By on May 2, 2011


Honda has never paid too much attention to how other car makers do things. In the past this led to many highly successful innovations. Today…well today we have the ninth-generation Civic, recently launched as an early 2012 model.

The eight-generation Civic was the most stylish to date. While not everyone was a fan, I personally liked the car’s tight proportions and smooth flowing curves. Still do. At the time I thought the 2006 Civic signaled a new emphasis on innovative yet tasteful design by Honda. The years since have proved me wrong. For the 2012 Civic, Honda has retained similar dimensions (though, reversing a decades-long trend, its wheelbase is 1.2 inches shorter). Some creases and angles have been added to the sedan to make it, in the words of the press release, “the most aerodynamically and aggressively styled models in the model’s history.” The side windows have been scrunched vertically and lengthened horizontally to outwardly express the increased roominess of the interior. The windowlette ahead of the door has shifted to the door itself, leaving a black plastic triangle where it used to be. At the rear edge of the side windows a crudely executed Hofmeister kink has been added. Overall, the new design is busier, less graceful, and simply much less attractive.

Honda claims that the revised interior “delivers more style and convenience than any other vehicle in [the] segment.” Yes, style is highly subjective. The instrument panel remains a bi-level affair, with the tach visible within the small steering wheel rim and the other instruments, including a new five-inch information display (you can upload your own background!), visible above it. This layout was my least favorite aspect of the 2006, and I have yet to warm to it (though some owners have told me they like it). Other car manufacturers used to copy Honda’s innovations. None of them have copied this layout. This might serve as a clue.

One thing I do like: the center stack is now aggressively canted towards the driver, classic BMW style, so you can easily see and reach the audio and HVAC controls. With the odd exception of the audio power switch, the buttons are fairly large. So while I can’t see the touted style, I can see the claimed convenience. But this does not justify the interior’s clunky styling, poor panel fits, and materials that vie with those in the 2011 VW Jetta for worst-in-class honors. The door panels include four different hard plastics. I couldn’t decide which of them is the worst. Probably the pebbly stuff above the armrest. Said armrest is pleasantly cushy, but it elicited a “crunch” when pressed. Even in the uplevel Civic EX the fabric appears chintzy. Honda needs to pay much closer attention to what GM, Ford, and Hyundai have been doing—the interiors of the Cruze, Focus, and (to a lesser but still large extent) Elantra are all far ahead. They might also consider following Chrysler’s lead and banishing light gray from the interior color palette.

Once upon a time the instrument panels in Hondas were compact and shockingly low. The rest of the industry studied its cars to figure out how they’d done it. Well, the bi-level monstrosity in the 2012 Civic is so tall that I had to crank the seat up a few clicks to comfortably see over it. The front seats are better than those in smaller Hondas because the headrests don’t jut quite as far forward. They also provide more lateral support than you’ll ever need given the nature of the car. In back, the cushion is comfortably high off the floor, but (in the sunroof-equipped EX) there’s only enough headroom for those up to 5-10. Both the cushion and floorboard are both nearly flat, to enhance comfort for a center passenger. There’s a little more rear legroom than before, but the seat’s width remains that of a compact sedan.

Even in EX trim the Civic tips the scales at 2,765 pounds, light for a compact sedan these days. The powertrain remains a 1.8-liter four good for 140 horsepower hitched to five-speed automatic (a manual is no longer offered in the EX, a six-speed automatic has yet to arrive). Even if you don’t engage “Eco” mode the powertrain’s responds in a leisurely fashion and performs adequately at best. The transmission upshifts quickly and sometimes seems indecisive. Like that in the Elantra and some other competitors, a “smart” alternator tries to do most of its charging during braking, and de-clutches much of the rest of the time. Partly because of this attempt to boost fuel economy, the brakes feel more than a little like those in a hybrid.

In fact, the entire driving experience is oddly similar to that in a Prius. In another fuel economy-oriented tweak, the steering is now electric assist on all Civics rather than just the Si and Hybrid. The new system feels artificial to the extent it feels like anything at all. Stability control, previously reserved for the EX-L and Si, is now standard across the line. But it should rarely come into play. The new Civic’s handling is predictable, stable, and safe. What it isn’t: fun. There’s quite a bit of lean when the wheel is turned. Even a Prius has a more direct, connected feel. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but even the weakest, most spartan Civics used to be fun cars.

The new Civic usually rides smoothly, but feels a little unsettled over some surfaces and never feels precisely damped the way a Ford Focus or Mazda3 does. At times the rear suspension sounds and feels like it’s bottoming out under minimal duress—even with no one in the back seat. Noise levels are lower than in the past. But even with its enhanced smoothness and quietness, the Civic lacks the premium sound and feel of the Cruze and Focus.

The major payoff of all the thrill-killing tweaks: the EPA ratings are up from 25/36 to 28/39—edging out the Ford Focus’s 28/38 and nearly matching the Hyundai Elantra’s 29/40. (To out-eco the Elantra, a Civic HF with 29/41 ratings is also offered.) To help you achieve these numbers, a pair of thick bars flanking the digital speedometer change color from blue to green when you’re behaving. There’s also a prominently placed instantaneous mpg display. The average fuel economy readout within the new information display is a bit of a bother, though. You must reset the trip odometer to reset it, and to do this you must dig through three menu levels using buttons on the steering wheel, and then dig your way back out. “Keep it simple” this isn’t.

The 2012 Honda Civic EX lists for $21,255, up $100 from the 2011 despite the addition of a few features, including stability control. But even though the 2012 is a better value than the 2011, you can get a superior, better-equipped car for the same or less from a number of other manufacturers. The most aggressively priced: a Hyundai Elantra Limited, with heated leather seats (in both rows!), lists for $20,700. A 2012 Ford Focus SE lists for about the same as the Honda when equipped with sunroof and alloy wheels, but is more fun to drive and feels like a much more expensive car.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the Honda Civic was so far ahead of its key competitors in responsiveness, handling, fuel economy, features, and reliability that owners became evangelists for the brand. The 1984 car was a design landmark whose influence continues 28 years later. Through the 1990s and into the 2000s the Civic was so fun to drive that an entire tuning industry sprung up around it.

It’s hard to see how the 2012 car could have inspired any of this passion. It’s a little roomier, and its fuel economy is the best yet for a run-of-the-mill Civic (if not quite best-in-class). But the design is clunky, the materials are cut-rate, and the driving experience is so dreadfully dull that even a Toyota Prius is a blast in comparison. Over the past few years Honda has repeatedly claimed to have remembered what made it great, and to be returning to those roots. While they’re at it, they might want to pay closer attention to what GM, Ford, and Hyundai have been up to. Perhaps this has happened, just not quite soon enough to help the new Civic. If so, we’ll be able to look back on the 2012 model year as a low point, after which the cars got better.

Mike Ulrey at Honda Bloomfield (MI) provided the car. An exceptionally helpful sales consultant, he can be reached at 248-333-3200.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.



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268 Comments on “Review: 2012 Honda Civic EX...”


  • avatar
    SVX pearlie

    Good review.

    As for “the most aerodynamically and aggressively styled models in the model’s history.”, wouldn’t the most aero be the CRX? And aero+aggro would be the Mugen egg, right?

    Here’s hopin’ that Honda gets their mojo back.

    • 0 avatar

      They mean compared to other Civics.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        Um… the CRX is a Civic.

      • 0 avatar

        The CRX was a Civic the same way the Matrix is a Corolla…I could be wrong, but I don’t think the nameplate actually appeared on the car.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        The nameplate certainly appeared in the advertising. And seriously. Look at the front clip of an 84 CRX, Civic hatch, and Civic sedan. There was never any ambiguity about the CRX being a Civic model.

      • 0 avatar

        I must concede the point as, when commenting on the 1984 Civic below, I note that there were “4 very different models,” a count that included the CRX.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        Yeah, to echo what Steve was saying, I passed a maroon late eighties model CRX this morning. There was no mistaking it for a CRX from behind, and there was no mistaking that it was anything other than a Civic from the front.

        Man, how I miss my ’95 Civic. Looks like Honda is taking yet another step back.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        Michael,

        My 1984 CRX had both “CRX” and “Civic” on the rear hatch as well as the Honda “H” logo.

      • 0 avatar
        Invisible

        This Michael Karesh guy has some personal vendetta against Honda. His mis-informed rants are amusing.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        Invisible, what pray tell, makes Mr. Karesh mis-informed.

        Sure, there is no accounting for taste. Or handling/ride comfort for that matter.

        But this dude knows more about car reliability metrics than the entire gaggle of posters and writers on this site (or any other for that matter.)

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        Not to belabor the point, but running errands a couple of days ago I happened across no fewer than 3 first-generation CRXs. Two base models and one Si. Strangely, all in white. All of them were badged “Honda” on the left, “CRX” in the center, and “Civic” on the right of the tailgate.

      • 0 avatar
        PJ McCombs

        Invisible, I’ve always been a fan of Honda products, and always wished I’d bought the (used) Integra GS-R and Prelude SH that I test-drove but couldn’t afford as a cash-strapped undergrad.

        But Michael is absolutely correct when it comes to Honda’s dilution of driver enjoyment in the last decade. The Civic Si hasn’t been fun since EPS and a minivan driving position were introduced with the dumbed-down 2002 model, and the 2008-onward Accord feels like a boat compared to pre-2003 models. Similar comparisons can be made with most of their current products.

