Regardless of her stance on baked goods, Marie Antoinette didn't quite grasp the severity of country's condition until the French Revolution was in full swing and her husband was conspicuously absent of his head. Just as General Armstrong Custer dismissed the might of the Northern Cheyenne and Captain Edward John Smith failed to accurately read the waters of the North Atlantic, human history is filled to the brim with figures who didn't discover the danger they were in until it was much too late.
When Honda unveiled the 2012 Civic at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, many critics were quick to put Honda in the same illustrious company. With an army of all-new compacts from automakers like Ford, Chevrolet and Hyundai all set to kick down the Honda gates, fans were thirsty to see a vehicle that was as innovative in design as it was in engineering. Instead, the Japanese manufacturer unveiled a compact car that looked startlingly similar to its eighth-generation predecessor.
We shouldn't have been surprised. Since the Civic first hit the market 38 years ago, Honda has stuck to a tried-and-true update regimen for its star model. Every other generation has delivered a mild revision of the preceding design, and the ninth take on the vehicle is no different. With a tweaked body, slightly adjusted interior and nudges to the suspension and drivetrain, the 2012 Civic is effectively generation 8.1, but that just might be enough to keep the hordes at bay and Honda out of history's dog house.
Continue reading First Drive: 2012 Honda Civic...
Photos copyright ©2011 Zach Bowman / AOL
According to Honda, the designers of the 2012 Civic came to the U.S. for inspiration and found that the "one motion" concept of the '06 model was so well-liked that they simply decided to expand on the theme. If that's true, they've done an excellent job. It's difficult to pick the two models apart with a casual eye, though more faithful followers of Honda will notice a few more lines in the vehicle's front fascia and reworked headlights. Combined with a mesh grille, the details go a long way toward giving the compact an updated appearance.
The rear of the vehicle is adorned with new bodywork dominated by large, re-styled tail lamps and a slightly more expressive valance. The look does away with the slabish metal of the outgoing generation and makes the sedan appear considerably lighter on its feet than before. In coupe form, the styling seems lifted from the very-attractive Accord Coupe, and the lines wear well on the slighter form of the Civic.
If you were holding your breath in hopes that Honda would grace the American market with a resurrected Civic hatch, we're sorry to tell you that the company has no interest in bringing a three- or five-door compact to the market. That's despite the fact that both Ford and Hyundai clearly think the notion has legs. The reasoning is that Honda believes the large majority of American buyers don't want the extra functionality.
Overall, the new exterior is a logical progression from the eighth generation, and the 2012 Civic remains very attractive in coupe, sedan or hybrid guise. Likewise, the vehicle's cabin has been taken to the next level as well, though with mixed results. The dash has an even more driver-oriented pitch than before, and stacked layers of hard-plastic modules give the surface a disjointed, Picasso-like feel. The new design makes the eighth-generation dash seem calm by comparison.
If you found issue with the split-gauges of the last-gen car, you'll find no sanctuary behind the wheel of the 2012 model. The upper screen has been elongated to incorporate what Honda calls its i-MID system, or intelligent Multi-Information Display. The high-resolution five-inch LCD screen puts the navigation display to shame and educates the driver on audio selections, turn-by-turn directions and vehicle information. You can even upload your own personal backgrounds or leave the screen blank should you find it too distracting. Check out the Short Cut below for a demonstration. Oh, and don't listen to the narrator when he says its a 2011 model. He clearly doesn't know what he's talking about.
In Si trim, the upper gauge cluster serves up a few special tricks. For starters, the i-MID can be calibrated to display a special Power Monitor for real-time stats on engine power output. But the coolest part comes in the form of a sequential shift light nestled to the far left. Yellow and red LEDs illuminate beneath an i-VTEC logo, allowing stoplight racers everywhere to know exactly when the system engages. It's perhaps the single greatest piece of meme bait we've seen from any manufacturer in recent memory.
