012 Honda Civic EX Sedan rear view

Much the same can be said for the interior, which is actually all-new but looks largely the same as the 2011 model. That means drivers are greeted by an evolution of the Civic's love/hate two-tier dashboard that puts the front-and-center digital speedometer on a different plane than the analog rev counter and secondary gauges. It's still a configuration that takes a few moments to get used to, but all gauges are easy to read, even in bright sunlight.

The digital speedo is flanked on the right by a crisp new five-inch Multi-Information Display (i-MID) that displays everything from stereo information to Bluetooth status and trip computer functions with pleasingly high-resolution graphics. You can even set your own wallpaper background. (Side note: Although our EX test subject didn't arrive with GPS, we've driven other models so equipped and the new i-MID's resolution makes the aging main navigation screen look decidedly yestertech).

2012 Honda Civic EX Sedan interior

The Civic's center stack is canted dramatically toward the driver and dominated by the audio controls with an easy layout and Playskool-sized buttons. The head-unit is a bit odd in that it doesn't have its own display – you have to look up and over at i-Mid for information. We got used to this after memorizing the button configuration on the stereo, but would still prefer a station/track readout on the unit itself. All other controls, including those for climate and such are a model of simplicity.

Despite having a shorter wheelbase (all other major exterior measurements are identical to last year's model), the Civic still feels quite roomy on the inside. In fact, Honda says that interior space is up by 3.7 cubic feet, primarily in the form of added shoulder room up front along with increased hip room front and rear. Seating position is typically Honda, which is to say sportier than the norm, low to the floor and legs out. Outward visibility is peerless thanks to the expansive, minivan-like windshield and new, slimmer A-pillars. Hard plastics abound and feel somewhat cheaper than the departing model, but at least they are well textured, with many pieces covered in an interesting mulberry-paper-like surfacing. The new steering wheel is also a winner, with a pleasing size and feel-good new multi-function buttons. Despite the cropped wheelbase, rear legroom is still up there with the very best in its class, although hip- and headroom are somewhat less generous.

2012 Honda Civic EX Sedan front seats2012 Honda Civic EX Sedan rear seats2012 Honda Civic EX Sedan trunk

Cargo space is up, too, to a still-modest 12.5 cubic-feet (up .5 cubes), though we were dismayed to find no external release on the trunk (necessitating the use of the floor-mounted driver's opener or the key fob), along with no liner or interior grab handle – you'll have to grab sharp metal if you want to avoid getting your hand dirty on the decklid.

Interestingly, Honda has chosen to eschew the latest round of multispeed gearboxes and engine tricks like direct-injection or forced induction in favor of preserving the Civic's lighter-than-average weight and less-costly measures like aero refinements (smooth underbelly, aero fences ahead of the wheels, low drag mirrors, etc.) to deliver class-competitive performance numbers. In our EX model, that means the 1.8-liter SOHC four-cylinder returns with few modifications, producing 140 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 128 pound-feet of torque at 4,300 rpm routed through a conventional five-speed automatic. As hinted at with those power figures, the 1.8 is still a free-revving piece whose wheelhouse is still located largely in its upper registers. Our internal accelerometer suggests a 0-60 time in the low nine-second range, which is right in the heart of the class.

2012 Honda Civic EX Sedan engine

Use of high-strength steel in the ninth-generation Civic's chassis has increased to 55 percent (up five percent). That change at once once improves rigidity by 10 percent and lowers body weight by seven percent (EX models like ours check in at 2,765 pounds). Thanks in part to the Civic's light weight, EPA fuel economy estimates check in at 28 miles per gallon in the city, 39 on the highway. In predominantly highway driving, our still-green EX (just over 2,700 clicks on the odometer) returned a respectable 32.9 mpg.

Prices for the 2012 Civic start at $16,575 for a basic, row-your-own DX ($15,805 plus $770 delivery), putting it shoulder-to-shoulder with sedans like the Mazda3 and Ford Focus. Opt for the $21,275 (including destination charges) automatic-only EX like our tester and you'll be treated to a power moonroof, hands-free calling, alloy wheels, and a six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth audio among other features.

