2012 Honda Civic Review and Prices
The 2012 Honda Civic is the best car for you if you’re convinced that America’s best-selling compact car is also America’s best compact car.
The 2012 Civic is all new in style and specification, the first such sweeping changes since model-year 2006. It’s roomier and boasts two models rated at more than 40 mpg on the highway. And Honda keeps prices increases modest. It holds them to about $300 on the most popular model, the LX sedan, which accounts for 50 percent of Civic sales and starts at $18,795. Increases are even less on some models, including the upscale EX versions, which account for 30 percent of sales. The 2012 Honda Civic inaugurates the ninth-generation of the automobile that owes much of its success to class-leading style and refinement. However, with only modestly updated looks and few fresh features to set it apart from tough new rivals, the redesigned 2012 Civic is no longer the unquestioned small-car benchmark.
Should you buy a 2012 Honda Civic or wait for the 2013 Honda Civic? Honda’s responding to critics of the 2012 Civic’s styling and interior with planned updates for model-year 2013. Sources say the 2013 Civic will have minor appearance tweaks and upgraded cabin materials. It likely also will be available with Honda’s next-generation infotainment system. No mechanical changes of note are likely, however. So buy a 2012 Civic if the planned changes are less important that closeout deals on the 2012 model. It’s roomy, economical, and a solid long-term value. And you won’t be alone; the 2012 Civic is America’s best-selling compact car.
2012 Honda Civic Changes back to top
Styling: The redesigned 2012 Civic sedan and coupe look slightly racier than the 2006-2011 Civics, though you’d probably need to park the old and new side by side to appreciate the differences. Mainly, the 2012 Civics get more radically swept-back roof pillars and more aggressively chiseled body contours. Some details, such as the new taillamps and the coupe’s extended rear roofline, recall cues seen on cars from Honda’s upscale Acura division.
Overall, the new bodies are not as radical as they might be, and Civic arguably has ceded its standing as the most futuristic-looking car in the compact class to the 2012 Focus and redesigned 2011 Hyundai Elantra. Honda’s explanation is that the already modern-looking Civic didn’t require a clean-sheet redesign – as did the dowdy-looking Focus and Elantra. Honda says its priorities were visual continuity with the popular outgoing Civic design, holding the line on prices, and strategic advances in safety and fuel economy.
Another goal was increased interior roominess. Automotive evolution almost invariably means succeeding generations grow in size. That was true of every previous Civic redesign, but not this one. Overall exterior dimensions are unchanged, while wheelbase – the distance between the front and rear axles and a key determinate of interior volume – actually shrinks about an inch on both Civic body styles.
Yet Honda manages to expand usable cabin space in the 2012 Civic sedan, by far the most popular Civic body style. Only two key interior measurements are notably different. But 1.6 inches extra rear legroom and added shoulder width -- some 3 inches in front and an inch in back – create a feeling of spaciousness matched among compact cars only by the Volkswagen Jetta, a longer and taller sedan. Indeed, four adults ride comfortably in the 2012 Civic. Greater glass area creates a refreshingly airy ambience and gives the driver a wide field of vision forward and to the front corners. Seats are supportive if a little shy on lumbar support. Only the driver’s seat is height-adjustable and it needs to be set well off the floor to insure good toe space for the passenger behind.
The 2012 Civic Coupe remains slightly shorter in wheelbase and overall length than the Civic sedan. It continues its sporty two-door mission, which dictates good room for two in front but tight and difficult-to-access rear seating.
Cargo volume is about par for sedans and coupes in the class, at 12.5 cubic feet of trunk space for the 2012 Civic sedan and 11.7 for the coupe. Still, two prime Civic rivals, the Focus and the Mazda 3, offer hatchback body styles that provide far more carrying capacity and versatility.
The 2006 Civic introduced a controversial bi-level instrument panel that placed a digital speedometer in a cove above an analog tachometer. The 2012 Civic’s dashboard reprises the theme but widens the upper cove to include a feature Honda calls the intelligent Multi-Information Display, or i-MID. This 5-inch screen right of the speedometer readout displays a variety of audio, trip, and fuel-economy data. It also supplements a larger dashboard screen on models equipped with the navigation system. On Si versions, it can furnish engine-output specs of interest to enthusiasts. And on Hybrids, it displays gas-electric power apportioning and details of fuel consumption.