        Here’s hoping Honda finds their perfectionist streak again (S2000, NSX?), and stops emulating Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      Actually, the owner’s manual for the 1984 CRX was titled “Civic Coupe”.

      As for Mazda, I just returned from FL, renting a Mazda6 as a full-size car. No one I know considers that full-sized except the rental company, but I took it and now wonder if a failing Mazda doesn’t deserve its own death watch.

      Totally craptastic, I can now see why Mazda is dying – cheap cheap cheap materials and 18 mpg when driven gingerly. Now wonder no one wanted to rent it let alone buy one.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        thronmark – maybe you missed the bit about the Ford being superior to the Honda with respect to quality of materials, styling (inside and out), ride and handling. Seems like Honda has fallen a long way – Insight, CRZ, Acura, Accord and now this “new” Civic. Michael wrote an accurate and detailed review.

    • 0 avatar
      Invisible

      I seriously doubt the old CRX had a lower drag coefficient than this new Civic. Honda was not doing under body aero panels back in the 80s.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    This looks no different (or improved) from my 2006 civic. Given that it’s 2011, and not 2006, that is very sad.

    • 0 avatar

      As stated in the review, I think it looks a lot different from the 2006–and not in a good way.

      I’m not alone in this opinion. In personal communications a senior executive at a competitor stated his love for the 2006 car’s exterior styling. He suspects Honda paid too much attention to early consumer opinions on the 2006 when they designed the 2012, and that too often manufacturers misread such early responses to revolutionary designs and then take an unneeded step backwards. Ford design following the 1986 Taurus is perhaps the best known example.

      • 0 avatar
        stryker1

        I think this, with the exception of the tail lights, and the extended 2 tier dash, looks pretty close to my daily driver. Maybe it’s the limitations of seeing it in a jpg instead of real life. Especially when compared to, say, the outgoing Elantra and the new Elantra, or the Focus, or even the Jetta (say what you want about the cost cutting and de-contenting, from the outside it looks alright. It just doesn’t look like a Jetta).

      • 0 avatar
        evilincarnate

        I agree it looks different, but I think it it looks good, and as far as other manufacturers not using it, that isn’t true, I saw a Lexus the other day with a very similar exterior design to my 2012 Honda Civic EX. Also, I like the way the display screen is located next to the speedometer and shielded from sunlight. It is different from what I am used to (given my previous car was a 1995 Acura), but it sure is a lot easier to see. I also like that the steering wheel controls are pulled instead of pushed (for the bluetooth). In cars that I have rented with steering wheel controls, I had a habit of accidentally pushing buttons when I didn’t want to. This minor detail makes a huge difference.

    • 0 avatar
      jj99

      Sounds like you were wishing real hard that Honda would goof up the Civic. But, they delivered another winner.

  • avatar
    wsn

    The demise of Honda has been greatly exaggerated. This new Civic is going to be a new industry benchmark as before.

    • 0 avatar

      I hope not. I can’t imagine what metrics they’d use the new Civic as a benchmark for. The previous one set a new standard for proportions and exterior styling, but not much else. I seriously don’t think other manufacturers are going to give this one much thought–they’ve moved well beyond it.

      • 0 avatar
        PartsUnknown

        Benchmark or not, it will still be – at minimum – a top 3 seller in its segment. In that sense, it will command the attention of its competitors.

      • 0 avatar
        SP

        I guess Honda looked at Toyota’s success with the Corolla and thought, “Hmm. The best-selling car in the world is one of the most unpleasant, driver-confounding vehicles of the last 30 years. Fun is entirely absent, and the vehicle feels cheap. Therefore, the way to sell 400,000 vehicles per year is to make a chintzy, boring, torture machine.”

        Does correlation equal causation? I would say no, as I think Toyota is just coasting on brand reputation for a few more years before even non-enthusiasts get sick of the garbage product …. but maybe I am wrong!

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        “I think Toyota is just coasting on brand reputation for a few more years before even non-enthusiasts get sick of the garbage product”

        If you really believe what you said, would you short Toyota’s stock?

  • avatar
    Rada

    It certain looks… long. I know, I know, “that’s what she said”, blah blah blah. But damn, it’s long.

    • 0 avatar

      No longer than the old one, but a primary goal of the restyle was to make the car appear longer. So this is one “mission accomplished.”

    • 0 avatar
      benzaholic

      Seems like they went to the higher beltline and gunslit windows approach. Yes, it makes the car look longer in photos, but it sucks for visibility from the inside. Also screws up hanging your arm out the window, but that’s the lesser offense.

      • 0 avatar

        Ran by the dealer again while I was out. Confirmed that the beltline is higher than before, by about an inch.

      • 0 avatar

        It does not suck for visibility at all, unless you’re short like Michael.

      • 0 avatar
        helius

        @Pete Zaitcev

        5’10″ is just about the average height for men in the US and Canada, and well above average for women in both countries. Unless Mr. Karesh has a freakishly short torso / long inseam, the visibility issue vis-a-vis the beltline would hold for most American and Canadian adults.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually 5’9″, but with a long torso and short inseam (30″).

        With the seat cranked up a few clicks, I didn’t have a problem with visibility. But it’s certainly not a strength the way it used to be, either. I prefer cars with outstanding visibility from the driver’s seat.

  • avatar

    Hondas aren’t as bulletproof as they used to be, and the 2006 had some initial bugs. Still, the new 2012 Civic should still be more reliable than most compact sedans. Given the early intro, TrueDelta could have some stats for the car before the year is out depending on how soon enough owners get involved.

    To help with the Car Reliability Survey, with just about any car:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

    • 0 avatar
      Rada

      Early 2000′s were not a great time for Honda in the reliability department in general. Of course, nothing like of VW proportions, but still… For the first time, back in 2005, a Honda owner talking me out of buying a Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      stryker1

      Indeed. I still remember getting a nasty-gram from Honda in the mail saying something to the effect of “Hey man, your engine may catch on fire.”

    • 0 avatar
      jj99

      Honda is more bulletproof than ever. Honda scored 1st place in the Consumer Reports reliability study. Subaru and Toyota were close behind.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        I’ve done my fair share of defending CR around these parts, but in case you’re new here, jj, Mr. Karesh’s reliability analysis (TrueDelta) is quite a bit more statistically significant than CR’s.

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        I have a Subaru Legacy Wagon. I bought it new, and it has been serviced by the book since day 1. It is our “family road trip” car, and rarely gets used for commuting to work. It has just over 100k miles on it now, most of which are highway driven.

        In the time we have owned it, it has required a transmission, centre diff, and headgaskets. Headgaskets are a known issue with Subarus, but a manual transmission should *not* fail at less than 70k miles – especially when for most of these it was in fifth gear on cruise control.

        I still think it’s a great car – but that’s because it is a midsize wagon with AWD and a manual gearbox that costs less than an Audi Avant. I have no illusions about it being more reliable than a domestic midsize car…

  • avatar
    Beene

    I really want a Civic. Of course, I mean a 1984 Civic. For the kind of money a new Civic costs I’d go elsewhere.

  • avatar
    Apollo

    I’ve owned two Civics (89 and 03 hybrid), both of which had superb visibility. When I took my ’03 in for service once I got an ’07 as a loaner. I only drove it to work once and nearly got into two wrecks because of all the blind spots. The windshield seemed to be about nine yards long, but only about a foot tall. Shortening the windows for this model should make this problem [somehow] even worse.

    I can understand that my preferences for suspension and steering tautness are not those of the wider public. But is it really the case that only enthusiasts want to see out of their cars these days?

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      Yep, last two cars were Hs. When the Accord got to the other side of 200k and I needed some wheels for a road trip of some distance, my mom loaned me her ’07. She wanted me to ‘stay in the family,’ and thought that a long weekend alone with the new crop might make me shake my increasing pessimism.

      Got used to the speedo, but the handling & visibility were no where near the quality of my Accord, much less my old Civic. Thing was made for the freeway, not for country roads.

      Damn shame they stopped making Civics for folks who like to drive.

      • 0 avatar

        What is WITH the effing slit windows???! I love my ’99 Accord, but, well, Michael, this review is just depressing hell out of me–not your fault!!! And that prndl sure looks ugly, but a prndl on the center console always does.