The good news is that Honda has implemented a handful of different colors and textures that serve to keep the dash from being completely unbearable. Unlike many low-buck offerings, the Civic hasn't resorted to graining its plastic to appear soft-touch. Instead, the materials give off an almost recycled aesthetic. Strangely enough, the dash uses harder materials that are more difficult to scratch than the door panels, which can be marred by an errant thumbnail.
Unfortunately, the kit just doesn't manage to stack up to the cabins of three of the newest competitors on the block: the 2011 Hyundai Elantra, 2012 Ford Focus and the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. Each of those vehicles offers a more up-scale, sorted dash while the Civic's cabin seems to have been lifted straight from the 1995 Prelude.
Honda actually clipped the wheelbase of the 2012 Civic by 1.2 inches in the sedan and 1.1 inches in the Coupe for added maneuverability, but still managed to increase interior room. In four-door configuration, total passenger volume has grown by 3.7 cubic feet thanks to additional hip room in all seating positions and shoulder area up front. As a result, the cabin feels more open and offers more rear legroom than the Focus, Elantra or Cruze. The latter two of those fighters best the Civic in front legroom, however.
With so many manufacturers introducing direct injection, turbocharging and highly efficient transmissions to the compact segment, it was only natural to expect Honda to freshen up the drivetrain options in the Civic in kind. But by and large, the automaker left the hood closed for the ninth generation. Models from the DX, LX, EX and Natural Gas to the newly-minted HF will all get their power from the same 1.8-liter, single-overhead cam i-VTEC four-cylinder engine found in the last Civic.
With 140 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque, the engine is as rev-happy as ever and begs to caned in all the right ways. Buyers can pick between either the optional five-speed automatic gearbox or a five-speed manual cog-swapper on lower trims, while the Civic Hybrid benefits from a CVT and the more menacing Si uses a six-speed manual. Thanks to the addition of full electronic power-steering, a little friction reduction inside the engine itself and a few aerodynamic adjustments, the EPA says that the 1.8-liter powered 2012 Civic is able to return 28 mpg city and 39 mpg highway when equipped with the standard automatic transmission. The mileage would represents a 3 mpg city and 3 mpg highway bump over the 2011 model.
With 32 mpg combined, the base Civic beats out both the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus at 31 mpg combined but falls behind the Hyundai Elantra at 33 mpg combined.
For buyers who want a truly-efficient gasoline-powered compact, Honda has resurrected its HF model designation to combat vehicles like the Chevrolet Cruze Eco and the Ford Focus SFE. The Civic HF uses additional under-body cladding to improve aerodynamics, special wheels, lighter tires and a unique rear deck lid spoiler to net 29 mpg city and 41 mpg highway with the five-speed automatic transmission. Though those figures tie the HF with the Bow Tie on the combined scale, Honda is quick to point out that the domestic offerings require buyers to opt for a manual transmission.
In order to help drivers eek the absolute best fuel economy from their Civic, Honda has installed its Eco Assist system on every 2012 model with the exception of the Si. This marks the first time that the driving coach has been implemented outside of the company's hybrid fleet, and just like in the CR-Z and Insight, bars to the left and right of the speedometer change from blue to green as the driver operates the vehicle more efficiently. In addition, a new Econ mode can be activated with a push of a button. The system automatically adjusts the vehicle's throttle-by-wire, shift mapping and air conditioning to make the Civic a more efficient vehicle overall. We wouldn't recommend mashing the little green button unless you're perfectly comfortable with full castration. The change is immense.
Meanwhile, the $22,955 Civic Si Coupe has gotten a respectable shot in the arm. Engineers yanked out the old 2.0-liter four-cylinder in favor of a meatier 2.4-liter unit with an extra four horsepower and 31 more pound-feet of torque. Final figures sit at 201 hp and 170 lb-ft of twist, which means for the first time in the history of the Si, there's actually a little bit of low-end grunt on hand. Full torque comes on at 4,300 rpm while max ponies are only available at a screaming 7,000 rpm. Make no mistake, this is still an engine that prefers to be wound tighter than a Hublot-wearing F1 fan.