Civic’s original two-tier dashboard tended to be a love-hate affair and that’s likely to be the case with this one. Nothing is obstructed, but beyond its unorthodoxy, the design contributes to a dashtop that extends forward a disconcerting distance. Worse, the upper cove on the 2012 Civic has a clear plastic shield prone to obscuring reflections that can’t be overcome by the weak backlighting. Much of the i-MID data seems superfluous, too, though the navigation system itself is improved; its separate 6.5-inch dashboard display is crisp and colorful and its voice-recognition logic limits misunderstood commands to a tolerable level.
The 2012 Civic gets a new steering wheel that’s not quite as sporty as before but includes thumb controls for a multitude of audio, i-MID, and hands-free mobile-phone functions. The thumb-control markings are less than obvious, though, so it takes practice to coordinate their movement with desired results. The balance of the 2012 Civic’s dashboard layout and switchgear is a study in simple ergonomics or -- against the showy Focus and Elantra -- an example of listless imagination.
The redesigned Civic does seem to be running in place in terms of cabin materials. Nothing feels cheap, but padded panels and gracefully rounded forms are at a minimum. Run-of-the-mill plastics and cold, squared shapes are the rule. For interior quality, the 2012 Focus moves to the head of the class.
The 2012 Civic lineup returns with sedans and coupes in main five levels of trim: base DX, volume-selling LX, better equipped EX, sporty Si, and top-of-the-line, leather-upholstered EX-L.
The sedan returns a gas-electric Civic Hybrid model, and is also offered as the new-for-2012 Civic HF, a gas-only version aimed at high fuel economy. The natural-gas-fueled model is now called the Civic Natural Gas sedan instead of the Civic GX.
Styling distinctions between the 2012 Civic models are modest. For example, DX versions make do with plastic wheel covers and black side mirrors and door handles. EX, HF, Si, and Hybrid models have alloy wheels. The Si also has fog lamps, a chrome exhaust tip, and small front and rear spoilers. Wheel and tire sizes are unchanged: DX and LX Civics have 15s, EX and EX-Ls get 16s, and Si models 17s. The mileage-minded Hybrid and HF have 15s and low-rolling-resistance tires.
The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid is Honda’s principal Toyota Prius-fighter. Honda hasn’t previously styled the Civic Hybrid to differentiate it drastically from conventional-powertrain Civics and continues to set both the 2012 Civic Hybrid and new HF models apart with only minor aerodynamic body trim and special wheel designs. The 2012 Hybrid does get a body-colored grille and blue-accented headlamps and taillamps, however.
Mechanical: The redesigned 2012 Honda Civic sedan and coupe retain front-wheel drive and four-cylinder gas engines. Also returning is the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid sedan with the latest iteration of Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) gas-electric powertrain. This is the first Honda hybrid to use lithium-ion batteries.
The 2012 roster of gas four-cylinder engines reprises a successful formula. It starts with a single-overhead-cam 1.8-liter that remains at 140 horsepower and 128-pound-feet of torque but delivers better fuel economy than before. This engine powers DX, LX, HF, EX, and EX-L Civics.
It’s an adequate performer characterized more by laudable smoothness than outright muscle. While horsepower and torque are short of most top rivals, advanced Honda engineering keeps Civic the lightest car in its competitive set: most versions of the 2012 model are in fact lighter than their 2011 counterparts. So acceleration feels fully on par with that of direct rivals.
Ride and handling, traditional Civic selling points, are among the very best in class. The 2012 model enjoys excellent isolation from bumps, slop-free reaction to steering inputs, and fine control through turns.
The sporty 2012 Honda Civic Si sedan and coupe are back with a dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder, this one a 2.4-liter with 201 horsepower in place of a 2.0-liter with 197. The more important advance is in torque, which is the true force behind acceleration. It increases to 170 pound-feet, a significant 22 percent jump from the 2.0-liter’s 139 pound-feet. And it peaks at a reasonable 4400 rpm, 1700 rpm lower than in the previous engine. The Si engine again uses Honda’s i-VTEC (intelligent Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) system to enhance power. Combined with a sport-tuned suspension and limited-slip differential, the result is a delightful balance of high-revving fun, accessible around-town response, and tenacious grip in turns.
The 2012 Civic’s transmission choices are unchanged, and in this the car appears dated versus top rivals. DX and LX models come with a smooth-shifting five-speed manual transmission, and while some rivals employ a six-speed manual, most compact buyers choose an automatic transmission.
