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What does it take to impress Consumer Reports? Getting an overall 30 mpg helps, but that sort of fuel economy wasn't enough to save the Honda Civic LX from falling from CR's recommended list in the watchdog group's latest report on small sedans and hatchbacks.

The Civic, which had been a perennial favorite for the editors and analysts at CR, slipped from its previous spot at the front of the pack all the way into next to last place in their latest look at small sedans. The frugality of the Civic drew praise, but it was practically the only factor with which the editors found favor. They were less than impressed with the latest redesign from Honda, which supposedly started from scratch but left the Civic's sheet metal looking extremely similar to the last-generation vehicle. Neither did CR like the interior materials, or the shaky ride, of the high levels of cabin noise, or the reluctant brakes.

"While other models like the Hyundai Elantra have gotten better after being redesigned, the Civic has dropped so much that now it ranks near the bottom of its category," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center in East Haddam, CT While the Civic was dropping from its previous "very good" rating of 78 down to a "mediocre" 61, both the 2012 Ford Focus the recently refreshed Kia Forte drew ratings of very good. Of the cars tested, only the Toyota Corolla's managed better overall mileage at 32 mpg.

Consumer Reports is still testing a Honda Civic Hybrid for a future report.

[Source: Consumer Reports]
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Ford Focus and Kia Forte score Very Good in tests of small sedans and hatchbacks

YONKERS, NY - The highly anticipated redesigned Honda Civic LX, whose predecessors have often been Consumer Reports' highest rated small sedans as well as Top Picks in five of the last 10 years, now scores too low to be Recommended by the leading automotive testing organization.

The redesigned Civic LX's score dropped a whopping 17 points to a mediocre 61 from the previous generation's very good 78. It scored second-to-last in CR's ratings of 12 small sedans, followed only by the recently redesigned Volkwagen Jetta. Consumer Reports' testers found the 2012 Civic to be less agile and with lower interior quality than its predecessor. It also suffers from a choppy ride, long stopping distances, and pronounced road noise. On the positive side, the Civic provides decent rear-seat room, and it achieved 30 mpg overall, which gives it the second-best fuel economy in its class-behind only the Toyota Corolla's 32 mpg.

"While other models like the Hyundai Elantra have gotten better after being redesigned, the Civic has dropped so much that now it ranks near the bottom of its category," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center in East Haddam, CT

The test group also included sedan and hatchback versions of the redesigned-for-2012 Ford Focus and the hatchback version of the Kia Forte, which both scored Very Good. The Focus was fun to drive and more polished than its predecessor, with the type of agile handling, supple ride, and solid feel expected from a compact sports sedan. But a snug rear seat, complicated controls, and annoying behavior by the automatic transmission took a toll on its score. The 5-Door hatchback is Kia's latest addition to the Forte line, and is well-equipped, relatively roomy, and offers a lot for the money. But its noise isolation, ride, and interior quality are middling.

The issue also features tests of two versions of the Ford F-150 pickup, perennially the best-selling model in the U.S. Freshened for 2011, it's quieter and more refined than earlier versions, with an improved ride, and better acceleration.

Competition in the small sedan segment is intense with many new or redesigned entries this year. The redesigned-for-2011 Hyundai Elantra tops CR's ratings with its impressive fuel economy, roomy interior, and strong value. The new-for-2011 Chevrolet Cruze is much more refined than previous General Motors small cars but fuel economy suffers from its heavy weight. Redesigned for 2011, the Volkswagen Jetta, like the Civic, dramatically dropped in overall score in CR's Ratings. Some older-design small sedans, like the highly-efficient Toyota Corolla, the roomy and quiet Nissan Sentra, and the sporty Mazda3 re78 "main competitive.

The full report on small sedans and hatchbacks is available in the September issue of the magazine, on newsstands August 2 and to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org. Updated daily, it's the go-to Website for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news and car buying information. Check out CR's ongoing Twitter feed at @CRCars.

None of the models tested in this month's issue are Recommended except the V8 version of the Ford F-150. The Focus, Forte hatchback, and EcoBoost V6 version of F-150 are too new for Consumer Reports to have adequate reliability data to Recommend. The Civic didn't score highly enough to be Recommended. Consumer Reports only Recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR's Annual Auto Survey of its more than seven million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

Prices for the tested vehicles ranged from $19,340 for Kia Forte hatchback to $40,410 for the Ford F-l50 with EcoBoost V6.

The Civic has slid backward with its redesign. It feels insubstantial against recently-redesigned competition.. Vague steering weakens its agility and robs it of its fun-to-drive feel. Stopping distances are long, the ride is choppy, and road noise is pronounced. The Honda Civic LX ($19,405 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 140-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that provides adequate acceleration and gets an impressive 30 mpg overall in CR's own fuel economy tests. The five-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. The interior feels cheap, a letdown from previous Civics. CR is currently testing a Civic hybrid and will report on it next month. Cargo space is Good.