We spent a fair portion of our time behind the wheel of an EX automatic sedan with brief stints in an Si, LX sedan and LX coupe with their respective manual offerings. After some time in a loaded EX-L that carried an MSRP of $24,205 with destination, we feel comfortable saying that if you have your heart set on a Civic, do yourself a favor and skip the topped-out trim. The leather seats, door inserts and wrapped steering wheel feel matched to a price point. The LX trim, on the other hand, offers quality cloth seats and a tiller that feels absolutely superb in your hands. It also weighs in at a very competitive $18,605 with destination when equipped with a five-speed manual transmission.
On the road, the Civic Sedan feels comfortable, though the high-winding 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine serves up its fair share of noise in the higher registers. Unlike some of its competition, the Civic still benefits from a four-link independent rear suspension that translates into a very stable, planted platform over the inconsistent pavement of the Beltway outside of Washington, D.C. and into Maryland. Still, we can't help but feel that the springs and dampers are a little on the soft side in sedan guise. In more aggressive driving, the four door serves up characteristic understeer with a good amount of body roll for the class. Fortunately, hopping into the coupe alleviates most of that feeling. Whether it's the benefit of not having to lug around two extra doors or simply the way the rear suspension is calibrated on both vehicles, we prefer the coupe's dynamics by far.
When equipped with the optional five-speed automatic transmission, shifts are handled quickly and without any drama. The 2012 Civic never feels harried or flustered, and while we can only speculate that the vehicle could net even more impressive fuel economy from a six-speed automatic or dual-clutch gearbox, the old unit has aged well. For those familiar with the Civics of old, sliding into the saddle of the ninth-generation feels just like pulling on your favorite pair of jeans. It's a level of familiarity that hasn't been lost through the modest exterior updates and bizarre interior.
With the standard manual five-speed transmission bolted behind the four-cylinder, the vehicle almost begs to be thrashed thanks to a fairly short throw. Unfortunately, a miserably light clutch means your left foot is afforded little to no feedback whatsoever. Still, despite having fewer ponies and less torque than the Elantra, the Civic is more engaging to drive. If we were looking for compact kicks, however, we'd be tempted to stick with the 2012 Focus.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Civic is that despite shunning all of the fuel-saving advancements employed by its competition, the vehicle still manages to come out as a solid player on this field. While we'd all love to see Honda knock out some truly incredibly fuel economy figures with its vehicles, the truth is that the company hasn't seen the need to add either cost or complexity to its systems given the results the vehicle is delivering right now.
Honda is well aware of the rising tide of capable compacts, and while strong entries like the Elantra, Cruze and Focus may take a bite out of Civic sales in the long run, brand loyalists will still beat down dealer doors to get their hands on this newest piece of hardware. Besides, if you were hoping for a full-on Civic revolution, history would point to you not having to wait too long. We give it another three to five years before a completely-new generation surfaces.
In the meantime, the 2012 Civic offers plenty of space, competitive fuel economy and a drive that's entertaining enough to keep you from going flat-line on your way to the office. It's a recipe that's kept Honda on the right side of history for years and it doesn't look to be failing any time soon.
Photos copyright ©2011 Zach Bowman / AOL
New Car Test Drive
Restyled, refined, retuned suspension, back on track.
The Honda Civic began its ninth generation with the 2012 model, which was disappointing on account of cost-cutting. The 2013 Civic sedan is changed a bit, becoming what the 2012 should have been, with a pretty exterior, snazzy interior, satisfying suspension, and a cabin full of tricks from Bluetooth to Pandora.
The nose, hood, black honeycomb grille and angled headlamps are pleasing to the eye, with a humped hood and raked windshield that draw attention. The side sills are sculpted smartly, and with body-colored mirrors and door handles, the Civic looks classy, especially with the optional alloy wheels. The rear fenders flow nicely into a horizontal V over each side of the rear bumper.
In the cabin there's a ton of standard content, such as Bluetooth phone and Bluetooth audio, Pandora internet radio interface and MP3, USB, iPod and SMS text message capability. There's a nice color multi-information display (i-MID) with rearview camera.
