2012 Honda Civic tries to keep up with competition

2012 Honda Civic Sedan

So what’s up with all the bad press about the 2012 Civic?

Some dealers don’t like it because it’s not as distinct as the new crop of Hyundais and Kias roaming the planet. Others have said it’s more of an evolution than a revelation.

And? Why mess up a good thing. My time with the 2012 Civic Hybrid and the HF was well spent. Didn’t find much wrong with either but I was confused a bit. The gas mileage for both looked close but upon further review I found that the hybrid’s mileage was the SAME for city and highway. Impressive. Very impressive.

Heck, I found the Civic to be impressive overall, especially the HF. It had everything that I like about Hondas: quick reflexes, strong four-cylinder engine, comfortable ride and a well done interior.

I will admit, there are cars that do at least one of the aforementioned better but not the whole package. Hyundai and Kia come the closest, but Honda still does it a tad better overall. The looks of the Civic don’t bother me, either. I will admit the 2012 looks much like the outgoing car.

That’s probably why you will see a refresh next year instead of 2014. Honda has taken the criticism to heart and will speed up the car’s cycle.

Still, this model has a lot to offer. The interior feels a bit more spacious even if it’s not. The dash is handsome, but Honda is beginning to favor many buttons over simplicity. Again, nothing wrong, but for so many years this company was the leader in ergonomic interiors.

Interior design fine, but low grade plastics hurt.

Honda still gets kudos for its balance between a comfortable ride and good handling. The Civic still knifes through traffic without much fuss and will give you good acceleration when needed. The 140-horsepower four-cylinder engine is quiet enough and puts out enough torque for most urban driving situations.

Honda does have to worry about prices, just as it’s Japanese rival Toyota. Both were hit by pipeline foulups because of last year’s tsunami. Less product to offer meant a slower than hoped rollout for the Civic and higher than expected prices which is what the Big 2, Hyundai and Kia needed to push their competing models forward. Each has gained market share on the Civic but Honda still has a reputation for building a great car which lasts – regardless of the warranty length.

The Civic HF I tested was $20,225. It didn’t have navigation, Bluetooth or a snazzy stereo system. It had all the basics plus a five speed automatic transmission, tilt and telescopic steering column, driver’s seat height adjustment, auto headlamps, keyless entry and a USB port. All of that’s standard. No options included. None needed, or missed.

The combined gas mileage was 33 (29 city/41 highway). Go for the hybrid and you get 44 city and highway. You will spend a few grand more but if you want to go green you still pay a premium.

I’d buy a Civic because I like small, well built cars. The problem is it’s no longer the only game in town, and for some, no longer the best. Time will tell.


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