Wednesday, April 27, 2011 A Close Look at the 2012 Honda Civic

Here's a really comprehensive article on the 2012 Civic by Paul Williams out of (the new version of Canadian Driver)....
The next generation 2012 Honda Civic is finally here, and those who don’t like change will be very happy indeed. Not that there isn’t anything new about the new Civics, but from a visual standpoint, consumers will be hard-pressed to tell the outgoing 2011 model from the incoming 2012.

The big news about the 2012 Civic is not so much about appearance; it’s more about the pricing, which has dropped substantially. A base Civic DX can now be bought for $14,990, which is $2,000 lower than the price one-year ago.

Granted, not many sedan-only DX models will be ordered (likely because they’re not available with an automatic transmission), but the popular LX and EX models are also boasting smaller MSRPs, a trend among all manufacturers now that the Korean makers Hyundai and Kia have entered the market with bright new products at bargain-basement prices. As well, there are impressive new compact cars from Ford (Focus), Chevrolet (Cruze) and Volkswagen (Jetta) with which to compete.

But the Civic has been and continues to be Canada’s top-selling car, so the company’s response to the new competition is likely a wise one: don’t mess with success, but make the Civic more affordable.

All the Civic models have been re-priced — Sedan, Coupe, Si and Hybrid — with the LX Sedan starting at $17,490 (down $2,090), the EX starting at $19,490 (down $2,290), the top-line EX-L entering at $24,390 (down $490), the LX Coupe starting at $17,990 (down $2,090) and the sporty Si a more Gen-Y-friendly $25,990 (Coupe and Sedan). Hybrid pricing has not yet been announced.

Although the new Civics look much the same as the generation that debuted in 2006, there are subtle exterior and interior changes and, depending on the model, more significant changes under the skin.For the Sedans and Coupes, the rear of the car is obviously different, with a smoother look and revised lights, while the front also receives new lights and bumper treatment.
Honda says 90 per cent of the sheetmetal is replaced and that all Civics are more aerodynamic.

The A-pillars are 12 per cent thinner, and an extra window has been inserted at its base to improve outward visibility. From the driver’s seat, that’s very noticeable and appreciated.

Interior space in the Sedan is increased by 105 litres, with more front shoulder room and additional front and rear hip room, although exterior dimensions remain unchanged from the previous model. Trunk space is also up 4.2 per cent to 352 litres. Civic Coupe owners will enjoy 30 mm more front shoulder room.

The drivetrain is mechanically the same: a 1.8-litre four-cylinder single-overhead camshaft engine making 140-horsepower, and five-speed manual or five-speed automatic — but the engine has been refined to produce a significant 12 per cent improvement in fuel economy. City/highway fuel consumption drops to 7.2/5.0 L/100 km for a combined rating of 6.2 L/100 km when equipped with the automatic transmission. Additionally, all models feature new “motion-adaptive” electric power steering technology and next-generation vehicle stability assist.

The interior also looks very much like the outgoing models, although the front seats have been redesigned to provide more support and the steering wheel is smaller. Bluetooth is standard on all models except the DX.

The distinctive bi-level instrument panel featuring a digital speedometer and gauge array carries over, and a new 12.5-cm i-MID colour display allows the driver to rotate through audio, trip and vehicle information screens. An Econ-mode is standard on all models (except the Si) to maximize fuel economy, but your particular driving style will determine by how much.

The Civic Si (still available in Sedan and Coupe versions) features a new 2.4-litre dual-overhead camshaft powerplant that makes 201 hp (up by four-hp) at 7,000 rpm (down by 800 rpm) through the short-throw six-speed manual transmission and limited slip differential. The engine’s 178 pound-feet of torque represents a 22 per cent improvement, and is available at 4,400 rpm, which is 1,700 rpm lower than the previous model. The Civic Si is very much a performance-oriented car, with more robust acceleration off the line and a slick-shifting gearbox in the Honda performance tradition. Fuel consumption is rated at 10.0/6.2 L/100 km, city/highway.

The Civic Hybrid also features a new engine (now 1.5L), a more powerful motor, and perhaps most significantly, a new battery — now Lithium-Ion rather than the Nickel-Metal-Hydride battery pack used since 2003. The new battery is lighter, more compact and more energy dense than the battery it replaces, enabling the Civic Hybrid to operate in full Electric Vehicle (EV) mode for 73 seconds at full load. Fuel consumption is rated at 4.4/4.2 L/100 km, city/highway, for a combined rating of 4.3 L/100 km.

Unfortunately, the Civic Hybrid’s battery is still located behind the rear seat, preventing the seat from folding or the fitment of a pass-through for long objects like skis or hockey sticks. Unlike the non-hybrid Civics, the drive mode defaults to “Econ,” although the driver can select a more responsive mode at the press of a button.

On the road, the Civic EX-L Sedan and LX Coupe are smooth and quiet, and also familiar if you’ve driven the previous-generation car. Unlike some competitors, interior panels (dash, centre console, doors) are hard plastic, which looks like a cost-cutting measure and may be prone to marking more easily than a soft-touch product. In the new Hyundai Elantra, for instance, it’s all soft-touch.

The bi-level digital instrument panel is an intelligent design; the speedometer and secondary gauges easy to read and positioned almost like a Head-Up Display. But the large, analogue-style tachometer seems like a waste of space in this digital environment, especially in a car with automatic transmission.

The instrument panel is highlighted by red, blue and green illumination that changes depending on engine load. You can use these subtle colour changes to modulate your driving style and reduce fuel consumption. Every little bit helps, right?

The overall impression behind the wheel is of driving a modern, bright and spacious car, despite its compact, although by no means diminutive, exterior dimensions.

Driving the Si is a decidedly sportier experience compared with the standard Sedan and Coupe; everything is more responsive, more immediate, more engaging. The steering and braking is sharper, suspension is firmer, power from the engine is right there, and the exhaust note under acceleration will be music to the ears of enthusiast drivers, especially as the engine shifts from low to high-rpm camshaft profiles (which also lights a red indicator on the dash). The Si looks good, but may benefit from larger wheels (17-inch are standard), or by lowering the suspension to fill in the wheel wells a little more.

The Hybrid’s improved IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system seems to operate more smoothly in the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, especially under braking. This car is only available with the CVT automatic transmission, and benefits from standard automatic climate control and standard navigation system with satellite radio. Other than its 15-inch alloy wheels, trunk lip spoiler and LED brake lights, there’s very little difference, both inside and out, between the Civic Hybrid and gasoline-powered Civics. The key difference, of course, is the hybrid drive-train, which in our brief test drive provided a genuine 25 per cent improvement in fuel economy compared with the non-hybrid Civics.

The ninth-generation 2012 Honda Civic model line-up is not a radical redesign, but more an evolution from the previous generation. This is to be expected. Having sold 1.6 million Civics in Canada since the model’s introduction here in 1973, Honda has the basic recipe well in hand, and expects the 2012 Civic to retain its current owners, and with its more competitive pricing, attract new buyers to the “Honda Nation.”

Honda Civics are built in Alliston, Ontario (except for Hybrid models) and the new cars will see their official launch at New York Auto Show. Sales will begin in late April, 2011.

Verdict: More of the same from Honda, but when it comes to the Civic, “the same” represents a very high standard. Although billed as “Civic: The Next Generation,” I would like to have seen Honda boldly go a little further when it comes to interior execution and exterior design.


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