The fabric upholstery is excellent, with seats that are well shaped, nicely bolstered and widely adjustable. The standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatback expands cargo capacity. We put a six-footer in the rear seat, and he didn't complain about legroom or headroom.
Interior refinements include a new headliner and soft-touch materials on the instrument panel, center console, and door panels. Silver accents here and there, along with faux stitching on the dashboard and door panels, add a touch of upscale. Black carpeting is standard. The colorful instrument backlighting is soothing.
Significantly, NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) has been improved over the 2012. More sound deadening material has been added to the firewall, wheel wells, flooring and trunk, while the windshield and front windows are thicker, all in the successful pursuit of silence. On the inside, the Civic neither feels nor sounds like a mere $20,000 car.
We found the i-VTEC 140-horsepower engine with its 128 foot-pounds of torque to be adequate. Acceleration performance is average but feels stronger because the engine is smooth and cabin quiet. The 5-speed automatic transmission is programmed to be invisible, while the ride is solid and comfortable. There's an Econ mode that remaps the engine and transmission for fuel mileage over power. We easily ran 75 mph in Econ and impressively got 32.1 miles per gallon.
The suspension has been reworked for 2013 with thicker anti-roll bars front and rear, quicker steering, and firmer bushings. The front subframe body structure is stiffer.The overall level of dynamic competence is hard to fault, predictable with no false moves.
If you want sporty, there's the Civic Si, with its high-revving 2.4-liter twin-cam four-cylinder making 201 horsepower and 170 foot-pounds of torque. We've had it on the track and its performance is marvelous.
There are also three high-mileage versions of the Civic. The Civic HF uses a specially tuned version of the same 1.8-liter engine to achieve an EPA-rated 29/41 mpg City/Highway, compared to 28/39 mpg for the Civic LX and EX. The Civic GX runs on natural gas, with its 1.8-liter SOHC 16-valve four-cylinder rated at 110 hp and 106 lb-ft of torque. It gets 27/38 mpg on the cheaper fuel. The Civic Hybrid pairs a 1.5-liter SOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine rated at 110 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque with a 23-hp electric motor assist. Fuel economy is rated at 44/44 mpg. The bare bones and most affordable model, DX, has been discontinued: Dee-Xed.
New safety technologies built into the 2013 Civic include the application of the next-gen Advanced Compatibility Engineering II (ACE II) body structure, which includes additional front end structures designed to help increase occupant protection by dispersing crash energy in narrow overlap frontal crashes. Also new are SmartVent side airbags, side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor and the availability of Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) systems, which make their compact-class debut in the 2013 Civic Hybrid.
The 2013 Honda Civic comes in six models. Civic LX, EX, and EX-L are available as a coupe or sedan and come with a 140-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. The sporty Civic Si uses a high-revving 2.4-liter and 6-speed gearbox, coupe or sedan. Civic HF features a hybrid gas-electric powertrain tuned for high gas mileage. Civic GX runs on natural gas.
Civic LX Sedan ($18,165) and LX Coupe ($17,965) come standard with 5-speed manual transmission, fabric upholstery, air conditioning with air-filtration system, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power everything, Bluetooth, color multi-information display with rearview camera, USB/iPod connection, Pandora interface, SMS text feature, and steering wheel audio controls. The 5-speed automatic is available for the Civic LX Sedan ($18,965) and LX Coupe ($18,765).
Civic EX Sedan ($20,815) comes standard with the 5-speed automatic. Civic EX Coupe offers a choice of 5-speed manual ($20,115) or automatic ($20,815). All Civic EX models include a six-speaker audio system, 60/40 split rear seat, and power moonroof. Opting for the Civic EX Sedan Navi ($23,765) adds Navigation and XM Radio.
Civic EX-L ($22,265) Coupe or Sedan upgrades with leather upholstery and heated front seats. Civic EX-L Navi ($23,765) include navigation and XM.
Civic HF sedan ($19,765) is designed for maximum fuel efficiency with an economy tuned engine and 5-speed automatic.
Civic GX sedan ($24,465) burns natural gas.