2012 Honda Civic EX Sedan headlight2012 Honda Civic EX Sedan wheel detail2012 Honda Civic EX Sedan taillights2012 Honda Civic EX Sedan badge

If you're wondering why we've left discussion of the Civic's driving dynamics until the very end, it's because it's an unremarkable steer, veering more toward a 'set it and forget it' commuter mindset than something that's likely to be of interest to auto aficionados (who would be better off pursuing the sporty Si model anyhow). With the exception of unpleasantly high noise levels from both the powertrain and wind, it's certainly a refined drive, but one would think that a shorter wheelbase and modestly lower weight (between 20 and 58 pounds lighter depending on model) would lead to a friskier-handling car – indeed, Honda claims it to be so – but we found this 2012 Civic to be a humdrum performer that neither encourages or rewards enthusiastic driving.

Chief among the culprits for the white-goods driving experience is the new electronic power steering unit, which includes a slower ratio for less energetic turn-in, along with a more compliant suspension that delivers improved ride quality at the expense of informing the driver. The brakes (upgraded to rear discs on our EX) are unerringly quiet, but we noticed some fade when driving only modestly hard on what few twisty roads Southeastern Michigan has to offer. To be fair, we suspect that the 2012 Civic's absolute limits meet or exceed those of its predecessor in most areas, but it simply doesn't feel as engaging as the outgoing car, let alone competitors like the Mazda or Ford.

2012 Honda Civic EX Sedan rear 3/4 view

In a remarkable-for-us move, we turned on – and left on – the Civic's green Econ button after messing about with it off for a bit, as we decided we'd rather benefit from the improved fuel economy offered by the miser mode's more deliberate throttle tuning, remapped shift schedule and parsimonious climate control operation. It simply wasn't worth trying to eke out the sliver of additional driving satisfaction promised by the normal mode.

Let's be clear: We're not here to suggest that Honda's careful maturation of the Civic is a mistake – we think the majority of small car buyers will appreciate its improved composure and refinement, and we applaud Honda's engineers for not packing on the pounds. But you're reading this review on Autoblog, and this suggests that you're probably more interested in driving dynamics than the average bear. On this front, the Civic's newfound maturity has come at the expense of liveliness found in both its previous iterations and some of its competitors. Unfortunately, nothing about this new Civic, from its design to its interior appointments to its fuel economy and pricing, has stepped up in exchange to help it stand out from the competition.

