Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quick Drive: 2012 Honda Civic EX with Navigation

The compact Honda Civic has been a staple of the American small car landscape since the late 1970s. Although it's substantially grown since it's 1973 introduction, it's carried on a legacy of quality, refinement, and a fun-to-drive factor unrivaled by most. The 2012 Civic is all new, and I got a chance to spend a bit of time in the 2012 Civic EX with Navigation.

On the outside, the Civic features somewhat bland styling. The overall look may be clean, but it borders on sterile. Then again, Civics have rarely been on the lusty side of styling. This one might be a bit too inoffensive. And FYI, I am not a fan of the chrome grille.

The inoffensive theme carries over into the interior. Although it feels well put together, there is a lot of hard plastic. Yes, everything fits well, and there weren't any squeaks or rattles in my test car, but it felt plasticy and looks dull. The seats are comfortable, but they lack significant bolstering (as have most Civics since 1995), but outward visibility was very good. The stereo was a high point, and Honda's navigation unit continues to improve as does its Bluetooth connectivity (plus, streaming Bluetooth audio is always nice). Another nice feature is the small information screen right of the large tachometer/digital speedometer. This easy-to-read, informative screen can be scrolled using a button on the steering wheel. Screens include a clock, stereo information, outside temperature, and more. A nice touch. Of note: A very amply sized trunk.

This Civic featured a 1.8-liter VTEC engine making 140 horsepower. Power was routed through a five-speed automatic. Fuel economy is rated at 28 city, 39 highway. The engine seemed noisier and less refined than Civics of the past (I've owned four previous generation Civics). Acceleration felt average. And although the Civic rides quite nicely, compared to vehicles such as the Kia Forte and Mazda3, handling was not nearly as sporty. Perhaps Honda is reserving that for those who purchase the 2012 Civic Si—the sporting version.

My day-and-a-half with the Civic proved to be a somewhat "vanilla" experience. Nothing terrible, nothing terrific. And not only does Honda have to worry about the usual competition from other Japanese automakers, it also now has to worry about the latest crop of very good offerings from the Koreans, and now the Americans (e.g. Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze). My test model was priced right around $22,700. Will dyed-in-the-wool Honda fans embrace the Civic? Perhaps. But there are also more outstanding compact sedans on the market than ever before, and the competition is fierce.


nlpnt said...

Which do you like better, Civic or Fit? Among new Hondas the base Fit's the only one that still seems like a Honda, if you know what I'm trying to get at.

Andy Lilienthal said...

Personally, I enjoy the Fit more than the Civic. It feels sportier, more nimble, more versatile. And yes, I know what you're getting at.

I have briefly driven the 2012 Civic Si, and with the 2.4-liter K24, it's pretty fun. It is, however, not the same as the old Si cars with their stratospheric readlines (and no torque).

Regardless, I still prefer the look of the Fit vs. the Civic.

nlpnt said...

There's an interesting column by Jamie Kitman on the Car Talk blog about how Honda's creeping conservatism has nocked it off the top. The commenters' consensus seems to be that the Fit is indeed the last non-dumbed-down Honda.