The 2012 Civic’s automatic again has five speeds. It’s available at extra cost in the 2012 Civic DX and LX models and is standard on the HF, EX, and EX-L. In transmissions, the greater number of gear ratios the greater the opportunity to maximize engine efficiency and gas mileage. Six-speed automatics are the new compact-class standard, but Honda defends its five-speed as a cost-effective choice and within its target range for performance and economy.
In practice, Civic’s five-speed automatic is in harmony with the 1.8-liter, shifting unobtrusively and almost always furnishing the proper gear for the driving condition. How much better performance and economy would be with a six-speed automatic – and whether any gains would be worth the cost of an extra gear ratio – is open to conjecture. Like their predecessors, the 2012 Civic Si models come only with a slick-shifting six-speed manual.
The 2012 Civic Hybrid gains a larger gas engine, a 1.5-liter four-cylinder in place of a 1.3-liter. Net gas-electric horsepower is unchanged at 110 and torque is up a nominal 4 pound-feet, to 127. But both peak at lower rpm and are assisted by an upgraded electric motor powered by lithium-ion batteries in place of a less-efficient and bulker nickel metal hydride battery pack. The Civic Hybrid again uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which acts like an automatic but employs a rheostat-like delivery of power rather than set gear ratios
This is not a plug-in hybrid, nor can it accelerate on electric power alone, though it can cruise on electricity once up to speed. Gas savings come principally through tapping the electric motor to assist in acceleration and the ability to shut off the engine (an automatically restart it) when the car is stopped. Silence during engine shut-off, a slight shudder accompanying engine restart upon release of the brake pedal, and engine drone induced by the CVT during liberal throttle applications are the only obvious dynamic differences between the feel of the Civic Hybrid and gas-only Civics.
The 2012 Honda Civic GX sedan powers its four-cylinder engine on natural gas and the redesigned version is now available in all 50 states, not just four. Still, this remains essentially a special-order model aimed at government and commercial fleet users. Output is 110 horsepower and 106 pound-feet of torque.
Among standard safety features on every 2012 Civic is Honda’s Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) antiskid control to minimize chances of sideways slides. On the outgoing-generation Civic, VSA was standard only on EX-L, Hybrid, and Si models. All 2012 Civics have front disc brakes but only EX, EX-L, and Si models have rear disc brakes instead of rear drum brakes.
Features: The 2012 Honda Civic takes a step forward, making a USB iPod/flash-drive interface standard on all models except the DX; it wasn’t previously available on LX models. But by excluding DX, LX, and HF models – more than half of 2012 Civic production -- from Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity, the 2012 Civic lags behind many newer rivals.
Bluetooth can be considered an adjunct to safety and it’s available on the volume of Elantra and Focus production, for example. It’s optional or standard on every version of the Chevrolet Cruze. Honda’s omission of an exterior temperature readout from DX, LX, and HF models also seems peevish.
Every 2012 Civic has power windows, a tilt/telescope steering wheel, and a front center storage console with armrest. To enhance cargo versatility, the DX, LX, and HF models have a one-piece folding rear seatback while the higher priced EX, EX-L and Si models have 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. The rear seatback in Hybrid and Natural Gas models doesn’t fold.
In all its cars, Honda defines each trim level by an escalating set of features and the 2012 Civic stays true to the policy. The very basic DX models, for example, are not available with air conditioning, power mirrors, power locks, or cruise control. They also have a truncated version of the i-MID that lacks an average-speed indicator and other readouts.
To get those features, plus map lights, automatic up/down power driver’s window, a full-color i-MID display, and steering-wheel audio and Bluetooth controls you’ll need to move up to the Civic LX sedan or coupe.
Opting for an EX model gets you an outside temperature gauge, a power moonroof, variable intermittent windshield wipers, 12-volt accessory outlets, and, on EX sedans, a rear center armrest with cupholders. The 2012 Civic HF model is tuned for high fuel economy but otherwise is equipped similarly to an EX sedan with automatic transmission. The “L” in EX-L designates leather upholstery and it’s accompanied by such amenities as heated front seats, heated mirrors, and automatic on/off headlamps.
Except for its gas-electric powertrain, the 2012 Civic Hybrid’s features mirror those of the Civic EX sedans, and it too is available with the EX-L leather-trimmed cabin and additional amenities.
