New York 2011: Honda Shows Production Versions of 2012 Civic
By Chris Haak
Back in January, Honda used the Detroit Auto Show to debut lightly-disguised concept versions of its 2012 Civic coupe and sedan. We covered that here already back then, so there’s no need to rehash all of that. In a nutshell, the new Civic is safer, more comfortable, and more efficient than the car it replaces. It’s also slightly – and I mean slightly – better looking than the 2011 car, with a bit more character and visual interest, and more resolved C-pillar treatment, particularly for the sedan.
The car actually went on sale today, April 20, so it’s a good thing that Honda’s press conference wasn’t bumped to day two of the show. The biggest news that we got today on the Civic was pricing and fuel economy figures, neither of which had been confirmed until now.
Included among the six models that Honda released today was a Civic HF, which is a model name we haven’t seen for a while from Honda. Back in the early 1990s, the Honda CRX HF was crowned the fuel-efficiency champ from time to time, and the 2012 Civic HF reclaims that title, at least with an asterisk. It’s rated at 41 MPG highway, which you’ll note is not quite as good as the Chevy Cruze Eco’s 42 MPG highway score. But the Cruze Eco with that rating has a six-speed manual, while the Civic HF has a five-speed automatic. So, the Civic HF is the most-efficient conventional, gasoline-powered vehicle sold in the US. You’ll note that the standard Hyundai Elantra has a 40 MPG highway rating, and the Fiesta SFE and Focus SFE hit 40 as well, so it’s not like Honda’s knocking the cover off the ball here. Still, it’s a nice improvement, and it’s good for a company that had previously held the reputation for efficiency to claim the title. Remember, folks, competition is good!
Inside the Civic, there’s really very little difference from the 2011 model. Though the 2012 car is all-new inside and out, the only obvious difference is the widening of the upper display area to include a five-inch color LCD display dubbed the i-MID for “intelligent Multi-Information Display,” while the 2011 car only had the speedometer and a few key indicators in the upper part of the dash above the top of the steering wheel’s rim.
Sitting in the 2012 Civic EX-L (the most luxury-equipped model, with leather seats, navigation, and sunroof), I found the driver’s seat to have a very prominent lumbar support. It felt good to my tired back after having been on my feet for many hours, but I wonder if perhaps it could be too much for some people. I didn’t fiddle around with it to see if the lumbar support was adjustable, so perhaps it was. The seat materials themselves reminded me of my favorite car seats of all time, in the 2004 Accord EX-L that I used to own. I sat in the Civic just a few minutes after sampling the gangly-looking Nissan Versa, and the Civic’s rear-seat accommodations did not hold their own against the Nissan from a usable-space standpoint. My knees were against the front seatback and my head was against the ceiling in the Honda. At least the Civic was nicer inside than the $4,000-cheaper Nissan, as it should be.
Aside from the nice seats, though, the Civic’s interior isn’t particularly impressive. The dash is covered in hard plastic (though the door panels were soft around the armrest area where you’d most often be in contact with them) in a class where the Chevy Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, and Ford Focus have stepped up the interior design, materials, and fit-and-finish game big-time.
The other big news in the Civic family is that the Civic Hybrid gains lithium-ion batteries. They enable the Hybrid model to hit 44/44/44 city/highway/combined mileage, which enables the Civic to claim another victory with an asterisk. This time, it’s not the most fuel-efficient car or the most fuel-efficient hybrid (though it beats Honda’s 40/43/41 Insight), but the most fuel efficient sedan available in the United States. You see, the 51/48/50 MPG Prius is a five-door, not a sedan.
A persistent complaint for years about Honda’s engines were that they were very low on torque. At least with the Civic Si – the sporty model – that’s been addressed with a new engine. Previously, the Si had a 2.0 liter four while the garden-variety Civic had a 1.8 liter. For 2012, though, the Si is upgraded with a 2.4 liter four that produces 201 horsepower at 7,000 RPMs (+ 4 HP over the old engine) and 170 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 RPMs (+ 31 lb-ft over the old engine). While 7,000 RPMs is certainly a lofty power peak, it’s down from the 2.0’s 7,800 RPM peak. The torque peak is 1,700 RPM lower. Despite the larger engine, fuel economy improved by one mile per gallon in the city and two miles per gallon on the highway.
Pricing for the 2012 Civic starts at $15,805 for a Civic DX with five-speed manual and stretches to $26,750 for a Civic Hybrid with leather, navigation, and XM satellite radio. The volume seller is typically the LX sedan with the five-speed automatic, and that’s out the door for $18,655. Don’t forget to add the $750 destination charge to each of those prices.
The Civic has been a consistently strong seller for Honda, topping the retail sales chart last year in spite of its impending replacement. But with the competition getting far stronger, that level of success is no longer assured for Honda. It needs to step up its game. Look on the bright side; though the redesign was clearly evolutionary, at least this car didn’t get questionable styling like some Hondas and Acuras have had to suffer through over the past few years.