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Honda Civic HF, 2012: Better gas mileage but at what cost?

With the HF edition, Honda adds to its crowded 2012 lineup of Civics all featuring some lettering like LK, EX and EX-L. But there's also DK, Si and the HF, which stands for "High Fuel."

It's hard to argue with success. The Honda Civic, introduced 40 years, is perennially among the top yearly sellers and among the best-selling cars in history.

The Civic began as a two-door model and then 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.

Now in its ninth generation and its first redesign since 2006, the 2012 Civic is available in numerous configurations with gasoline, hybrid and natural gas variations.

The HF version adds additional fuel economy with the help of aerodynamic add-ons, lightweight alloy wheels and low rolling-resistance tires. With other higher-priced Civics, the HF has ECO-Assist technology.

It's designated with a green push button on the lower left corner of the dashboard. Engage it and, according to Honda, "the Civic engine and other power-using systems will then go into super-efficient mode to maximize your fuel efficiency."

Rear view, 2012 Honda Civic HF
 
The Weekly Driver Test Drive

Like driving a Volkswagen Beetle or Toyota Corolla, testing driving a Honda Civic is experiencing history. None of the trio is particularly enticing, but driving any of the threesome should include respect the cars' respective legacies.

In late 2011 I reviewed the Civic EX-L model with a navigation system. 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.

Minus the sportiness of the EX-L, criticism launched to the HF edition is easier to understand. The Civic's designers did well with space allocation and the cabin and trunk are cavernous, considering the car's desigination. It's far more than an econobox, with so many other configuration optins. But Honda seemingly did little with its new design to make it resonate with potential new, young buyers and to compete against a lot of hard-charging competitors from Hyundai, Kia and Volkswagen, among others.

Likes:

Improved fuel economy ratings.
 
Surprisingly good sound system.

Spacious interior (3.7 cubic feet were added) and a surprisingly large trunk.

Honda signature two-tiered instrument panel.

Good overall driver vision.

Dislikes:

Base price too high for category.

Radio and navigation controls too small and correspondingly small lettering.

How many Honda Civic versions are really needed?

Honda Eco-Assistance feature not convincing enough to change drivers' habits.

Facts & Figures: 2012 Honda Civic HF

Acceleration: 0-100 kph (62 mph), 8.9 seconds
Airbags (6): Standard front, front side and side curtain.
First aid kit: Not available.
Fuel economy: 29 mpg (city), 41 mpg (highway)
Government Safety Ratings: Not tested.
Horsepower: 140
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $20,225.00
Manufacturer's Web site: www.honda.com
Price As tested: unavailable
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,0000 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.

What The Wife Says:

"It's a no-nonsense, zippy little car. It's not a powerful car, but nor did it hesitate to accelerate."

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

"Honda wanted to join the 40-plus mile EPA highway mileage club, and it did with the Civic HF. But with so many rivals cutting into its once dominating sales, Honda is going to have to offer more."
 

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