Civic Hybrid ($24,360) uses a gas-electric powertrain with CVT and is available with leather ($25,560), Navi ($25,860), or both ($27,060).
Civic Si Sedan ($22,715) and Coupe ($22,515) feature a high-performance 2.4-liter engine and 6-speed manual. Navi and XM radio are available ($1500).
You can forget whatever you've read about the uninspired looks of the 2012 Civic Sedan (unless you bought one). The 2013 Civic actually catches some eyes with its changes. We got comments about the car's good looks, driving an EX for one week.
Honda had made a decision to go with the austerity times on the redesigned 2012 Sedan, which sported new fascias and character lines, but nothing bold. (The previous-generation Civic was the bold one, and its then-radical aerodynamics flow through to the 2013 model.) By playing it close to the vest, the class-leading Civic Sedan was upstaged in all directions; witness the SkyActiv Mazda3, stylish Ford Focus, and the Hyundai Elantra, a swoopy good deal. So for 2013 Honda responds with a rapid comeback, starting with the body makeover of the Sedan. (Meanwhile, the Coupe, with its own identity, doesn't get changed because there was no demand to change it.)
The nose and tail are new, up to the hood and trunk lid. Is that a hump in the hood like a muscle car? Yes! The black honeycomb mesh grill looks serious, if disguised, undermined by a thin chrome smile and half-hidden behind the mundane (but universally recognizable) Honda emblem. The front bumper offers excellent definition, dipping into black open-mouthed fascia with clear corner lights at each end. We could do without the gratuitous horizontal chrome strip within the fascia.
The A-pillars have been thinned, but the steep rake of the windshield is untouched. The side sills are sculpted smartly; with body-colored mirrors and door handles, the Civic looks classy. But not the LX with its awful plastic wheelcovers. Yes to the EX with its lovely optional alloy wheels.
The rear fenders flow nicely as they vector into the rear bumper, like a horizontal V on each side under the taillight, providing back-end definition. Honda designers did good on bumpers. At the tail above the bumper, it's restyled but still ordinary, even with big new two-piece taillamps. We could do without the gratuitous horizontal chrome strip across the trunk. But that's a generic statement; we could say that about every car.
Some less noticeable parts of the body have also been changed, especially the front floor and upper wheel housing. Fifty-percent of the body is high-strength steel, providing a rigid structure and light weight.
In the cabin there's much new content to bring the 2013 Civic upscale to match its competitors. However, there's some sleight of hand, because much of what's now standard in all models got there by discontinuing the low-cost bare-bones DX. But back on the upside, the price increase is only about $300, so the buyer does get a lot more interior content and quality in 2013.
There's standard Bluetooth phone and Bluetooth audio, along with Pandora internet radio interface and MP3, USB, iPod and SMS text message capability; the car reads your text messages to you, and allows you to respond with a default: 'I'm driving.' Nice color multi-information display (i-MID) with rearview camera. There's a new and classy all-black interior color. Living with our EX for one week, the upgraded fabric upholstery suited us just fine, leather not missed. The seats are well shaped, nicely bolstered and widely adjustable. We did a couple of four-hour runs, and enjoyed every minute behind the wheel.
The two-tiered dashboard is unique, some would say funky. The most useful information is repeated at the top of the dash, allowing the driver to scan without taking his or her eyes much off the road. Forward sightlines, even over that cool humped hood, are excellent. We appreciated the thinner windshield pillars, and small window set in the angle where the pillar intersects the car's hood. A lot of new cars have thick A-pillars that can obstruct the driver's view of pedestrians and other vehicles, but not here.
The i-MID, or Intelligent Multi-Information Display, uses a toggle on the leather-wrapped steering wheel that enables the driver to scroll through a variety of vehicle info. The optional satellite navigation system includes voice recognition. The 160-watt audio system sounds good, using six speakers in our EX. As always, maybe what we appreciated the most, was the standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatback that expands cargo capacity. We put a six-footer in the rear seat, and he didn't complain about legroom or headroom.