  • avatar
    Hemidakota

    Good luck in using the old nineties Chrysler’s cab forward design. Perhaps that is why Chrysler is no longer using it for being a dead design reason (LOL). However, it is good to see some honest journalism. After sitting in a new Honda, I am in agreement. I still don’t understand where the other two out of four adults sit when the front is occupied. The back seat spacing resembled the old Civics, where two adults can only sit in the front and two midgets can sit in the backseat. However, excellent article! I have to agree with your assessment.
    Surprising you mentioned Ford Focus. I was turned off of Ford for years with the amount of problems I witnessed on the last Ford purchase (2000 Beta Roush Mustang. This changed when in D.C. last month, instead of the nasty baseline compact the rental car company would offer, I was given the latest Ford Edge as an upgrade (very cheap I may add) that was fully loaded. I didn’t expect the ride, noiseless, and ease of driving the vehicle. I was completely in totaled shock and awe how Ford made the vehicle SIMPLE TO USE. Yes! We are lazy Americans when it comes to not reading MANUALS, INSTRUCTION BOOKLEST but hey, someone was thinking the same when they designed this vehicle. The ease of using the knobs, option features, and Ford Sync (Microsoft) system, it made the car a blast to drive around the neighboring D.C. freeways and townships.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      >>Surprising you mentioned Ford Focus<<

      And you, considering your criticism of the Civic's back seat, which is superior to that of the Focus.
      http://cars.about.com/od/ford/ig/2012-Ford-Focus-photos/2012-Ford-Focus-back-seat.htm

      The Focus back seat appears made not for midgets, but for people w/o legs. Fords are widely available at rental companies, Honda not.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Thornmark – maybe you missed the bit about the Ford being superior to the Honda with respect to quality of materials, styling (inside and out), ride and handling. Seems like Honda has fallen a long way – Insight, CRZ, Acura, Accord and now this “new” Civic. Michael wrote an accurate and detailed review.

  • avatar
    jimbowski

    Anybody know how much that acre of windshield glass is to replace? If it was laid down any farther, no sunroof would be needed…

  • avatar
    todo76

    This is really unfortunate. I was hoping to see what Honda had in store for the new Civic but they came out with this and well…tragedy.

    I’m even one of those who loves the ugly pugs that Honda has put out like the Ridgeline and the Crosstour but blandness in design and driveability is a deal killer. Especially when Hyundai is wiping the floor with everyone. Really Honda?? Really?

    • 0 avatar
      MrRams27

      I remember saying to myself maybe a year and half ago “how is Honda going to make the Civic better looking than it is now?” I guess they didn’t have the answer to that question either.

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    I had a 2000 Civic Hatchback. I would still have it if we didn’t end up with too many cars in a big city, so I sold it after 4 years. Then I heard that Fit would fit the small space that the Civic has left. And I said to myself, this smells trouble. Gen 8 Civic is alright, and drives nice, but I wouldn’t buy it because of no hatchback. But this! This is just Fugly! Are they serious with those dashboard panels “meeting” the door? Wow, that’s horrible, someone needs to get fired. Hell, fire the whole interior department, or move them to Korea for a seminar or something.

  • avatar
    Hemidakota

    What I also failed to mentioned when researching the NHTSA Database since 2003, when a owner purchase a new vehicle, when looking forward to future recalls, Honda was rated with a “C -”, meaning cautious purchase but expect problematic issues with the brand. Overall, Honda has not shown any improvements in quality control over the years when each year, it was placed, either number five or sixth place behind Toyota (exception was 2006). Now, the best laugh ever, is reading the propaganda from Consumer Reports, which highly recommends the brand line based on subjectiveness.

  • avatar
    relton

    The previous model Civic has a backwards fuel gauge. That is, E is higher on the dash than F. I’m sure that has caused at least a few people to run out of gas.

    Bob

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I found this review very depressing. I like Honda. I love my 2002 Accord. But, they have been going backwards at a high rate. Fortunately, I am not in the market now, and probably won’t be for a couple of more years.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    If you want to look smart, you can wear thick black rimmed plastic nerd eyeglasses, or drive a Honda Civic. The Civic earned itself such accolades over the past forty years, it became a statement for intelligence. Civic owners enjoyed looking smarter than those of us driving around in Escorts and Cavaliers.

    Problem is, we don’t drive Escorts or Cavaliers anymore. Other auto manufacturers now produce intelligent cars without forcing one to wear thick black rimmed plastic nerd eyeglasses. The new Focus is downright brilliant looking, and smarter than any Ivy League sheepskin. Honda however, just upped it’s nerd look. The 2012 Civic has even thicker blacker rimmed plastic eyeglasses, even nerdier looking than before.

    So, what we are discovering here is that being the smartest kid in class can get the girl, but when the jocks get smarter too, then the girls don’t have to settle for the horn-rimmed geek boys anymore.

    Take a look at that instrument panel(s)! This isn’t intelligent design – it is a PR gimmick. Forcing owners to interpret this dash is cruel. Putting this into a car with an exterior more invisible than an American Idol runner-up adds salt to an expensive wound. At what point does Honda realize that they are making cars fewer will be willing to neuter themselves in order to own? Getting an extra 5820 feet to a gallon of gas over the sleeker cooler looking competitor’s offerings is nothing to brag about.

    This car is boring, except when it is being deliberately irritating.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      “Problem is, we don’t drive Escorts or Cavaliers anymore.”

      You do. They are called Focus and Cruze now. Some people may argue that they are much better and different animals. So were Escort, Cobalt, Caliber thought to be when they were introduced.

    • 0 avatar
      civwave

      Ewww, way to put a boring post up, eh?
      You have to hear this… no matter what you post, or how you put it… theHonda Civic is still the best value around.
      By the way (BTW for you nerds), the dash is the best in it’s class, more user-freindly, easier to use, with MORE options and easier accessibilty). It’s a mater of opinion and yours is NOT a big deal. I would love to hear what car you are driving. Which is it? And BTW, your sarcasm only goes so far… facts and figures and track records are what I base my opinions on, NOT you silly nerdy post here.
      DO tell us all what you are driving, I am so, so curiuos.

  • avatar
    JMII

    One thing I do like: the center stack is now aggressively canted towards the driver, classic BMW style…

    Or classic CRX style ;)

    Honda continues to disappoint. In the past I’ve owned two Civics (’85 & ’93) and a Prelude (’89), so it is very sad to the see the Civic turn into a sub-par offering. As noted in the review the Civic’s claim to fame was handling, mileage and interior simplicity. Now it seems that even those trademark qualities have fallen behind curve of its competitors.

    • 0 avatar
      civwave

      If you were a Civic owner in the past, it makes no sense what you are saying here. How you’ve turned into Civic hater/basher is beyond me. (No explanation needed by you, so please save your breath, it’s just not gonna work with me). You are very disappointing.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    A swing and a miss…

    When the 2006 model came out I assumed it was an aberration. How well has it sold? I don’t see as many of the 2006-2011 models as I see older generation Civics here in Connecticut, where Hondas are still popular. I’m surprised to see that if anything they accentuated the elements I didn’t care for, such as the dual level instrument cluster.

    • 0 avatar
      stryker1

      I see them everywhere. I routinely find myself accidentally trying to open someone else’s car because they have one of 2 or 3 civics parked near my car in the same color in the same trim.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Honda only sold a hundred thousand or so more than a million and a half of this generation in the US. They sold more 8th generation Civics than all but eleven car companies sold cars each year. Civic is bigger in the US than Volkswagen or Mazda, according to Car and Driver.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      Hmm. My wife’s cousin bought one used a couple weeks ago but apart from that I don’t know anyone who owns one. Perhaps it is selective blindness on my part; I’m not looking for it so I’m not seeing it. My observations are just that; observations. I guess I should start looking harder.

  • avatar
    aspade

    Depressing to see that even the Civic – the Civic! – now has its beltline up past the top of the seatbacks.

    • 0 avatar

      You must also remember the generations where the beltline was crazy low. The 1988 seemed like it was all glass.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        The ’88 Civic Si hatchback is my all-time favourite Honda. The low, sleek design with lots of glass gave it the classic shooting-brake look. And it was fun to drive, too!

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        If hit in the side, the high beltline is worth it’s weight in gold.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        Not necessarily, my understanding is the high beltline does marvels in making the body appear safer/more aggressive, but in the end a door is just a door.

        If hit in the side, a well welded B-pillar is worth its weight in gold.

      • 0 avatar
        gottacook

        If you want a low beltline, looks like the upcoming Impreza is the way to go – and I don’t believe Subaru would deliberately provide inadequate side protection.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        @jj99 And if you can’t see out of the damn thing, you’re more likely to get hit. Maybe we could use higher-strength materials in the pillars instead of just loading the thing up with mild steel? But no, that wouldn’t work because you won’t get the placebo feeling of safety that the high beltlines style provides to buyers.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        I loved those green houses with a panoramic 315 degree view! But that was before SUVs with their high and threatening grills. Given the new reality, I’d take a door with more steel and less glass. T-bones happen very quickly and increased visibility most likely won’t help you dodge one.

      • 0 avatar

        “I loved those green houses with a panoramic 315 degree view! But that was before SUVs with their high and threatening grills. Given the new reality, I’d take a door with more steel and less glass. T-bones happen very quickly and increased visibility most likely won’t help you dodge one.”

        It’s been established many times that the height of the beltline means squat in terms of side impact performance. It’s all about the structure and whether or not you have side airbags/curtains.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        >>>
        It’s been established many times that the height of the beltline means squat in terms of side impact performance. It’s all about the structure and whether or not you have side airbags/curtains.
        <<<

        Links please? For sure, I agree good structural design and side and curtain airbags help considerably. But to house those airbags, we now have relatively thick A and B pillars. I'm not sure how easy it is to engineer such safety features in a car with low belt lines and large greenhouses.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        Please bear in mind that the beltlines/greenhouses are irrelevant to the A & B pillars.

        While pillars do impact visibility (take a look at the Civic’s Venza-inspired abomination brother, the Crosstour, for the best example of form killing function) the trade off is more structurally sound than the Camaro-ization of the beltline.