With sporty handling, a supple ride, relatively low noise, and a solid feeling interior, the new Focus drives more like an upscale compact sports sedan. But several flaws keep it from being one of CR's top cars. The new PowerShift automated manual transmission stumbles at low speeds, the radio controls are confusing, and the rear seat is tight. The Ford Focus SE ($20,280 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 160-hp, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that provides adequate acceleration and gets 28 mpg overall. The higher-trim Focus SEL hatchback ($22,185 MSRP as tested,) adds a somewhat nicer interior and increased cargo flexibility from a hatchback. Braking is Very Good. The interior is well-finished. Cargo space is Good.

Like the Kia Forte sedan and two-door Koup, the hatchback Forte is well equipped for its price and is a good value. Handling is responsive and secure, but the ride is stiff and jittery, and the cabin can get rather noisy. The ride is an unmistakable weak spot, as it is stiff, and characterized by frequent short pitches. The Kia Forte EX 5-Door ($19,240 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 156-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers average performance and gets 26 mpg overall. The six-speed automatic transmission is smooth and responsive. Braking is Very Good. The interior is well-assembled but plain. . Rear seat room and cargo area are generous for this class.

With more than 7 million print and online subscribers, Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union, the world's largest independent, not-for-profit, product-testing organization. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Website and owns and operates a 327-acre Auto Test Center in Connecticut. The organization's auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To subscribe, consumers can call 1-800-234-1645 or visit www.ConsumerReports.org.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      Pete K
      • 3 Years Ago
      I've driven this car and I can't recommend it to friends and family. Mind you I've pushed the Civic on friends and family for years...
      Ele Truk
      • 3 Years Ago
      30MPG, BFD! My 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid does 30 MPG. This car should be getting better MPG than my 6 year old SUV!
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think we all know that the Civic can do better. The r18a is kinda low tech compared to competitors. Low torque ( because it's a SOHC ) really affects driveability too. I drove a Yaris ( dual cam, dual VVT ) recently and it seemed peppier than the Civic. Anyways the Civic isn't THAT bad, i think it's just that we expect more from Honda. They used to make class-leading cars again and again. Now they are just another face in the crowd, and falling behind in engine R&D for sure.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Let me share a tidbit of common knowledge... CR is biased and inaccurate, big-time. Real world testing usually varies greatly from CR's claims, so its always a good idea to drive the car yourself and take CR's claims with a grain of salt.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Don't misrepresent your own opinion as "common knowledge". Please cite inaccuracies in CR's testing. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/honda/civic.htm And this is not even a particularly controversial conclusion, the new Civic has been trashed by other testers. People who bitch about CR are invariably enthusiasts unwilling to accept that everyone doesn't share their own prejudices. (I'm the same when it comes to audio equipment.) CR say what they test and and rate based on that. Everyone has biases, but accurate and unprejudiced testing is still immensely valuable.
          • 3 Years Ago
          Agree, there is a strong correlation with disliking CR and being a fan of a brand that is on the decline. A decade ago, fans of the Big three were always complaining about CR's import bias. Now the tables have turned and Honda fans attacks CR with regularity. Since I am not a fanboy of any brand, I like CR and the fact that they don't take payola from the car companies in the form of Advertisement money and free trips to Aruba to test the latest car. They don't even get their cars from the car companies to test. They buy real cars off the lot, just like you an me, so no special prep on their testers. I also think their fuel economy tests are better than the EPA (or anyone else by far). They test three patterns, stop n go city, medium speed backroad mixed, and pure highway. All the ways you are likely to drive and they do in the car with in line fuel meters, that measure each drop of fuel. No optimistic fuel econ computers from the car company and no error prone, top up the gas tank at fillup. CR is about as good as it gets for unbiased independent car testing. Dissing them is about as sensible as sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting "I don't here you" when someone is trying to tell you something.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Sad to see. Glad I bought my ex coupe in '07. It's sporty and I've topped 40mpg - with the auto transmission. The new one even looks cheaper from the photos - something more like the older Toyota Tercels. Well, Honda, it looks like I'll be waiting to buy another Civic when you get it right again - hopefully before the next design cycle.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I noticed that the old Civic Sedan was the king of regular gas car highway MPG and this continues that trend with an awesome highway fuel economy (47MPG), it actually delivered better highway mpg than Hondas Insight/CRZ hybrids. :) Looks like they picked the wrong gas engine for the hybrids. Shame about the road noise though, it would be a great long distance highway car with mpg like that.