Introduced 40 years ago as a two-door model and soon after in a three-door hatchback, the 1972 Honda Civic included a basic AM radio, heater, foam-cushioned plastic trim, two-speed wipers, and painted steel rims with a chromed wheel nut cap. A lot has changed in four decades.
Now in its ninth generation and its first redesign since 2006, the 2012 Civic showcases one of the best-selling cars in history at its best.
Like all Honda models, the 2012 Civic is available in numerous configurations with gasoline, hybrid and natural gas variations. The gasoline-engine lineup includes a sedan, coupe and two Si performance versions.
The Weekly Driver Test Drive
Like driving a Volkswagen Beetle or Toyota Corolla, test driving a Honda Civic is experiencing history. None of the trio is particularly enticing, but the threesome is among the best selling cars in history — and there’s plenty to be said for that.
My test car for the week was the top-of-the-line EX-L model sedan with navigation. The sportier, Euro-styled new exterior upgrade has been criticized by some reviewers, but I like the new look. It’s not edgy, but let’s not forget the Honda Civic is designated as a compact car.
The Civic’s designers did well with space allocation. Open any of the four doors and the entry to the cabin is cavernous. Likewise, and remembering it’s a compact, the trunk is also quite spacious.
Honda is heavily promoting three Civic features: the econo button on the left side of the dash, the corresponding digital readout that changes from green to blue or vice versa with efficient driving and the “Intelligent Multi-Information Display” screen.
The latter allows the driver to navigate through the audio-system, fuel-economy and vehicle-info readouts via steering-wheel-mounted buttons.
Improved fuel economy ratings — increased three mpg from 2011.
New in-dash technology for images, although there’s a distraction potential.
Car grips the road for its category with Standard Vehicle Stability Assist system.
Surprisingly good sound system.
(Editor’s note: We’re visiting our archives to review cars once new and now well-suited for best buy status in the used market. The 2012 Honda Civic as a redesigned 9th generation, is now two model years old, and it’s likely just hitting its stride as a fine people mover.)
Spacious interior (3.7 cubic feet were added) and surprisingly large trunk.
Honda signature two-tiered instrument panel.
Good overall driver vision.
Base price too high for category.
The odd mixture of leather seats with less-than-the-best quality of other interior materials.
Radio and navigation controls too small and corresponding small letters and numbers.
Facts & Figures: 2012 Honda Civic
Acceleration: 0-100kph (62 mph), 8.9 seconds.
Airbags (6): Standard front, front side and side curtain.
First aid kit: Not available.
Fuel economy: 28 mpg (city), 39 mpg (hwy.)
Government Safety Ratings: Not tested.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $15,605-$23,455.
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.honda.com.
Price As tested: $23,455.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, miles; Roadside Assistance, 5 years/unlimited mileage.
What Others Say:
“Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Civic is that despite shunning all of the fuel-saving advancements employed by its competition, the vehicle still manages to come out as a solid player on this field.” —- Autoblog.com.
“Though you do hear the engine, at least it’s a smooth one. The car does a good job of blocking the whooshing noise of tires on wet pavement, which typically comes from the rear wheels.” —- Cars.com.
“However, the Civic’s small size and nimble suspension make it feel relatively sporty. The car’s appeal has always been its quickness once it’s rolling, from about 25 mph to 65 mph. In that speed range the Civic really jumps when you give it gas.” —- BusinessWeek.com.
What The Wife Says:
“There’s good overall vision and it’s a lot nicer than the older Civics. But it just doesn’t yet have the quality feel of an Accord.”
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“Honda knows as well as any manufacturer competition is intensifying in most car segments. It faced a difficult decision for its first re-design in six years — mess with success or tread lightly with changes for the wickedly popular car. Honda chose the latter and the result is another success story.”