Civic Si coupes and sedans get the aforementioned powertrain, suspension, and styling modifications, plus sport-contoured front bucket seats, sport-tuned exhaust, and a sequential dashboard graphic to indicate the approach of engine-speed redline. Si Civics are also available with grip-maximizing summer-tread 17-inch tires.
The basic 2012 Civic audio system is a 160-watt CD unit that includes an auxiliary jack for digital music players. LX Coupe, EX and EX-L sedans, and the Hybrid have six speakers instead four. EX and EX-L coupes and Si models get a 360-watt system with seven speakers, including an 8-inch subwoofer. The navigation system is available on the 2012 Civic EX, EX-L, Si, Hybrid, and Natural Gas models and adds XM satellite radio.
2012 Honda Civic Prices back to top
Base-price range for the 2012 Honda Civic is $16,545-$27,690; that compares with a base-price range for the model-year 2011 Civic of $16,555-$27,900. Like all base prices in this review, the figures include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Honda’s fee for the 2012 Civic started the model year unchanged at $750 but rose to $790 along with a boost of $190 in the base price of most models.
The 2012 Civic occupies the heart of the compact-car price spectrum. Selected rivals offer special high-performance models that breach $30,000, a figure some also reach with fully optioned versions of their top trim levels. By that measure, Honda’s practice of pricing Civic without options may make it the more attractive value for those who take a realistic approach to features they want and will regularly use.
The 2012 Honda Civic DX sedan is priced at $16,745 with the five-speed manual transmission and at $17,545 with the five-speed automatic. The 2012 Civic DX coupe is priced at $16,545 with the manual and at $17,345 with the automatic.
The 2012 Honda Civic LX sedan costs $18,795 with manual transmission and $19,395 with automatic. The 2012 Civic LX coupe costs $18,595 with manual and $19,395 with automatic. The 2012 Honda Civic HF sedan is priced at $20,395 and comes only with the automatic.
The 2012 Civic EX coupe is priced at $20,645 with manual transmission. With automatic transmission, Honda prices the 2012 EX coupe and sedan at the same $21,455. Same for the EX coupe and EX sedan with the navigation system; they’re priced at $22,945 and come only with automatic transmission.
EX-L models also come only with automatic and are priced the same for both body styles, at $22,895 without the navigation system and $24,395 with it.
The 2012 Civic Si sedan starts at $23,345; it’s $23,545 with the summer tires and $24,845 with the navigation system. Tracking the same equipment, Si coupe pricing is $23,145, $23,345, and $24,645. The Si coupe with navigation also can be ordered with summer tires for $24,845.
The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid comes only as a sedan and starts at $24,990. With the leather upholstery, it’s $26,190 and with the navigation system, it’s $26,490. With both leather and navi, the 2012 Civic Hybrid is $27,690.
The 2012 Civic Natural Gas model is priced at $27,095, or $28,595 with the navigation system.
2012 Honda Civic Fuel Economy back to top
Every version of the 2012 Civic gets higher mileage than its predecessor, keeping this Honda among the most fuel-efficient cars in a class led by a new wave of models for which ratings of 36-40 mpg on the highway are the new standard.
The 2012 Honda Civic DX and LX sedans and coupes are EPA rated at 28/36/31 mpg city/highway/combined with manual transmission. With automatic, those models, along with the EX and EX-L sedans and coupes are rated at 28/39/32 mpg.
The 2012 Honda Civic HF sedan is rated at 29/41/33 mpg and comes only with the automatic transmission. With the HF model, Honda follows the cue of the Chevrolet Cruze Eco and Ford Focus SFE by outfitting a specific Civic to achieve particularly high fuel economy ratings – at some additional cost over otherwise unmodified models in the lineup. Hyundai steals a beat in this regard, with every one of its Elantra models, from the least-expensive to the costliest and with either manual or automatic transmission, rated 29/40/33 mpg. By contrast, the Cruse Eco tops 40 mpg only with manual transmission.
All 2012 Honda Civic Si models rate 22/31/25 mpg and are the only Civics for which Honda requires premium-octane fuel.
The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid is among the most fuel-efficient cars available, with EPA ratings of 44/44/44 mpg city/highway/combined.
All 2012 Civics except Si models come with a new mileage-enhancing feature Honda calls Eco Assist with ECON mode. Eco Assist is designed to coach fuel-efficient operation by bracketing the speedometer readout with colored bars that transition from green (more efficient) to blue (less efficient) in response to driving style. The ECON mode employs a dashboard button that modifies several Civic operating parameters to reduce fuel consumption. It softens the drive-by-wire throttle response, changes automatic transmission shift points, and alters climate control operation.