Like that indecisive companion desperately trying to find just the right outfit, the 2012 Civic would probably have been a more entertaining date had it just stuck with what it was wearing initially.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 196 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        bobmarley
        • 3 Years Ago
        im sure they will..."But you're reading this review on Autoblog, and this suggests that you're probably more interested in driving dynamics than the average bear"
        g2k
        • 3 Years Ago
        they likely will but the Si is not available yet.
        • 3 Years Ago
        [blocked]
      Hazdaz
      • 3 Years Ago
      I can applaud Honda for the following: - making this model weight (slightly) less than the old one. - keeping the size of this model about the same as the old one. - chances are this will be just as reliable as every other Honda. The average commute will LOVE this car. The typical enthusiast will be bored to death by it.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Hazdaz
        [blocked]
      lne937s
      • 3 Years Ago
      Although it may be a bit conservative in styling, I like that you can actually see out of it. Counter to another trend, the rear roofline also doesn't slope so much as to make the back seat headroom unuseable for taller passengers. The center console isn't so wide as to restrict front legroom. I also like that it doesn't use expanses of black plastic to try to look like it has a massive grille. Maybe not the most exciting design, but it makes practical sense and I think a lot of people looking for functional, reliable transportation will respond to that. Honestly, I think a lot of recent trends in design to get visually pleasing proportions have greatly limited the functionality of many new cars-- maybe going counter to those trends isn't such a bad thing.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @lne937s
        [blocked]
      Smooth
      • 3 Years Ago
      I always say "Everything ain't for everybody". If the Civic is not what you're looking for, look elsewhere. Complaining about what it used to have versus what it is now doesn't change the Civic in 2012. If you're looking for "sporty", Honda will show you an SI and if that's not good, Focus and Mazda3 are waiting. So is Cruze and Elantra. No wrong choices out there, just how you want it. There is truly a car for everyone out there :) And no, a person who buys this Civic over a "sporty" Focus or anything else people say is "better" (all opinion anyways) is not a dumb person. They just bought what they wanted. Why don't you do the same and be happy? What's good for one person may not be as good for another.
      Adam
      • 3 Years Ago
      I had an '09 Civic LX with 5 months left on the lease. The dealer called me up and offered to buy out the lease and gave me a '12 Civic LX with the same payments (no money down - great deal). The '09 had less headroom, lower seating but felt more peppy and sporty. The new Civic is more like a baby Accord. It has bigger cabin space and a more boring ride. I'm over 6ft tall so I love the new headroom and extra legroom. I drive a lot for work so I needed something that is dead reliable and gets great gas mileage. This car is it. Only thing missing in Bluetooth on the stereo. Even a basic model should have that feature in 2012. You have to step up to the EX for that.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Adam
        [blocked]
      Katie Trondsen
      • 2 Years Ago
      We bought the 2012 EX sedan. It's a great car, very quiet to drive, great fuel economy, almost goes double the distance my other car does on less gas. Leather wrapped steering wheel is very nice, moon roof is fun in the summer, and the alloy wheels certainly add class to the vehicle. My only complaints is the head rests seem too tilted forward, and the stereo system definitely leaves something to be desired. My Pontiac Grand Am system has amazing bass, this Honda, not so much.
      JonZeke
      • 3 Years Ago
      This car has zero character, but does an appliance even need character? I would argue that the better appliances still have an element of design panache. My Hoover Windtunnel vacuum is both attractive AND functional. This best products have always married those seemingly disparate notions of aesthetic excellence with functional perfection. Honda consistently nails function but the sheetmetal deserves some of that old-fashioned passion for beautiful things. Nevertheless the HL Mencken quote seems to apply: "No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people." People will buy simply because Honda has decided the great unwashed will buy whatever they set forth, regardless of how little effort they put into creating a truly excellent object.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        tipdrip215
        • 3 Years Ago
        Yep Honda failed. This may not be as big of a fail as the Crossturd/ZDX but it is one.
      JasonERF
      • 3 Years Ago
      My friend works for Honda in Barrie. He says it's collectively known that the company is losing its way with designs and Hyundai has the real momentum. He also says that corporately, the company is very stubborn (think new Acura disasters) and shows no signs of doing much to correct that. He has some hilarious stories including one about the meeting unveiling the Acura ZDX... Oh man... I was in stitches! They had a board on the wall with different styles of vehicles (sedan, truck, sports car, suv, wagon) mounted in a circle. Then they revealed at the center of the circle: THE ZDX! He said that everyone at the presentation went silent. I like to imagine the reaction was similar to the unveiling of The Homer. They went on to assert this could be a massive selling vehicle, blah-blah-blah. LOL. Anyway, back to this Civic: The previous generation had a wonderful roofline! This kinda moves away from that into more generic territory. Another sigh for Honda.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @JasonERF
        [blocked]
        tipdrip215
        • 3 Years Ago
        @JasonERF
        They've made it obvious that they're stubborn. Ever since Ito became CEO it seems like all they've wanted to do is sap any fun out of the company's cars. And they're doing a pretty good job of that.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @tipdrip215
          [blocked]
      rmkensington
      • 3 Years Ago
      Just another appliance. Not bad, not great, just Meh.
        Christopher
        • 3 Years Ago
        @rmkensington
        Couldn't agree more... With the Focus, Cruze, and Elantra to name only a few, I thought Honda would up their design game. I was wrong. Sure, it's dead reliable, but it's plain brown paper bag wrapper makes me look elsewhere.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Christopher
          [blocked]
          Jazz
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Christopher
          Wow, you just named the three ugliest competitors.
      Master Austin
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Focus has beat the Civic in it's own game...
        marcosc
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Master Austin
        NOT! Ford remains the king of unreliability and in that sense Honda still rules.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @marcosc
          [blocked]
          WillieD
          • 3 Years Ago
          @marcosc
          Ford is a reliable brand overall so I'm not sure why you crowned them king of unreliability.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @marcosc
          [blocked]
          Bryan
          • 3 Years Ago
          @marcosc
          I have a 2012 Focus and my transmission is just fine. I have not heard of any replacements. People just are not used to the transmission...it was weird to me at first, an automatic that acts like a standard. I absolutely love it, I get the best of both worlds!
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Master Austin
        [blocked]
          mitchman06
          • 3 Years Ago
          Well the Focus just SMOKED the '12 Civic in Car and Driver's comparison test. It wasn't even close.
          • 3 Years Ago
          [blocked]
      K Gav
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's very interesting how they don't make any mention of the quality of the interior (sea of hard gray plastic) and compare it to the competition. Hmmm. If this were a Chrysler product, half the story would be about how horrible the interior is.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @K Gav
        [blocked]
          tipdrip215
          • 3 Years Ago
          He meant all of Chrysler's products. Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram.
        tipdrip215
        • 3 Years Ago
        @K Gav
        Exactly. Even with their new interiors I'm shocked the reviews all didn't spend half a page whining about where they didn't fix their problems.
    • Load More Comments