2012 Honda Civic Review

2012 Honda Civic - Civic is no longer just a point A to point B commuter.


PLUSES: Fresh styling. Fuel economy. Sedan, coupe, gas, gas/electric hybrid models.

MINUSES: Rear seat head room.

The all-new 2012 Honda Civic represents the ninth generation of the machine that helped put Honda on the map in the '70s.

Civic originally started life as a subcompact in the 1973 model year to compete against the likes of the Ford Pinto, Chevy Vega, American Motors Gremlin, and Toyota Corolla.

While Pinto, Vega, and Gremlin have disappeared---along with American Motors---Civic and Corolla still exist today and are going strong.

Both have grown in size, swelling from subcompact dimension to roomy compacts. And amenities have increased as the vehicles have moved from econocars focusing strictly on mileage to family machines with all the gadgets and frills consumers expect when the focus turns to fashion and fun and not just function.

Civic has accounted for more than 8.8 million sales in the United States since its launch as a 1973 model. It's offered in coupe and sedan versions powered by gas, gas/electric, and even natural gas.

While Civic opened some eyes by offering 20 m.p.g. plus in the early '70s, it now is capable of obtaining 40 m.p.g. plus despite growing in both size as well as power, thanks to a hybrid version rated at 44 m.p.g. city and highway.

The all new 2012 model offers added refinement and a host of state of the art technology not even heard about back in 1973.

The 2012 Civic model lineup is comprised of DX, LX, EX, and EX-L sedans and coupes, high performance Si sedan and coupe, high mileage HF sedan, higher mileage gas/electric hybrid, and a limited edition natural gas GX.

We tested the Civic EX-L sedan with navi system. While Civic has undergone a variety of styling iterations over the years, including small box on wheels stage, it now looks more like a South Korean creation with sharply creased sheetmetal, sporty long hood/short deck profile, and sloping coupe roof line associated with two doors, not 4-door sedans.

The cabin is room and cozy up front and seats are well cushioned for long distance travel without bringing on a case of the jitters. Cabin trim looks rich and feels soft. There's no cutting corners to save a few pennies.

But the slanted coupe roofline means taller adults would appreciate a little more head room in back. Rear doors open very wide, but the low, slanted roof line means rear seat occupants have to bend low to protect the melon when exiting.

Trunk space is good and the trunk lid opens high for easy loading and unloading. If you need more room the rear seat backs fold to extend cargo space into the cabin. But you have to pull a release lever in the trunk and then pull the seat backs down from in the cabin, which makes for too much movement when needing to load lots of luggage. And rather than a wide open gap between trunk and cabin, it's one of those partial half moon openings.

The sedan is powered by a 1.8 liter, 140 h.p. four cylinder teamed with a 5-speed automatic. Smooth and fairly quiet acceleration, but not blistering quick movement off the line. The mileage rating is a very good 28 m.p.g. city/39 m.p.g. highway and that translates into more than 400 miles driving range before having to pause to refill the tank. Kick the pedal and there's no problem passing or merging, but for optimum performance the 2.4 liter, 201 h.p. four cylinder that replaces the 2 liter, 197 h.p. four in the higher output Si version is the choice.

Civic has a 1 inch shorter wheelbase, but 1 inch longer overall length to improve maneuverability and make it more nimble. Stability control is standard, along with side curtain airbags.

The EX-L has a smooth, blemish free ride and minimal lean in corners or turns. Handling is good, but as with overall performance, for more sure footed handling and quicker reaction to steering input, the Si would be the choice.

To save on fuel you can push the "econ" button on the instrument panel to altar throttle response, automatic transmission shift points, and air conditioner settings to conserve fuel, though with a 28/39 mileage rating, the button went untouched during several days of 90 degree temps.

There's also a series of blue lights resembling an airport runway that flank the digital speedometer in the instrument panel. If you hold the gas pedal steady, avoid heavy footed stops and starts, and travel lots of level roads minus hills and steep inclines, the blue lines change color to conservation green as a sign that you are saving, not wasting a resource. The lights are supposed to serve as a learning tool, though the frequency of stops at the pump should teach a lesson as well.   

The 2012 Civic EX-L with navi starts at $23,455.

New available technology includes intelligent a Multi-Information Display in the dash, USB audio interface, Bluetooth, and a satellite-linked navigation system with voice recognition and real time traffic.

All 2012 Civic models (except DX) feature power windows with auto-reverse and an auto up/down driver's window. The EX-L comes with a one-touch power moonroof  with tilt and a sliding sunshade.

A redesigned center storage console features dual cupholders and a large armrest and each door panel has a built-in storage bin and bottle holder. And the air conditioner has an integrated micron air-filter. There's a 160 watt AM/FM/CD audio system with six speakers, auxiliary input jack, and satellite radio.

Unlike the 1973 model, Civic is no longer just a point A to point B commuter.

2012 Honda Civic EX-L sedan w/navi

Wheelbase: 105.1 inches


Length: 177.3 inches


Engine: 1.8 liter, 140 h.p. 4 cylinder.


Transmission: 5-speed automatic.  


Mileage: 28 m.p.g. city/39 m.p.g. highway.


Base price:


Price as equipped:
Add $770 freight.

Jim Mateja

Jim Mateja enjoyed a 42 year career with the Chicago Tribune before retiring in 2007 as the newspaper's automotive columnist. He received numerous awards for his reporting and writing, including the National Automotive Journalism Association's "Moto" award for best regularly published column and automotive feature writing, and a Best in Show award for his test ride of a horse in conjunction with the Tribune's 150th anniversary. He also earned the Detroit Press Club Foundation's Gold Wheel Award for best car reviews, and a Tribune Professional Performance Award for his column and regular reporting. He still writes occasional car reviews for the Tribune, is one of the nation's 50 automotive journalists who serve as members of the North American Car of the Year judging panel, and is a panel member who helps select Best Buys for "Consumers Digest" magazine. Mateja also is the founding President of the Midwest Automotive Media Association.