        Again, in the end, the high beltline is merely attached to the door. If the doors were a capable, central structural component, convertibles would be much more practical and widespread.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    “They might also consider following Chrysler’s lead and banishing light gray from the interior color palette.”

    I agree. That photo of the stereo really shows how bad it is. Almost as bad as the previous-generation Malibu (mid 2000s).

    Is this a mid-cycle refresh or an all-new Civic? If it’s the latter, then I can’t see how Honda can keep up its sales against Civic competitors.

    • 0 avatar

      “All-new,” but heavily based on the 2006-2011. Honda, like many manufacturers, goes totally new every other generation. This sheetmetal and interior are intended to last through at least the 2016 model year. It is possible that momentum (and incentives) can carry them that far.

  • avatar
    jjster6

    I’ve had an ’89 (Si) a ’95 and an ’09 Civic. The ’89 Si is my favorite car I have ever owned. The ’09 was a boring turd with interior panels that fell off.

    Honda… R.I.P.

  • avatar
    derek533

    Honda again seems to be going the wrong way. My wife just bought a 11 Chrysler T&C after extensively test driving the Sienna and Odyssey. Between those three, the T&C had a much nicer interior (who would have ever thought that of Chrysler a year ago?), better ride/handling and was overall just a much better value vs the Sienna and Odyssey. The Odyssey while comfortable no doubt, just looked weird with all the angles on the exterior. Not to mention, while the interior was nice (certainly nicer than the all plastic Sienna), it was just very plain looking and it seemed to have been de-contented from the previous generation’s interior and wasn’t quite as nice it seems. Oh, and the light gray interior on the van we drove was just downright awful looking. Sienna’s light gray was bad too. I dunno, but a light gray interior just seems so 90ish anymore. But I digress…

    Honda will still move tons of these just based on brand loyaltly. However, if I was in the market for a small sedan, I’d certainly take the Focus or Elantra over this.

  • avatar
    segfault

    “There’s quite a bit of lean when the wheel is turned.”

    Probably because the stabilizer bars on the ’12 are smaller than the ’11 model. Shame about that, and the poor interior. The styling looks almost the same as the old model to me.

    • 0 avatar
      MrRams27

      Besides VW, no other car company lately has downgraded their interiors so it amazes me that Honda is doing so as well. I hope this is a low for Honda because soon even their extreme loyalists will have to seriously consider if buying a Honda is a reasonable decision.

    • 0 avatar
      edwilley3

      I own a 2008 EX. To me, this new interior just preserves the general concept, but dramatically changes the implementation. The new radio panel is a big rectangle, whereas the old radio is a simple set of controls (with big symmetrically positioned multifunction knows) more or less seamlessly integrated into the dash, which keeps curving away toward the windshield. The widened 2nd tier of the dash is not a design improvement IMHO from the 2006, which I had grown accustomed to. The AC controls in the 2006 are literally a straight out arm extension for most drivers directly in the middle of the dash and there is a storage shelf below that, forming a color change line. It’s a nice design touch, preserving an arc across the dashboard, and placing the controls in a relatively ergonomically friendly spot. The new AC controls are basically where the recessed storage shelf was. It’s efficient and, to my eye at least, attractive. Overall, I would guess that Honda designers just cobbled together design elements from other cars into a “franken-car”. I think that I like the new exterior better than the new interior, but I still wouldn’t trade a loaded NEW 2012 EXL for a 50k mile EX with some door dings.

      Here’s my really scary thought: If Hyundai made a car this bland/cheap looking on the outside and this horrible on the inside, they would be laughed back to Korea. Compared to this junker, the Hyundai Genesis (sedan or coupe) is a brilliant design exercise.

  • avatar
    jj99

    The Honda Civic offers something the Focus does not. The Civic has a good automatic transmission. That is very important stuff to me. But, all of you detroit posters seem to think this is not important, as you keep raving about the new focus. Check out the complaints caranddriver.com has about the Focus transmission:

    We were disappointed in the PowerShift dual-clutch transmission, which feels like it is programmed to mimic a conventional automatic instead of a manual with sporting intentions. Programming wasn’t the only problem we had with the transmission: At low speeds when the car was cold, we noted numerous disconcerting clunks and jolts. Additionally, we could feel the clutch chattering as we crept along in traffic, and the shifts were slow (for a dual-clutch unit) and soft. Put it in sport mode, and the shifts get faster, but they’re still nowhere near as quick and crisp as Volkswagen’s DSG, and the shift logic seems programmed only to burn more fuel by never upshifting, not to provide enthusiastic response.

    Here is another complaint by caranddriver.com:

    “There were other problems, too. With 3000 miles on our test car, the clutches were already a little glazed and chattery, with vibrations working up the steering column when we rolled off under light throttle. And once, while maintaining about 35 mph on level ground, the SEL did a five-three downshift for no obvious reason.”

    If I was a professional detroit poster, I would jump in and claim the problem is a “preproduction” issue. I love that excuse.

    • 0 avatar

      I noticed no misbehavior in a Focus I test drove recently, but the car had very few miles on it. The transmission was much better behaved than the similar unit in the Fiesta. Note that they’re comparing the transmission to VW’s DSG, saying it’s only as good as conventional automatics, not worse than conventional automatics.

      Also note that C&D placed the Focus first anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Your conclusion misses the mark by a bunch. They said it was calibrated to mimic an automatic, not that it was in any sense as good as an automatic. Unless clunks, jutters, chattering, and vibrations are what Detroit apologists expect from a conventional automatic…

    • 0 avatar
      SV

      jj/CJ, I dunno if I’d be be talking so much about “Detroit apologists”. There’s such a thing as import apologists (fanbois) as well. Especially you, jj; apparently Ford doesn’t even have to be the topic at hand any more to bring up their inferiority versus Toyota/Honda.

      I’ve driven 3 PowerShift Fords (2 Fiestas and a Focus) and the worst I got was one hard shift in one of the Fiestas and some clutch jittering while hesitating from a stop in the Focus. Honestly overall I didn’t think it was any worse than my slushbox Mazda, which hard-shifts too on occasion.

      This new Civic looks nice enough, IMO, but I agree with Mr. Karesh that the old one looked better, especially in regards to the details.

      As for the interior, Honda’s never been a huge one for fancy soft plastics, but I’ve always felt they’ve been good at creating an aura of quality out of relatively industrial-grade plastics. Not so much this time I guess?

  • avatar
    carguy

    I had an 08 as a rental and found the interior ergonomics dubious at best. Not only is the split dash a gimmick but the HVAC vents are way too close to the steering wheel so all you get is cold hands when you run the AC. I also found the seat cushions way too flat.

    Like the new Toyota Corolla, this is not really a new generation but just a refresh pretending to be new. With competition from the Focus, Elantra, Cruze and Mazda3 more was required to stop Honda’s slow decline.

  • avatar
    jj99

    This comment in the review makes no sense to me:

    “At times the rear suspension sounds and feels like it’s bottoming out under minimal duress—even with no one in the back seat.”

    If you want a soft suspension, you get the LX or EX. People that purchase these want soft suspensions.

    If you want a sport suspension, you get the SI.

    Expecting a stiff SI suspension in the EX is an invalid complaint.

    • 0 avatar

      What if you want decent handling in a sedan? The Si is only available as a coupe.

      Also, it’s now well known that good body control and a smooth ride are not mutually exclusive. it’s possible to have both.

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        Civic SI Sedan:

        http://automobiles.honda.com/civic-si-sedan/

      • 0 avatar

        Why thank you jj99, but when I clicked on the link and read this:

        “Check out the new power monitor, sequential shift lights and i-VTEC® indicator. The driver, and video gamer, in you will feel right at home in an Si.”

        It made me want to vomit… video gamer?! That’s who we’re pandering to? This is Honda trying to sound cool, but coming off as desperate.

      • 0 avatar

        My bad. I could have sworn they’d discontinued the Si sedan, but there it is.

      • 0 avatar
        Signal11

        carguy,

        You do understand the target market of the SI, no?

        I know quite a few Si drivers. All male, all 16-25, all video gamers and almost all Asian. Have you seen the start-up sequence for the CR-Z and other vehicles aimed at this market? Young guys pee their pants a little when they see cool blinkenlights in their ride of choice for the first time.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        I clicked the link, and checked out the 360° view. I see that Honda is now equipping the Si’s with a fart-can, standard. Classy.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        >>>
        I clicked the link, and checked out the 360° view. I see that Honda is now equipping the Si’s with a fart-can, standard. Classy.
        <<<

        Blaaat. I am too old to drive a car with a fart-can, but still young enough to want to go zoom-zoom. Hey, that's the ticket…

    • 0 avatar

      That thing about the videogamer is extremely funny.

      Who knew you bought the EX for a softer suspension? Like of course the Si means something, but the soft model? Who knew?

  • avatar

    Looks like Honda had a few alloy wheels from the previous generation Si left so they used them on the new EX. See, how environmentally conscious they are!

    Seriously though, you can’t get a manual in the EX, please be kidding… checking Honda’s website… you’re not. I think I’m going to cry.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Automatics lend themselves to being gamed to optimize results in the EPA’s dyno lab. Even if the manuals return the same or better mileage in the real world, Honda is compelled to limit their availability to raise their CAFE score.

