2012 Honda Civic

The Good:
– Superb fuel economy
– Cabin space and features
– Fairly comfortable ride
The Bad:
– Pricey with options
– Steering too light
– Some hard cabin plastics

The Honda Civic gained fame back in the 1970s for its fuel-efficiency. It became even more popular in the 1980s for its futuristic styling. It truly set the bar high by the 1990s, with its superb double-wishbone suspension and entertaining VTEC engine. Then jaws dropped in 2006, and for half-a-decade since then, it led the class in more ways than one. And then there is this new model for 2012, more controversial than ever.

Ironically, it is the conservative exterior that is generating the most controversy. The truth is, the Civic had been a stylistic bore from 1996 all the way till 2005. But it took such a leap forward in 2006 that we always knew it’d be a tough act to follow. The outgoing model simply looked better, even though there is nothing stylistically wrong with the 2012 model. Still, however it looks, styling was never the reason why the Civic sold in huge numbers.

The perfectly-assembled Civic remains among the most spacious compact sedans in its class, even after losing 30 mm of its wheelbase, though the overall length is no shorter than before. What has changed is the quality of the cabin materials. All soft-touch stuff on the dash and door-sill panels have been replaced by hard plastics. Granted, they are nicely-textured solid-feeling hard plastics that don’t feel hollow when you play knuckle-drums on it, but now the Civic isn’t a class-leader on that front any more. However, while the previous model had hard armrests draped in a thin layer of cloth, our new model had nicely-padded elbow-rests and door inserts, so technically it is actually more comfortable. Our top-spec VTi model’s optional leather was also very nice to feel up.

Legroom and headroom, both front and rear, almost approaches midsize levels, with a flat rear floor. The luggage boot is pretty sizeable for a compact, made even more practical with split-folding rear seats. There are four cup-holders, the front ones now without the sliding cover found in the old model, while all the door pockets are a bit on the small side. Smaller cubbies, shelves and pockets here and there make the cabin more practical.

The redesigned dash still houses a two-tier instrument panel, but with some premium upgrades. The digital speedo now has some blue-green lights that change colour to show how economically you’re driving. And in all but the base model, there is a little full-colour “i-MID” screen to the right, showing trip computer, Bluetooth, stereo and other settings in pretty animation. A working Bluetooth phone is now integrated with buttons on the steering wheel, alongside cruise control, “i-MID” and stereo buttons. The CD/MP3 stereo is above-average, with available USB and AUX ports, and tweeters in the A-pillars. The single-zone auto a/c gets freezing, although it takes a while to reach that level if left out in 46-degree heat, as in our August test. Other features in the VTi include manually-adjusted front seats, sunroof, basic keyless entry, HID headlights with fogs, and the usual power accessories. On the safety front, front airbags and active headrests are standard, while only the VTi gets side and curtain airbags.

The 1.8-litre engine is unchanged, at least on the surface. Producing 139 hp at 6500 rpm and 173 Nm of torque at 4300 rpm, it is still mated to a basic 5-speed automatic. The rev-happy engine only makes itself heard on hard acceleration, but it turns over at only 2300 rpm while doing 120 kph. That speaks volumes for fuel economy obviously. The “i-MID” was showing a fuel consumption figure of only 8.3 litres/100 km by the end of our road test, going as low as 7 litres/100 km if driven a bit conservatively, a fair bit better than before. Of course, it seems to have taken a hit on brute performance, as we recorded a 0-100 kph time of 11.8 seconds, although we’d chalk some of that up to the summer weather and a new engine that’s done only a couple of hundred miles. There is also an “ECON” button to reduce consumption further, but it’s a ridiculous feature, considering the first thing it does is drastically reduce a/c performance.

Comfort levels are pretty good, possibly better than the old model. It still rides on four-wheel-independent suspension, when most others, including the new-age Koreans, still use a cheap live-axle rear. The ride quality is largely smooth, without the floatiness of a Corolla or the harshness of a Focus. The road noise is moderately noticeable on some roads, but only because wind noise is very muted. On the highway, all-round visibility is good, but the electric steering is so light now that constant corrections need to be made to keep the car straight on breezy days.

The steering used to be one of the better bits of the old Civic, but now it is lifeless, making it easier for parking but not for piloting fast around turns. The “chassis” is noticeably less agile, but we found ways of having fun with that. Body roll is never excessive, but swing the steering left-and-right like an animal and it is possible to mildly drift the rear around corners. Yet regular commuters will never be bothered by this because the safety net of stability control and ABS are now standard on all Civics. The disc brakes are as good as the class-average, while the 205/55 tyres on 16-inch alloys are easy to squeal at the safely-understeering limit, just as before.

