CR does not issue a press release every time a newly graded vehicle falls off its recommended list. For the Civic, which has been a perennial leader in quality, the magazine felt it needed to announce the change because consumers tend to look upon the Civic brand name as synonymous with hassle-free car ownership.
The redesigned Civic LX's score dropped a 17 points on CR rating scale 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.
" CR testers found the 2012 Civic to be less agile and with lower interior quality than its predecessor," the magazine said in a statement. "It also suffers from a choppy ride, long stopping distances, and pronounced road noise."
Spokespeople for American Honda Motors did not have a response at press time.
The review of the Civic by CR wasn't all negative.
"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," the magazine said.
Still, not making the "Recommended" list is a blow to Honda. One which analysts say could seriously hurt sales of the car, especially with first-time car buyers.
"The Civic sells in a category where people tend to do a lot of comparison shopping and Internet research," says Los Angeles marketing consultant Dennis Keene. "Hard-core Honda owners won't easily be put off the car, but this opens up a big hole of opportunity for Hyundai with its new Elantra, Ford with its new Focus and Chevy with its new Cruze."
The magazine's director of auto testing agrees.
"While other models like the Hyundai Elantra (the top-ranked car in the category that includes Civic) 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, Conn.
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."
CR 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 7 million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.