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      Does anyone here know whether any previous non-hybrid Civic was not available with a manual? (I think even the first-gen Civic hybrid offered a manual.)

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Towards the end of 8th generation production, fewer and fewer trim levels were available with a manual transmission. I think you could get an EX, but your couldn’t get an EX-L or EX with Navigation with a stick.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      No manual in the EX? Meh. If I was forced into a Civic for whatever reason, I’d be purchasing an Si with Honda’s sublime 6-speed manual.

  • avatar
    70Cougar

    I have a 2007 Si sedan. I have come to like the dual level instrument panel. I am not so fond of the transmission that was rebuilt under warranty at 10,000 miles and still does not shift like a Honda should.

    In comparison, I put 150k on my 1991 Civic hatchback (no DX or LX) without even replacing the clutch, and I drove it like I stole it. With a set of good tires, that thing handled like it was on rails. Despite only 70 horsepower and four forward gears, I got it up to 110 on an as yet uncompleted I695 around Richmond. When I wasn’t going 110, it got 41 mpg on the highway.

  • avatar
    Jeffer

    So that’s a Hoffmeister kink? Always wondered about that when I looked at Grandpa’s ’64 Dodge. Chryco thought it was a good place to stick the Fratzog!

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Small nit: 2012 – 1984 = 28 years, rather than 38 years.

    I liked the looks of the Gen 8 Civic better than his one. This car sounds like good news for Hyundai.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    My 1990 Civic LX sedan had wonderful visibility. The cowl and dash were very low, the sills were also low, the roof pillars were all thin, and the glass area was huge. It’s a shame about the high dash and sills on the newer cars. It might give the impression of “safety”, but real safety is being able to see clearly what’s going on around you.

    • 0 avatar
      CC_Stadt

      My feeling exactly about the 1990, which my girlfriend at the time used to own. By comparison, I felt claustrophobia coming on in a ca. 2002 model (this one a coupe) of a colleague, and it sounds like it has only gotten worse since. Not just a Honda problem, of course — it seems to be the rule now, not the exception. I dread renting cars for that reason.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Honda’s predicting some Civic production shortage this summer due to the problems in Japan. I know at least two owners who’ve had steering issues with the previous model.

    • 0 avatar
      jj99

      A coworker of mine had the steering column issue on an early 2006 way back in 2005. It took the dealer twice to fix it. He has never had another problem and the car is nearing 150K miles. But, he still complains loudly about that problem to the point where he is looking at Toyota or Nissan for the Civic’s replacement next year.

      • 0 avatar
        FromaBuick6

        Heh. I’ve owned a Toyota and I’ve got plenty of experience with Nissan. If he can’t stand one minor problem, he’s going to lose his mind with Toyota and especially Nissan. Every Toyota I’ve experienced has had one mind-knumbing niggling issue (leaky tailight, squeaky breaks, tires wont stay balanced or the incurable driveshaft clunk in my stupid 4Runner) and Nissan, well Nissan just sucks.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Am I the only one who had to Google ‘Hofmeister kink’? Yes? Oh dear. I feel less manly now that I obviously have inferior knowledge of car design terms.

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      I’m impressed that someone could go without knowing about it. It seems like all the car rags wont shut up about it and every brand has blatantly used it at least once in the last 10 years.

    • 0 avatar

      Now look up dead cat hole and prepare to get pissed.

      • 0 avatar
        mazder3

        The definition is in Wikipedia under Glossary of Automotive Design. Save folks from getting sick looking up those words on Google. The definition isn’t nice but those other links, eww.

      • 0 avatar

        I can guess the origins of the term. Years ago a friend’s father noticed that his CEL was on and that the car didn’t seem to be running quite right So he pulled into a service station. They took a peek under the hood, then asked, “Mr. Perry, did you used to have a cat?”

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    I just got home from running errands in my 2002 Civic LX sedan. And you know what? The car is garbage. Hard plastic dash, cheap radio, awful upholstery, no power and a harsh ride. It was panned in the press for switching to MacPhereson struts and for decontenting. But it sucked less than all the other compacts when I bought it in 2002. The Focus, Elantra, Lancer and Sentra were somewhat appealing alternatives, but nine years later none of them have held up as well as my car (despite a major accident). And the Corolla was just entirely too lame to cross shop.

    Fast forward 10 years. There’s another disappointing new Civic out, along with a rash of new contenders (Cruze, Focus, Elantra). And the Corolla’s still lame. You know what? I’d go for the Civic again. Why? Because mine’s done everything I’ve needed it to for a decade without problems. Brand loyalty’s for suckers, according to all the enthusiasts, but why walk away from a company that’s served you well? What, because Car & Driver says the Focus is “better?” I’ve seen this movie before, with the original Focus, and that car was a quality nightmare, despite multiple C&D “10 Best” appearances. And early reports on the new dual clutch transmission, along with my ’11 Mustang GT’s junky Getrag manual and lackadaisical fit and finish tell me Ford hasn’t learned its lesson. Moreover, I hate GM for more reasons than I can count and the Hyundai doesn’t offer anything tangible over the Honda (sorry, I don’t need heated rear seats).

    I guess I’m one of the few people that don’t hate the new Civic. Actually, I didn’t like the ’06. I’ve warmed to it, but I like the new one better. The old one looked to much like something out of The Jetsons. I kinda dig the new iMID display, the softer handling is a blessing to those of us used to harsh Civics of yore and the Si seems like a great package for someone who doesn’t want the added complexity/unreliability of a turbo (I’m looking at you, GTI/GLI). I just wish you could get the manual on the EX.

    • 0 avatar
      dror

      I never understood what drives people to buy a Honda? The only one I actually drove was a 2010 Civic, all the bad thing people said about it are coming at you big time, the stupid dash, the noise, the hard plastics, and then, you look at other Hondas, the Pilot look like a military vehicle, the Accord looks like it was designed by some elderly people and think about the price, they give you nothing in comparison to any other car manufacture, go with the LX on any model and you drive a depressing car, upgrade to EX on the Accord and you still have plastic steering wheel and ugly seats.
      I can’t forget a friend of mine, 2009 Accord, taking the driver seat apart, why? , the lumbar support was hurting his back, no matter how you adjust it, so he simply took that part out of the seat back, he is not the only one complaining, read some customer feedback on Edmunds and you can see how many people complain about the seats.

    • 0 avatar
      RoadRage

      Sorry to bust your bubble but I have an 03 focus with 218k miles on it and it has been bulletproof. All major hardware is original and it has never seen a check engine light. It doesn’t burn oil at all and I still average 27 mpg. The paint and the body is almost flawless and I live in the Chicago area where salt is king in the winter. Everytime people get in my car they always comment on how new it looks. This car has carted around my four boys since we bought it in 2003.

      Don’t believe everything you read my friend. You are free to buy and praise anything you want, but I would put my Focus against anyone’s Civic anyday.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        I’ve owned Hondas (currently have a 2003 Accord with 153,000 miles on the odometer), and my wife has a 2005 Focus SE (124,000 miles on the odometer). My mother-in-law has a 2004 Malibu that has traveled 64,000 miles.

        The bottom line is that the Accord is a better car in every way than the Malibu, even though the Malibu is newer and has about half of the mileage. The Focus has been reliable, but it is definitely showing its age in ways that the Honda Civic I had before this Accord did not. So I’m not quite so inclined to dismiss Hondas just yet…

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      Look, FromaBuick, you say yourself that the car is garbage. While I admire your tenacity and loyalty, I gotta say, if you drove a 4th, 5th, or 6th gen Civic and climbed into your model, (or the 8th generation, and apparently the new 9th, for that matter) you would see an acute degeneration of ergonomics and suspension.

      Add in the fact that the Civic is supposed to be a small econo car. The essence of a small econo car is availability of hatch/manual transmission. The Focus has both, the Mazda3 has both, and if you count the Matrix as one, the Corolla has both.

      Where is the affordable four-banger with a manual transmission that a college student can roll his futon into? The Fit?

      I was rear-ended two months ago, and was given a Corolla as a loaner. It’s driving dynamics reminded me of a certain 8th generation small car that has fallen pretty hard off its pedestal.

    • 0 avatar
      suspekt

      bang on!!! bang on!!!!

      I agree with everything you said.

      …”…I’ve seen this movie before, with the original Focus, and that car was a quality nightmare, despite multiple C&D “10 Best” appearances. And early reports on the new dual clutch transmission, along with my ’11 Mustang GT’s junky Getrag manual and lackadaisical fit and finish tell me Ford hasn’t learned its lesson…”…

      I serioulsy feel Ford gets a pass on all of the past 25 years of junk they have been selling. They have proved that great design, innovation, and marketing trumps actual quality.

      Big difference between perceived quality and actual quality.

      I would take the Corolla’s 4 speed over the powershift ANY DAY. And to prove it, I just bought my father a 2002 Corolla for $3,000; I sleep very well at night knowing he is not going to be stuck anywhere ever due to a mechanical fault of the car. He could care less if he was driving a 2012 Elantra or a 2002 Corolla.

      • 0 avatar
        PennSt8

        You mean like the pass that Toyota and Honda receive for making ‘quality’ vehicles?

        “….I just bought my father a 2002 Corolla for $3,000; I sleep very well at night knowing he is not going to be stuck anywhere ever due to a mechanical fault of the car.”

