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2012 Honda Civic Sport Sedan Review Photo:
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What's Hot
Plush seating, beautifully finished.
What's Not
Looks like the old Civic; lacks highway refinement.
X-Factor
Urban understated style and interior class; the Sport is trimmed like the club sofa of small cars.
Kez Casey | May, 20 2012 | 16 Comments

2012 HONDA CIVIC SEDAN REVIEW

Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $27,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 7.5 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 8.6 l/100km

 

OVERVIEW

Honda’s new for 2012 Civic brings a much-needed freshen-up to this small car stalwart. But the changes are far from dramatic - Honda has instead taken a ‘light touch’ approach to the renewal of the Civic.

For buyers, it may be hard to spot where the new car is a significant advance over the old, but more enticing price-points should help there.

In up-spec Sport trim, the Civic comes with debonair looks and a smart interior - and all without being even slightly sporty, save for a slightly larger engine.

You could never accuse it of standing out from the crowd, and excitement remains a low priority.

 

INTERIOR

Quality: From the intricate ‘leaf-vein’ patterned dash and doors, to the precise fit and finish to the interior trim panels, there’s much to like inside the Civic. Most parts to the interior feel top notch, as does the switchgear (only the door handles feel a bit insubstantial).

And vitally, even when thrashed across our rough-road torture test, we couldn’t force an errant squeak or rattle from the interior trims. There’s no reason it shouldn’t stay that way for a long, long time - Honda’s build quality is still a benchmark.

Comfort: The front seats are a little short in the squab and lacking in lumbar support. They aren’t ideal for long stints at the wheel. The seat bolsters are also a little ‘tight’ - even for those with a narrow rear.

But the lovely soft-touch leather trim sits at the top of the small car class. It’s supremely soft and inviting and feels like it belongs in the Legend, not the Civic.

Rear seating comfort is pretty good with supportive shaping, a flat floor, usable centre seat, and plenty of legroom for outboard passengers.

Equipment: On top of leather trim the Civic Sport also comes with an electric sunroof, multi-function display for the trip computer and audio system. Both of these can be controlled from the leather-wrapped steering wheel, as can the cruise control.

There’s also 17-inch alloy wheels, gearshift paddles, automatic lights and wipers, and a four speaker stereo with CD, iPod, USB and aux in connectivity, plus Bluetooth audio streaming and telephony.

Storage: Boot space measure 440 litres and the 60:40 split fold seats can be dropped from inside the boot.

There are useful storage solutions in the centre stack including a sliding divider for the cup holders, but the door pockets are inconveniently small. (They won’t hold a street directory for instance; something you might need in the absence of sat-nav.)

 

ON THE ROAD

Driveability: If ever a car had a split personality, it would be the Civic. Around town we found much to like; the Civic Sport’s 2.0 litre engine steps off the line smartly with 114kW of power at 6200rpm and 188Nm of torque at 4200rpm.

For best response, it needs a good rev, but Honda engines thrive on revs. It surprised us that even with ‘eco’ mode engaged we found the Civic keen to respond.

Away from the city sprawl however, there’s a complete turn around. On a country run, the five-speed automatic will hunt annoying for ratios on hills and when cornering, or hold a tall gear for far too long.

Here, the engine’s torque deficit also becomes noticeable. At highway speeds there seems little in reserve for overtaking without a very heavy foot.

Refinement: More of the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ characteristics here too. In town nothing but a smooth quiet experience. Cocooned in the quiet interior it would be easy to think you were in a larger and more expensive car, such is the Civic’s refinement.

On the freeway however everything becomes more raucous. There’s noticeable wind noise from the A-pillars and wipers, and tyre roar builds to unpleasant levels on most road surfaces, at its worst on coarse bitumen.

Suspension: A plus here. With a fairly conventional MacPherson strut front-end and multi-link rear, the Civic provides an exceptionally comfortable ride. It soaks up imperfections in the road surface and speed humps with ease.

It’s not so happy when cornering though where things can become a little loose. There’s a mismatched feel to the front and rear suspension tuning; we noticed a tendency to ‘see-saw’ over larger imperfections at speeds over 70km/h.

Braking: Front ventilated discs and solid rears provide the stopping force, but the pedal feels fairly mushy underfoot and after a moderate downhill run the pedal had started to head south and stopping force tapered off markedly.

 

SAFETY

ANCAP rating: 5 Stars

Safety features: Driver and front passenger airbags, front seat side airbags, full-length curtain airbags, ABS brakes with brake assist and brake override function (to prevent runaways the brake takes priority over the accelerator if both are pressed simultaneously), electronic brakeforce distribution, Vehicle Stability Assist (ESP) with traction control, front seatbelt pretensioners, front whiplash reducing head restraints, three-point seatbelts with seatbelt reminders and adjustable head restraints for all five seats.

 

WARRANTY AND SERVICING

Warranty: Three years/100,000km with six years rust perforation warranty.

Service costs: Servicing costs may vary, consult your local Honda dealer before purchase.

 

HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY

Mazda 3 SP20 SkyActiv ($27,990) - The newest model in the Mazda 3 range is also the most frugal offering here. The interior is starting to look a bit plain against newer competitors, but navigation is a fantastic inclusion.

We find refinement a little lacking, but playful handling and sportier looks helps make up for it. (see Mazda 3 reviews)

Holden Cruze CDX ($29,040) - The Cruze has plenty of space, and in CDX trim comes well featured at a reasonable price - just enough to out-spec the Civic.

On the road the lifeless 1.8 litre engine in the Cruze does it no favours but the handling feels more firm and secure. The dash and seat trims (also in leather) aren’t as smart as the Civic either. (see Cruze reviews)

Ford Focus Trend ($26,790) - The Focus takes the value flag here with the lowest price, the longest equipment list and most sophisticated drivetrain with direct injection and a dual-clutch transmission.

There’s not quite the same useful backseat space, and the boot is a fair way smaller too. The Focus will embarrass the Civic on the open road though. (see Focus reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

Where Honda once used to innovate with impressive dynamic vehicles of the highest quality, this new Civic doesn’t quite make the grade.

With a growing list of contenders from Japan, Korea and Europe biting at its heels, the Civic needed to be more than just middle of the pack. We live in hope that Honda might soon find again those values of dynamism and elan that once typified all its cars.

Around town, the Civic Sport is perfectly adept and quite easy to like. It’s impressively trimmed, looks good and is as solid as a nugget, but as an all-rounder it is bettered by the leading contenders in the small car pack.

 

Pricing

  • 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.

 
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