So is the new Honda Civic really worse than before, as many claim it to be? The truth is Honda has simply shifted their priorities with this model, making it more appealing to the conservative-commuter majority rather than catering to the racer-wannabe minority. While it has lost that minor entertainment factor and flamboyance, what it’s gained is better comfort, efficiency and even gadgetry. The only real problem is the gigantic price premium over similar cars. With that hard-plastic cabin and basic drivetrain, it was obviously designed to compete with Hyundai Elantras and Chevy Cruzes rather than VW Golfs and Nissan Altimas. A combination of overvalued currencies, factory politics and local dealers all conspire against what is otherwise a solid entry in this segment, easily the best in build quality, but not the best value any more.

Price Range:
Dh 75,000-90,000

Current Model Introduced in:
2012

Body Styles:
4-door sedan

Engines:
1.8L 139 hp Inline-4 / 173 Nm

Transmissions:
5-speed automatic

Setup:
Front-wheel-drive

Suspension:
Front: independent
Rear: independent

Brakes:
Front: discs
Rear: discs

Curb Weight:
1235-1270 kg

Length:
4530 mm

Wheelbase:
2670 mm

Top Speed:
194 kph

Test Acceleration 0-100 kph:
11.8 sec.

Observed Test Fuel Economy:
8.3 litres/100km

16 comments to 2012 Honda Civic

  • Faisal Khatib

    Testing 1,2,3….

    Still spells overpriced ugly car to me…bleh

  • SC

    Nice Review ! Old Civic still better than the new model. Gonna miss the old civic which was stunning and aweseome when it was launched in 2006.

  • rana

    why would you buy this car over the lancer ex ?
    the ex looks better i think drives better and has the same fuel economy but better performance and better features too :)

    • Darryl

      The lancer is all show and no go, and with the body kit it’s as light as a tank. I’m not saying the civic is brilliant exterior wise but i’d take this over the lancer for the excellent overall package.

  • Aleem

    hi Mashfique,

    can you tell me which one is good between Corolla 2012 and Civic 2012?

  • mon

    @ aleem
    in my opinion., corolla is much better than civic. im drving a 2011 corolla which is same as 2012 model. i’ve also tried renting a civic but it has noisy engine.

  • Nanjil

    I drive a Civic 2010 VTI model. If I drive between 100-120 kph, I get milage figures of 6.1 litres/100km in highways.

  • Jad

    quiet ugly as far as i can see..
    looks more like the american old civic from the front the “si” (i guess) to be more specific !
    i wonder if honda dealerships are making offers on the 2011 models now :P
    I’d prefer the 2011 over this a hundred times! still didn’t try it though.
    Regards.

  • Ahmed

    I have 3 choice Corolla, Civic, Tiida, can you please suggest me which 1 is best to buy.

  • ABDUL

    Hi,
    I would like to go with old CIVIC model than the new model.
    I used two HONDA CRV and currently CIVIC-2010 Model. Wt i noticed common is in between 30-40 there is small vibarion while driving.
    Both ahd Air condition problem.
    i thought may be it’s for my cars. I asked 2 of my friends who had CIVIC, they also had same AC issues.

  • mitch

    I considered the old model years ago. I really liked it. The new model is also very nice IMO, but the price is too high now. The 2.0 Lancer EX seems a better choice and its cheaper. The gearbox is better on the EX, and the Lancer is faster with the same fuel economy.

  • Ashish

    Hi Guys,
    I feel old Civic is much better than this new model in all aspects.

  • Iris Stenton

    Hi,
    We just bought a 2012 honda civic with the sunroof. We loved our 2008 civic so we decided to get another. we are not happy with it. the seats aren’t as comfortable and we don’t have as much storage space 50 percent less. more plastic in it. we can’t open the windows after the car is shut down. we could with our 2008 for a few seconds after it was shut off we had time to close a window. the windows are smaller. I don’t like the head rests they push our heads out and this causes nech issues. The floor in the passenger side feels very uncomfortable, I feel like I have my feet in a bowl. Oh dear, who can we trust? I want my old car back!!!!

  • Ramesh

    hi I have 2 choice Corolla, Civic, can you please suggest me which 1 is best to buy.

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