        I take it before you purchased said vehicle you had a full on file folder of performed scheduled services? Even then that doesn’t mean that the vehicle will never experience a mechanical fault.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Interesting review. So here’s a question:

    Presumably, Honda could very easily have increased its fuel efficiency (likely as a class leader) by either going with direct injection, or by adding a turbo. They did neither. Why? Is it purely a matter of cost, of might it have something to do with projected long-term reliability of these features (where Honda–and Toyota–have a reputation for the longevity of their engines).

    • 0 avatar

      Honda has become more and more conservative with its powertrains. I’m not sure what the reason is.

    • 0 avatar
      Rada

      DI, turbo – uncertain reliability. Civic/Corolla buyers simply want cars that runs forever. When you start adding gimmicks the risks increase. They’ll introduce DI when it’s absolutely positively 100%reliable and free of issues.

    • 0 avatar
      MrRams27

      They could have EASILY, and I mean EASILY, increased the Civic’s efficiency by adding another gear to the transmission. But instead they carry over the same 5 speed we’ve used since 2005, albeit subtly revised. That could have pushed the Civic’s city mileage past 30 mpg and its highway mileage easily past 40 mpg, seeing they already achieve 39 mpg. That was a cheap move and one that will make the car seem dated on paper. Bad move Honda, bad move.

      IMHO, I feel as if the Japanese automakers are becoming the American automakers of yore. Nissan has numerous woefully outdated cars with terrible interiors (Chrysler). Honda is giving half-hearted attempts at cars both from a design standpoint as well as a engineering standpoint (Ford). Toyota is focused on what they do best, hybrids (GM and their trucks). They also share a common trait, they all rest on the stigma of superior Japanese reliability, although Nissan is at a little disadvantage on that front.

      I hope they can recover soon, or they will face a long, uphill battle.

  • avatar
    AJ

    I’m currently on my third Civc, an ’09 five-speed coupe. Fun car for a daily driver with it’s 34 mpg. I don’t have any complaints about the car but I have had about the dealer. The finance guy was a liar and was pissed off that I brought my own financing and wouldn’t buy into his service plans. Then in at 12k miles for an oil change the service adviser told me I needed to spend $75 on a safety check. I laughed… And then noted that the waiting room was full of women paying for their safety checks.

    • 0 avatar
      sfay3

      At 30,000 miles, the service rep at my stealership squealed with delight and asked if I knew that that was a “big service interval for Hondas.” The maintenance indicator only said I needed an oil and filter change but that didn’t stop the twit from telling me that I needed my power steering fluid (among other things) flushed. The fact that the Fit has EPS didn’t seem to register. After that I started changing the oil myself.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    The Civic’s problem is that Honda zeros in on that other great, expensive, decontented automotive dullard, the Corolla, as its sole competition, while completely ignoring the up-and-coming Focus, Cruze, Elantra, et al.

    This is a strategic error both Honda and Toyota may end up paying for dearly, particularly once the rebate wars (which Honda and Toyota steadfastly refuse to participate) pick up in earnest.

    • 0 avatar
      suspekt

      Honda is more concerned with ‘overall factory throughput’ and ‘capacity utilization’ than with market share.

      I think people just dont understand these two concepts. It is part the key to both Honda and Toyota’s profitability. They are lean and can maintain profitability at varied levels of production.

      What they have done is the oppostite of a strategic error, it is strategic excellence. As a customer, I hate the new Civic. As a shareholder, I would probably applaud the well calculated utilization of precious resources.

      With the tsunami disaster, isnt it amazing that Honda had the foresight to conserve cash and not blow it on R&D?

      Think about it, how many more INCREMENTAL sales would a leading edge Civic have garnered over this model? 100,000 more units? 50,000 more units? At what cost?

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        So Honda knew that the tsunami was coming as they developed the 2012 Civic? Why didn’t they tell the other Japanese? Talk about taking advantage of a bad situation.

      • 0 avatar
        suspekt

        I’m not saying they knew about the tsunami but they knew the global economic recovery was more fiction than fact. They had the foresight to know that they needed to conserve cash even if that meant they would concede some market share (which may or may not happen).

        Again, the focus of Honda is capacity utilization and not market share.

  • avatar
    Signal11

    Michael,

    You said you had to raise the seat a little because of the dash. Is the peep speedometer higher than the last version (I liked it when I drove a Civic around for a little while) or is a matter of the upper dash being wider?

    I’m having a hard time understanding Honda’s design choice on widening the upper deck for a little screen.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Another ho-hum phone it in effort from Honda. Perhaps a deathwatch is in order?

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    I wonder if we’ll be seeing this model in a “Curbside Classic Deadly Sin” in a few years time?

    The Civic is the car Honda built it’s reputation on, now it sounds as though it really isn’t even class competitive any more.

    No doubt they’ll still sell plenty of them to their loyal customers, just as GM sold plenty of 1981 Citations to their loyal customers back in the day.

    Normally this wouldn’t be a problem – I doubt the new Civic will implode like an ’81 Citation – but if the Japanese supply constraints cause some of their loyal customers to look elsewhere they might be pleasantly surprised. If people who buy a Focus, Cruze, or Elantra have a decent ownership experience (probably as much to do with the dealer as with the car) Honda will start to lose long term customers.

    The new Civic wasn’t at our local car show a couple of months back. When I indicated that I was interested in comparing it to the Focus, the Honda rep acted as though the Focus wasn’t even a competitor. Seems like “Hubris Born of Success” (http://www.amazon.ca/How-Mighty-Fall-Companies-Never/dp/0977326411) to me. If things continue this way, it won’t end well for Honda.

    You can pretty much substitute “Toyota” and “Corolla” in the above as well. Tokyo 2012 == Detroit 1981…

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I drive a ’10 Civic – chalk me up as one of the people who likes the dual-level instrument cluster. With the speedometer up that high, it’s the best alternative to a heads-up display, and the tachometer is still directly in front of me, where your deity of choice intended. Plus, it’s still canted towards me (a la proper BMW). Basically, the ergonomics are solid, even if the appearance is a little Spaceman Spiff (like the rest of the car, and I appreciate that anyways), and the materials are, uhh, economical.

  • avatar
    anchke

    Michael’s review brings out an inconvenient truth about many (most?) new cars — demonstrating entropy drift, the new ones are worse than the ones they replace. Even when the reviewers don’t notice this, the photos give it away or leave the reader wondering if it’s just a bad angle, unflattering color or what. What’s with the wrap over windshields and side windows that don’t allow the operator to see out of the car? Why is it so hard to make a comfy seat? Meanwhile stuff that could have been improved on the old designs just rolls along unnoticed. In the Honda lineup, the only car I’d consider is the CR-V, not on aesthetics, but because it’s a good combo of value, form and function. Even so, I like my ’05 better than the current model. Of course, Honda is “improving” the CR-V for ’12, giving it an animee look, I’ve read, which doesn’t bode well. Who comes up with this crazy stuff, and is it the same giddy folks who design hats for royal weddings?

    P.S. One of the pertinent car teevee ads is by Hyundai in which aliens deliver the Elentra via mother ship. Sure enough, that’s what Hyundais (and puh-lenty of Japanese and German lookalikes) bear uncanny resemblance to the service pods in Star Wars movies. Maybe Hyundai designers think this is a good thing.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Count me in on the “like the instrument panel” group. Yes, it looks odd, but it really does work very well: the wheel can be small, it never cuts off the speedo or tach, and you don’t need to refocus your vision switching from the road to the instruments.

    “Different” doesn’t mean “bad”

    I do agree with the look. The 2006-2010 looked cleaner and less contrived. I can forgive the interior because it works better, but the exterior got fussy for no good reason at all.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      Yup. I think a lot of knee-jerk reactions to the bi level instrument panel are from folk who haven’t spent a decent amount of time behind the wheel. My experience with the Civic peep over speedo is that once you get used to it, it’s great. I wish they’d kept the dash mounted shifter from the pre-2005 Si, though.

      My one concern is the widening of the upper deck. Flashbacks to the superwide display of the 1996 Prelude I drove for a while.

    • 0 avatar

      The instrument I most need to see without refocusing is the tach–which is in the conventional location.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Most people never look at the tach: in an automatic it’s irrelevant and in a manual you learn to shift by feel anyway. Even racers will prefer in-view shift-lights to having to study a tach at speed.

        Unless you tow (in a Civic?) it really is one of the least useful gauges in a car.

        You need to know your speed, you need to see “idiot lights” and you need to be able to tune the radio or operate the navigation system without refocusing or taking your eyes off the road. The Civic (and the Prius) both do this very well. The Yaris is next best, most cars are middling and the Mini is a travesty.

      • 0 avatar

        The smoother engines get, the less possible it is to shift by feel.

        The shift light in the Si does largely compensate for the low-mounted tach.

        Unless an automatic is able and willing to almost always select the gear I want at a given time, and the Honda’s isn’t, I end up manually shifting it on a curvy road. To do this I use the tach.

        The irony here is that years ago when domestic cars rarely had a tach their widespread installation in Hondas and other imports convinced people that a tach was needed, even with an automatic.

        And if Honda really thinks the tach serves no purpose, why make it so large?

        Perhaps an even better solution would be to mount the instruments on the hood, like Pontiac did with some cars in the 1960s?

