2012 Honda CivicCoupe, sedan, or hybrid, the all-new 2012 Honda Civic is the planet's most diverse compact car
If there is a car in this class, or any class, that comes in more distinct variations than the 2012 Honda Civic, we don't know what it would be. If cars were ice cream, the Civic would be 51 flavors. Well, at least a dozen or so, for now.
You want a fairly fuel-efficient small family car? It's the Civic sedan in DX, LX, EX or EX-L (luxury) trims. You want sedan practicality with still better fuel efficiency? Try the Civic HF. You want to step up to gas-electric-hybrid fuel economy? It's the Civic Hybrid. You want small-car style? The sexy Civic Coupe (same trim levels as the sedan). You want sporty performance with style, or practicality? Check the 201-hp Si coupe, or sedan. You want to run on compressed natural gas and refill at home? There will even be a new Civic for that.
This whole diverse range of models delivers better EPA fuel economy than their 2011 counterparts, the automatic-equipped sedans and coupe by up to eight percent EPA highway. Standard engine in sedans and coupes is a 140-hp 1.8-liter DOHC 16-valve i-VTEC four with a dual-stage intake manifold good for city/highway/combined EPA ratings of 28/39/32 mpg with the five-speed automatic transmission standard on EX Sedan and EX-L models. A six-speed manual is standard on the DX and LX.
New features include standard "Motion Adaptive" Electronic Power Steering (EPS) teamed with Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), an available "intelligent" Multi-Information Display (i-MID) and efficiency-enhancing Eco Assist. The former, on Civic LX-and-above models, integrates vehicle information and personal electronics in a five-inch color display and easy-to-use steering wheel controls. The latter, at the touch of a button, can improve fuel economy while providing visual feedback on driving efficiency.
The 2012 Honda Civic sedan's styling is evolutionary and, honestly, invisibly bland. Though its windshield is sleeker and its corners more rounded, it looks little different from the 2011 Civic in front and like any number of other small cars from the side and back. If its lights didn't flash when "unlock" is pressed on its key fob, it might be hard to find in a parking lot. On the other hand, the coupe has a much more dramatic shape and its own unique front and rear styling.
The new interior improves on the previous models' two-tier instrument panel, putting frequently-referenced dials like the speedometer in the driver's line of sight and less-often-checked information in a separate lower grouping. Controls are logically offered in zones for audio, air conditioning and vehicle functions, and Honda's designers have done their usual fine job of making everything operate with solid precision and tactile feel. The 2012 sedan's total passenger volume is 94.7 cu. ft., up 3.7 over the 2011's, and both front shoulder room and rear legroom are noticeably improved- the latter apparently at some sacrifice of front legroom. Our long legs felt a bit cramped in the sedan, but much less so in the tight-backseat coupe.
While the price-leader DX has no standard radio, LX-and-above models pack audio systems ranging from basic 160-watt AM/FM/CD (with WMA and MP3 audio file capability, Radio Data System (RDS), Speed-Sensitive Volume Control (SVC), an audio input jack and a USB interface) to a kickin' 360-watt unit with a subwoofer. EX-and-above models add Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, audio streaming and front tweeters, plus (optional) voice activated GPS navigation with a 6.5-inch touch screen that can show real-time traffic data.
Beyond Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) energy-absorbing structure, the 2012 Honda Civic's standard safety equipment includes VSA vehicle stability control integrated with the new Motion Adaptive EPS, plus dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags; front side and side curtain airbags, and four-channel anti-lock braking (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist.
HF and Hybrid
The new-for-2012 Civic HF is a value-oriented (inexpensive) sedan with 15-inch alloy wheels, aerodynamic underbody panels and an aero-enhancing rear spoiler. It's EPA rated at 29 mpg city and (U.S. best for a gas-powered car with automatic transmission) 41 highway.
More pricey but much more fuel efficient is the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, powered by Honda's latest Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) parallel hybrid system with its electric motor between the engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The 1.5-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine (vs. the previous 1.3 liters) gives better mid-range response, and new lithium ion (Li-Ion) batteries replace the previous nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) to extend battery-only operation. The gas engine and IMA together generate 110 horsepower, 127 lb-ft. torque and identical 44-mpg city, highway and combined EPA economy ratings.
Si and Natural Gas
Si models are tuned for handling and performance, with their 201-hp 2.4-liter i-VTEC four driving through a standard six-speed manual and a limited-slip differential. Differentiated by their 17-inch tires and wheels, fog lights, body-color rear spoiler (with an LED center brake light) and chrome exhaust outlet, their cabins add a leather-trimmed steering wheel and perforated cloth sport seats with suede-like trim and red stitching, an aluminum shift knob, textured aluminum pedals and a sequential rev-limit indicator and power monitor in the i-MID.
Available to "qualifying" Honda dealers by fall, the 2012 Civic Natural Gas (previously GX)-still the only manufacturer-built, natural gas-powered car available in the U.S. -is powered by a 110-hp natural-gas version of the 1.8-liter four. Driving through a standard automatic transmission, it delivers EPA economy of 27 mpg city, 38 highway and 31 combined, and its standard navigation shows compressed natural gas (CNG) public refueling locations.
Civics have long nurtured a reputation for athletic handling with reasonably refined ride, and these 2012s build on that with a more rigid structure and a rare-at this-price ($15-27,000) fully independent suspension. We found the Si quick, agile and fun, as expected, with excellent mid-range torque, and we loved its crisply precise manual transmission shifter and clutch action as well as its easy-to-use steering-wheel-control infotainment interface.
The standard sedan and the SF we drove were less impressive in performance and handling yet competitive in class. Only the SF's cheaply-trimmed interior and lesser level of noise isolation betrayed its "affordable" efficiency mission.
The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, less fuel efficient but less expensive than Toyota's dedicated-platform Prius, felt happily normal in routine driving but performance-challenged at full-throttle from mid-range speeds, say for passing on a two-lane road. We averaged 37.7 mpg in mixed driving with a fair amount of full-throttle testing.
Honda’s goal was retain the previous generation’s best traits while improving on its people packaging and fuel efficiency. But the most appealing attribute of the 2012 Honda Civic may be its remarkable diversity of available models and powertrains—something for almost everyone. Hence its (grammatically challenged) new ad theme: “To Each Their Own.” (www.automobiles.honda.com)