With no options, our EX had everything a car needs for safety and a driver needs for comfort and functionality, for $21,605 out the door (EPA-rated at 32 Combined city and highway miles per gallon). Actually, more than everything, most notably considering the power moonroof that's standard on the EX. But also smaller things like height adjustment for the driver's seat, and auto-off headlights.
The 2013 Civic interior feels premium, which couldn't be said of the 2012, which Civic customers noticed. Refinements include a new headliner to replace what's been called mouse fur, and soft-touch materials on the instrument panel, center console, and door panels. Silver accents here and there, along with faux stitching on the dashboard and door panels, add a touch of upscale. Black carpeting is standard. The colorful instrument backlighting is soothing. Radio and climate-control buttons on the center console are redesigned, no longer square, now trapezoidal and stylish. Symbolic of the attempt to change the image of the whole car, you might say.
Less visible but probably just as significant, NVH has been improved, so there is less noise, vibration and harshness. More sound deadening material has been added to the firewall, wheel wells, flooring and trunk, while the windshield and front windows are thicker, all in the successful pursuit of silence. On the inside, the Civic neither feels nor sounds like a mere $20,000 car.
We found the standard Civic 1.8-liter i-VTEC engine with its 140 horsepower and 128 foot-pounds of torque to be adequate. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph is 9.2 seconds, about average for the class, meaning slow; but it felt stronger than that, maybe because the engine was smooth and the cabin quiet. We ran 75 mph from Portland to Seattle, with the flow of faster traffic, and the power was always available. The 5-speed automatic transmission didn't struggle to keep up or kick down. Not only that, the ride was solid and comfortable.
There's an Econ mode that remaps the engine and transmission for fuel mileage over power. We switched it on and kept driving hard. We felt the difference but not so much it made us grumble. We still kept up with the other cars going 75. We watched the fuel mileage climb. We got 32.1 miles per gallon, on Regular. We were impressed.
The suspension has been reworked, too, and it shows. Thicker anti-roll bars front and rear, slightly quicker steering (7 percent), and firmer bushings. The front subframe body structure is stiffer as well, and these things definitely make a difference; flatter cornering, for one. These tweaks are all upside, as there are no negative consequences to the ride or anything else. The overall level of dynamic competence is hard to fault, absolutely and totally predictable, no surprises, no false moves.
Don't forget, we're talking about a Civic sedan, here. The sedan's primary goal is not to be fun to drive, so don't go comparing it to the sporty compacts like the Dodge Dart or Mazda3. If you want sporty, there's the Civic Si, and that one is hard to beat. It uses a high-revving 2.4-liter twin-cam four-cylinder making 201 horsepower and 170 foot-pounds of torque. We've had it on the track and the handling is marvelous. It's yahoo fun. Huge bang for the buck.
But back to the boring. There are three high-mileage versions of the Civic. The Civic HF uses a specially tuned version of the same 1.8-liter engine that achieves a government-rated 29/41 mpg, compared to 28/39 mpg for the Civic LX and EX.
The Civic GX runs on natural gas. Its 1.8-liter SOHC 16-valve four-cylinder rated at 110 horsepower and 106 foot-pounds of torque, significantly less power than that produced by the standard engine. Civic GX gets 27/38 mpg on the cheaper fuel, but be prepared to spend thousands if you want your own natural gas tank.
The Civic Hybrid pairs a 1.5-liter SOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine rated at 110 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque with a 23-hp electric motor assist. Fuel economy is rated at 44/44 mpg.
You can't go wrong with the Civic. Styling, suspension, powertrain, interior, economy, safety, price. It's got it all, including vastly different models to choose from, from Sedan to Coupe to hot Si. There are also alternative models: high-mileage HF, natural gas GX, and Hybrid.
Sam Moses filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the Civic EX sedan in Washington state.
Honda Civic LX Sedan ($18,165), HF ($19,765), EX ($20,815), EX-L ($22,265), Si Sedan ($22,715); Si Coupe ($22,515); Hybrid ($25,860).
Options As Tested
Honda Civic EX Sedan ($20,815).
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