      • 0 avatar
        gottacook

        I’m sure the only hood-mounted gauge offered optionally by Pontiac in the 1960s was the tachometer; I’ve seen it only in Pontiac brochures of the 1968-70 era, not on actual cars. I think it was offered on the 1968-71 GTO and the 1969-70 Grand Prix and Firebird.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Sorry Karesh, but you should put down the shovel. The tachometer in a Civic is at the same level as it is in any other car you’ve driven. On top of that, it is right in the middle of your sight line, uncompromised to make room for the speedometer within the steering wheel, and larger than any other tachometer I’ve seen in a street car. You should look for the source of your issue with the Civic tach somewhere other than in the car.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        “And if Honda really thinks the tach serves no purpose, why make it so large?”

        To sell to people like you.

    • 0 avatar
      Wagen

      My complaints with the instrument panel are two-fold:
      1) digital speedometer? Didn’t we try digital gauge packs in the ’80s? Didn’t work then, don’t appeal to me now. I’ll take a proper circular gauge where I can see both where I am in relation to the range and also quickly see the rate of change of said gauge (more important in the tach).

      2) There should be no, or minimal distance between the tach and speedometer. All the gauges should be together in one place so I can quickly scan them – all of them – and get my eyes back on the road. Give me a BMW 4- or 5- gauge cluster any day.

      I think this is Honda’s (likely profitable) pandering to people who think gee whiz, that car is “futuristic,” (e.g., the “video game” set mentioned above) without giving regard to functionality or actual driver experience. Plus, an LCD panel is likely less costly than a proper moving-needle gauge.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        Wagen,

        1) Civic was like this since 2006 and has since sold more than a million in the US. You are entitled to your own thought, but it doesn’t matter.

        2) See point 1.

  • avatar

    The biggest problem with this article is the way it looks at the “entire industry that sprung blah blah blah”. The riceboy culture is dead these days period, and it includes the domestic rice too (except in its ancestral homeland of LA and a smattering of holdouts here and there). Something has happened in the fads that made the young people in general to lose interest. It makes way more sense to blame iPod and Xbox than the redesign of Civic.

    • 0 avatar
      Almost Jake

      The riceboy culture may be dead where you live but its still alive everywhere I travel. I suspect the riceboy culture, as you call it, will continue to thrive as engines get smaller to meet CAFE restrictions.

    • 0 avatar

      Visit any active forum and you’ll find plenty of evidence that car culture is not dead. Lots of modifying going on, probably much more than a decade ago.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        Forums aren’t a good representation of the overall owner base. I will agree that there are plenty of active model specific forums, and that there is a lot of modification going on. Most of those active forum members are also at least halfway intelligent and doing mods that make some sort of sense.

        When I hear the term ‘ricer’ I think of the HS our barely out of it kids who think that their fart can exhaust adds 40hp and their assortment of NOx and turbo stickers round that up to an even 100hp+. Ricers are the type who buy two new rims for their ’99 Civic and go ahead and put them on before they can afford to replace the other two factory steelies. They consider primer gray applied to select areas of the car (most often to poorly installed chunks of ridiculous body kit) to be a valid paint job choice. It’s not uncommon for ricers to have stereos installed that could push enough power to impress the roadies at a Motorhead concert, but they instead choose to pump out whatever flavor of the week rap star wannabe they’re fond of, with the bass turned up way past 11, so that they can act all hard even though most of them are white, from the suburbs, and weigh in at 120lbs soaking wet.

        There is a big difference between enthusiasts are ricers. Thankfully, I’ve also seen a decline in the ricer population, which makes sense, as it was always more about the image than the love of the car.

        To be fair, the pickups with huge lift kits, confederate flag decals, swamper tires never taken off of the pavement and truck nuts are no less deserving of ridicule. Also of note are the GM B bodies with 24″+ spinners and custom paint jobs worth more than the car (also likely to have a trunk stuffed with enough subwoofers to loosen dental fillings a block away).

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        @Nullo: funny point: The GM B platform is one of the few car platforms which is big enough to compfortably wear 24s and not look completely ridiculous.

        I have a soft spot for Olds, and I would be totally comfortable driving an early 1970s Olds Delta 88 4-door in black “chrome” paint wearing 24″ wheels with a 455 cid Olds Rocket under the hood.

        Just sayin’

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        SVX-Perlie,

        I respectfully disagree with you on the 24″ rims on the GM B bodies. If I’m not mistaken, you are referring to the Caprices of the 1980′s and if so, I’ve seen them done with these wheels with uber low profile tires on these cars and it’s ridiculous looking.

        For starters, the car appears to be at least 6-10″ higher than it originally was meant to be and thus looks very top heavy and appears to be on stilts of sorts. Add to that, have you ever seen one driving along on a less than smooth road? Bet you haven’t as the front wheels can’t remain straight as a result and the poor driver has to drive slow to prevent going turtle when going around bends and/or corners unless he’s stiffened up the suspension in some fashion.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Black plastic triangles are a spreading plague! Oh well, that’s life. At least Honda added the Heineken “kink” to fit in below the Accord in style and family resemblence like the Camry and Corolla. Used to be Impala and Malibu. Hopefully that trend will continue. Will this car sell? Of course! Honda still carries a superb reputation for reliability whether true or not. Time will tell.

  • avatar
    Ion

    I have 1 question Michael, can you actually see the front of the car from the inside?

    While shopping for a replacement for my parent’s Toyota Matrix I suggested the outgoing Civic. I told my mother she had to test drive the civic too see if she could deal with the split speedometer and the floor hinged gas pedal. We get to the dealer, she sits in the car and instantly says she hates it because she can’t see the front of the car. I sit in it and realize despite working on maybe 10 of these a day I never noticed no matter how I adjust the seat I can’t see the hood over the wiper blades.

    Now I know why I see all those Civics with cracked/damaged front bumpers

    • 0 avatar

      The photo set includes a shot of the view forward from the driver’s seat–no hood. But the same is the case in the Focus, Elantra, and probably every major competitor.

      To be able to see the hood from the driver’s seat, you’ve got to be sitting well above the hood and not too far from the base of the windshield, and the hood cannot drop off much. So not many smaller cars, with the possible exception of the Nissan cube and JUKE. You’re more likely to be able to see the hood in larger cars and sport cars, since they have longer hoods, and in SUVS.

      • 0 avatar
        Rada

        I see the hood of my Corolla, and I’m 5’7”.

      • 0 avatar
        thirty-three

        I can see the hood of my Civics and I’m 5’4″. (5th and 7th gen Civics.) I can’t see the hood of the newer Civics unless I crank the seat all the way up, at which point I can’t reach the pedals unless I sit really close to the steering wheel.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        I can’t see the hood on my 2010 Mazda 3. I’m 5’5″. I recall on my 1987 Acura Integra, I could actually see part of the hood and the pop-up headlights.

        One way I learn the distance on new cars is to turn on my headlights (day or night), and from my driveway, inch slowly toward my garage door. You’ll see the brightness of the reflected light increase so you know you are close. I’d rather not play bump and feel.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      hmm the Matrix does have sort-of ‘captain’s chair’ style seating. I could see some of the hood on the Altima and the outgoing Focus we tested though, enough to gauge where the front end should be. The Civic was just wiper blades

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Ion, not being able to see the hood is a design feature (i.e. like a video game in 1st person). The cracked bumpers are due to low ground clearance (from a former Civic owner).

  • avatar
    aycaramba

    I’m usually more of a lurked around these parts, but this thread has really caught my attention. I’ve owned 4 Hondas (87 Accord LXi 3-door, ’98 Civic EX coupe, ’01 Accord EX sedan, & ’05 Odyssey EX-L). I’m pretty much Honda’s perfect customer: loyal, regularly replacing my old ride with a new, larger, more expensive Honda. But I’ve just finally given up on the “big H” for the time being. The old Civic in particular was basic by today’s standards, but was fun to drive and nearly bullet-proof. I went 102,000 trouble-free miles in it before trading it in for the Ody. Meanwhile, I’m on my 3rd tranny on the Accord (2 failures occurring within the first 45,000 miles), and my Ody with only 57,000 miles has developed a host of minor niggling issues.

    I’ve also noticed that the fit and finish on the Ody was not in the same league as the earlier models, all while reducing the quality of the materials used. I’m now looking for my next car, which according to the Honda plan would be either a Pilot or Acura MDX, but I’ve decided that I’m done with Honda. Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’ll end up with a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Hopefully that doesn’t make me a “Detroit apologist.”

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      If you haven’t sat in a new Grand, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Even the Laredo (i.e. base) model has some nice materials and surface finishes in it.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      I’ve rented a lot of SUVs in the past year for work. I usually travel 100km+ (600miles+) in a trip. The Grand Cherokee gets my vote for “most improved player”. The 2010 model drove well enough, but had a cheap nasty feel to it – especially the interior, and somewhat coarse V6.

      I’ve taken two long trips in 2011 Grand Cherokees (including 300km+ of unpaved road in January), and been well impressed. The interior and new V6 are a big step forward, and the whole truck seems well screwed together and has a much more refined feel.