2012 Honda Civic Release Date back to top
The 2012 Honda Civic DX, LX, EX, and EX-L, and Hybird models went on sale April 20, 2011. The HF version went on sale May 10, 2011 and the SI models on May 24. The Natural Gas model went on sale in autumn 2011. About 90 percent of the Civics Honda sells in the U.S. are built at Honda plants in North America. Note that the Civic’s basic design also forms the foundation of the new compact Acura ILX sedan from Honda’s premium division.
What's next for the 2012 Honda Civic back to top
Stung by barbs about the 2012 Civic’s styling and cabin materials, Honda plans an exterior facelift and an interior freshening for model-year 2013. A nip and tuck like this typically comes in the fourth or fifth model year of a vehicle’s lifecycle. Changes planned for the 2013 Civic amount to emergency surgery.
Customers apparently weren’t as agitated about the 2012 Civic’s looks or accouterments as were the professional critics; by early 2012, the car had regained its title as America’s top-selling compact. But Civic is Honda’s signature vehicle and the automaker was already sensitive to criticism that its core brand, as well as its Acura line, had lost its edge in design and engineering. So it swallowed its pride, marshaled its resources, and put in place a plan with unprecedented speed.
Changes to the 2013 Civic’s body will be concentrated at the nose; expect a more aggressively shaped fascia and grille. Slight alterations to the rump and taillamps may also be in the picture. Don’t look for radical new contours inside but instead a wider use of soft-touch surfaces and heavier-grained plastics over the existing design. The 2013 Civic also should benefit from availability of Honda’s next-generation infotainment technology.
2012 Honda Civic Competition back to top
Ford Focus: All new for model-year 2012 and built on a global platform, these four-door sedans and four-door hatchbacks bring genuine German character to the States. Ride and handling are first-rate, and the base engine is a sophisticated 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. It’s rated 26/36/30 mpg city/highway/combined with manual transmission and 28/38/31 with Ford’s six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; the SFE version rates 28/40/33. Due for model-year 2013 is the Focus ST model with a 252-horse turbo four. It’ll be followed by an all-electric Focus that Ford says can travel 100 miles on a single plug-in charge. Focus boasts a class-leading array of infotainment technology and great cabin materials, and the hatchback is a cool little hauler. Rear-seat room is tighter than the Civic’s, though, and the Euro styling may be a bit much for American eyes. Overall, however, this Ford is a compact-segment game-changer. Sedans start at $17,295, hatchbacks at $19,095, but Focus can tickle $30,000 with all the bells and whistles.
Chevrolet Cruze: As conservative as the Focus is avant-garde, this four-door sedan bowed for model-year 2011 to replace the unlamented Chevy Cobalt. Cruze is stolid-looking and solidly built, but feels more confined inside than Civic. And it doesn’t ride or handle with quite the same verve as the Civic or Focus. Base and turbocharged four-cylinder engines are offered; both have 138 horsepower but the turbo has more torque, 148 pound-feet versus 125. Each is available with six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions, but every combination feels a little underpowered. With the more popular automatic transmission, the base engine rates 22/35/37 mpg, the turbo 26/38/20. The Eco model rates 28/42/33 with manual, 26/39/31 with automatic. The 2012 Cruze starts at $17,470 for the sparsely equipped base model and ranges from $19,225-$23,860 for better-equipped turbo versions, before options.
Hyundai Elantra: Fully redesigned for model-year 2011, this compact lineup brings dramatic styling to Hyundai’s traditional value-for-the-money reputation and creates a formidable entry in the compact class. Joining the Elantra sedan for model-year 2013 is the Elantra two-door coupe and Elantra GT four-door hatchback. All share a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 148 horsepower and 131-pound-feet of torque. It isn’t as smooth as the 2012 Civic’s 1.8 but delivers similar performance. Sedans rate an impressive 29/40/33 mpg city/highway with both the six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions. Coupes and GTs are but 1 mpg behind. Elantra doesn’t ride or handle with the polish of the Civic or Focus, and rear-seat room can’t quite match the Honda’s. But it’s feature-packed, eye-catching, solidly built, and a compelling value. The 2013 Elantra sedan starts at $17,470, the Coupe at $18,220, and the GT at $19,170.