2012 HONDA CIVIC SEDAN REVIEW
Honda’s new Civic sedan could not have come at a better time. The previous model was well past its use-by date, and its heavy pricetag did little to entice buyers away from the wide choice of competing - and capable - small sedans currently on offer.
Now, the Civic is keenly priced and well equipped, and more than ready to take the fight to its competitors.
Honda’s sales target for the Civic sedan is modest - just 1000 cars per month by the end of this year. Improved, and better priced, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Japanese manufacturer managed to sell more.
The 2012 Civic’s interior should be very familiar to anyone who’s driven the preceding model, with nearly every major component - the radio, heating/ventilation controls, air vents, etc. - all occupying the same space on the dashboard.
Even the two-tiered instrument cluster remains, but there are a few new additions to the Civic’s interior design.
One is a bright green “Econ” button that sits to the right of the steering wheel and actuates a more fuel-efficient driving mode. The other is a five-inch full-colour LCD display mounted to the left of the electronic speed read-out.
The LCD display is part of the Civic’s i-MID (intelligent Multi-Information Display) system, and shows trip data and audio information. iPod integration is standard on all Civics, and external music devices can be controlled via the car’s steering wheel audio controls.
Owners can also upload their own custom wallpaper image to the i-MID, which is a nice touch.
Dashboard materials, like the previous-gen Civic, are finely-textured high-quality plastics with a near-impeccable fit and finish.
They look very hard wearing, and you get the sense that the Civic’s interior plastics will be drum-tight and rattle free for the life of the car.
The seats are comfortable, but taller occupants may struggle for headroom in the sunroof-equipped Civic Sport.
Rear legroom is improved for 2012 though, and the back seat feels more spacious than many other small cars on the market today.
Another headlining change for 2012 is a slimmer A-pillar, which, along with larger quarterlight windows next to the wing mirrors, enhances forward vision greatly.
The VTi-L and Civic Hybrid feature a hard-wearing velour-like fabric upholstery, and the Civic Sport is trimmed in soft leather that’s quite pleasant to the touch.
Even though the price of entry has dropped, Honda hasn’t compromised on the Civic’s build quality.
The launch drive route took us from Melbourne's St Kilda down to the Mornington Peninsula and back, with a quick blast through Arthur’s Seat on the way.
Starting out in the Civic Hybrid, we were impressed by the quietness and frugality. We achieved an average fuel consumption of 4.5 l/100km without the use of the more efficient ‘Econ’ mode.
That’s an impressive result, considering the official claim is for 4.4 l/100km.
With just 82kW and 172Nm from its 1.5 litre petrol/electric powertrain, it’s definitely not the quickest car around.
However, thanks to a CVT transmission and fat torque band (peak torque is available between 1000rpm and 3500rpm), it’s quite effortless to drive.
Next up was the automatic-only Civic Sport. Its 2.0 litre i-VTEC petrol four produces 114kW and 190Nm - only 2Nm more than the outgoing Civic Sport - but it needs to be revved quite hard to feel lively.
It feels its strongest above 4500rpm, but even then it’s not quick enough to be truly deserving of a ‘Sport’ badge.
Befitting a Honda engine though, it’s happy to rev right up to 7000rpm. The five-speed automatic transmission could use another ratio, but when operated in manual mode the gearbox will hold gears right against the redline.
The 1.8 litre single-cam petrol engine fitted to the Civic VTi-L is less impressive, developing 104kW and 174Nm. That’s just 1kW more than the previous VTi-L.
Efficiency has been knocked down from 7.2 l/100km to 6.8 l/100km, though we feel that Honda could have given us more power and torque, as well as fuel efficiency gains.
Given it came from a company that used to be a leader in the development of high specific-output double overhead-cam engines, the VTi-L’s single OHC engine is somewhat underwhelming.
The VTi-L is offered with a five-speed manual in base form, however, a lack of supply meant we weren’t able to test that drivetrain at the launch.
The five-speed automatic available in the VTi-L is, like the Sport’s transmission, fine for general driving duties, but could use an extra gear to make better use of the engine’s low output.
Steering for all Civic models is electrically-assisted. The wheel is light and easy to spin from lock-to-lock, but it lacks in feel when pushing through bends.
The Civic’s front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension serves it well. It rides comfortably and corners quite flatly, but pushes into understeer fairly easily. Grippier tyres would easily solve the worst of that.
Refinement is generally quite good although there is some tyre roar on coarse chip asphalt.
First Drive Verdict
The 2012 Honda Civic doesn’t seem like an all-new car. Instead, it looks, drives and feels like a comprehensive update of the outgoing model, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Its cabin ergonomics are great, it has a highly-visible instrument cluster and the back seat is very spacious for a small car. Just like the old Civic.
But unlike the old Civic, the 2012 model is updated with new technology like properly integrated Bluetooth and USB audio. It’s also priced very competitively too, starting at $20,990 for the VTi-L manual.
Is it a good buy? At that price, most certainly. We had hoped Honda might have pushed the boundary more with its powertrain and drivetrain technology, but as a general commuting device the Honda Civic is very well-equipped for the task - and at a good price.
- Civic VTi-L - 1.8 litre manual - $20,990
- Civic VTi-L - 1.8 litre auto - $23,290
- Civic Sport - 2.0 litre auto - $27,990
- Civic Hybrid - 1.5 litre petrol / IMA system - CVT automatic - $35,990
- Metallic paint: $475.
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.