      The only thing that is an open question is reliability and durability, this hasn’t been a Mopar strong suit in the past. We won’t really know how they’ve done in this regard for a couple of years – but other than that this truck is impressive. The 5AT and HEMI are well proven at this point, the only question mark is the durability of the new Pentastar. I hope they’ve got the Pentastar durability right, it is certainly an impressive engine for power, refinement, and fuel economy.

  • avatar
    carguy949

    Michael,
    Thank you for another excellent review. I appreciate your thoroughness and detail. One question: how does the Civic’s suspension compare to the Elantra’s? You criticized the Elantra for being clunky and unrefined in that regard. Is the Civic any better here?

    I share the general disappoint in Honda these days. I’ve owned 3 Accords over the years, but now I drive a G35. I also owned a chunk of Honda stock for the past few years, but I’ve been selling it off lately while the price is still high. Honda just doesn’t have the sparkle anymore. Shame.

  • avatar
    segfault

    If you’re leasing, you can lease a 2011 Accord for less than an equivalent 2012 Civic, because there’s no lease support on the new Civic. Not sure about the LX and EX models, but the difference in leasing a 2011 Accord EX-L and a 2011 Civic EX-L is not that much, either.

  • avatar
    Almost Jake

    I like the look of the new model, but am sad to hear the manual tranny is limited to lower trim lines.

    The Civic has always been a strong contender and will continue to be one. Despite what enthusiasts think, the everyday Joe is looking for a well rounded package that looks good. I still think the Civic fits that bill, even if it lacks what I look for in a car.

    Salesmanship and good advertisements sell cars. Look at Bose stereo equipment. They are without a doubt some of the worst stereo equipment you can buy, but uninformed people swear they are some of the best. That is primarily due to brand image, perceived value, an excellent advertising campaign, and uninformed consumers who do not know how to comparison shop. Also, like GM, they can ride on their past reputation, even though their product has deteriorated over time.

    I am in the market for a new car and plan to give one a test drive in a few days. Though I’d rather have a higher mileage vehicle, I may have to settle for an Si to get a higher trim with a manual.

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    Is the house in the background on purpose? I.e., awkwardly designed car interior with clunky mix of materials vs. awkwardly designed house exterior with clunky mix of materials?

  • avatar
    thirty-three

    These Civics have a plastic engine oil dipstick. I really wonder how long these will last, given that the important end of the dipstick sits in hot oil while you are driving. Plastic is petroleum-based. I doubt it will last very long.

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      My truck has a a plastic gas tank, no problems in 12 years, knock on wood. I used to have a truck with a metal gas tank, and that one started rusting bad and had to be replaced after 14 years, so in 2 more years I’ll be able to tell you if’n plastic is better than metal. But seriously, Hondas and other cars have had plastic dipsticks for years, there’s probably a lot to complain about but I don’t think the dipstick is that big of an issue.

    • 0 avatar
      Wagen

      At least they still have a dipstick. See Audi, BMW.

  • avatar
    David

    I’m the current owner of a 2001 Honda Civic LX with 138k miles. I’ve also previously owned a 1993 Honda Civic 4AT when I lived overseas in Taiwan. When the 2001 needs to be replaced I may look at another Civic. Why you may ask? The “why” may be the reason why me and hundreds of thousands of others may go back to Honda.

    1. Dependable – I have had positive experiences with my 01 and 93. I’ve only replaced batteries, tires and had oil changes. The 01 had front struts that needed to be replaced, but the 01 starts right up, and takes me from A-B with no problems. There have been no major issues.

    2. “But competitors are cheaper and of the same quality” – Hyundai/Ford/Kia may make reliable cars, but why take the risk with my hard earned dollars? If someone else believes the quality is there – that’s fine, it’s not my money. The price of a comparable Hyundai/Ford/Kia only varies from the Civic by $1-1.5k dollars. If financed, the difference is only a very minor change in the monthly payment.

    3. “But the Civic interior sucks”. The review mentions hard plastics, cheap fabric, etc. My response – I don’t really sit around touching my car. The only thing I touch is the steering wheel and audio and temperature controls. Do I sit at a red light praising myself for buying a car with “soft touch instrument panels”, do I rub my elbows after I get out of my car wondering why I live with a car built with non-padded arm rests – no. And I think I am not alone, most people don’t care about this. Do my passengers touch the dash and get impressed or disgusted by plastic? No. This Honda isn’t made for people who care about this. And if you do care about a soft dash or leather wrapped dash, you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) be looking at a Civic. If you want buttons mimicking the feedback of human touch, buy the Infiniti M. Do you wear gloves and need big buttons – look at a Toyota Tundra.

    4. “But the handling stinks.” My response and the likely response of other Civic owners – I don’t care about the car’s handling. I sit in traffic all day. I commute one hour each way to work. I sit at red lights, I go through school zones, I drive downtown, I go down the freeway at 35-60 miles per hour. Do I need a car that can handle twists and turns, do I need to take a curve going more than 50 miles an hour? No. And if I did need a car with decent handling, I wouldn’t be getting a Civic. Besides, most drivers with decent handling cars drive like crap anyways (maybe watching too many Fast and Furious movies).

    5. “The exterior is ugly”. Styling is subjective. Sure, the Civic doesn’t look as good as an exotic car, but most people who buy Civics don’t care. Do I need a car with “Soul” or a car that appears to sculpted? No, I prefer driving an appliance, it doesn’t get noticed when speeding. The only reason the new designs from Hyundai/Kia/Ford/GM impress anyone is because their previous designs were terrible. Additionally, I’m from the you-aren’t-what-you-drive school of thought. Protip – any female attracted to your “ride” isn’t worth it. Protip for the ladies – most young adults driving nice cars are “big hat no cattle”.

    6. “But the Civic lacks features/content compared to the competitors”. The only features in a car I care about are safety. Do I need bluetooth or other crap that distracts drivers? No. In fact, there is too much content in cars that most people aren’t focused on driving (as evidenced that Mercedes Benz commercial).

    In short, my previous Civics have dependably, safely and without drama gotten me from A-B without any issues. I don’t need to impress anyone, my divorce clients never ask me what I drive, my car sits in parking lots all day in the hot Texas sun, and most importantly, I would rather spend my money where I spend most of my time – on my house.

    This Civic will sell well like previous generations because Honda understands the market and made the car appeal to people who just need a car.

    • 0 avatar
      B.C.

      I thought people like you bought Toyotas? In any case, congratulations: you are the target demographic that Honda is now chasing, for better or worse. (I’m not judging — I do think most young car enthusiasts should spend their time and money on more productive pursuits.)

      The part that really bugs me is the new Civic’s tinny crapboxification, USDM Jetta-style. Yes, the USD is weak and we can’t afford anything nice anymore, but at least make the up-level EX and Si somewhat desirable?

      Also, the Civic was killed off in Japan, which partially explains why this “new” Civic is so … sterile. We’re a nation that needs rather than wants its cars; it’s no surprise that we want the mobile extensions of our homes to resemble a living room on wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      SV

      I think most people on this site (and most other car websites) look for more in a car than just reliable transportation. We want some flair, not just a motorized transportation pod. That’s probably why reaction to the new Civic has been so cool here – sure it’ll go from A to B without fuss, but it’s no fun. (there’s also the fact that previous Civics WERE fun, so there’s also lamentation that this is becoming just another Corolla)

      And honestly there are plenty of cars on the market that meet the same practical considerations of this new Civic and toss in some subjective benefits as well – the Mazda3 in particular comes to mind.

      If you only look for transport in a car, that’s fine, but it does make me wonder why you’re bothering to post on a car enthusiast site at all.

      • 0 avatar
        Rada

        Mazda gas mileage is not in the same league as Civic/Corolla.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        If the difference in gas mileage between a Mazda 3 and a Civic will harm you financially, you’ve got bigger concerns than fuel mileage.

      • 0 avatar
        Rada

        So, all Prius drivers are bums, is that what you’re saying? This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard…

      • 0 avatar
        SV

        The Mazda3i (with the 2.0L) and the outgoing Civic both got the same combined mileage ratings in Consumer Reports tests, and while I don’t like to trumpet CR as the be-all end-all of automotive knowledge like some others, they do seem to report accurate real-world mileage numbers.

        Also, the 2012 Mazda3 gets an Elantra-matching 29/40 EPA score IIRC.

      • 0 avatar
        David

        To SV:

        I post on this site because I am a car enthusiast. Sure, I drive a Honda Civic, but that is because the car I “want” isn’t a responsible decision given my current financial position, so I drive what I “need”.

        I think many will agree that you don’t need to drive a 2003-2005 manual Mazda6 wagon to be considered an “enthusiast” or any other manual niche vehicles that “enthusiasts” want but rarely buy when they become available. SV, you aren’t what you drive.

        Does subscribing to car magazines (free by the way, check out the deal websites), lurking on other car blogs (LLN, AutoBlog, Woody’s, etc.), going to car shows and browsing ebaymotors/autotrader make me a non-car enthusiast? Or do I need to trade in my Civic for a manual BMW 3-Series wagon to be an enthusiast? Really?

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      You just summed up perfectly why you are not a car enthusiast, you just want an automotive appliance. Thats the entire point… Honda quit building cars for enthusiasts, now they seem to only build boring appliances that are cheap to own and cheap to drive. They abandoned the people who care about cars and decided to go for the easy buck of the larger majority… people like you who dont fondle thier dashboards and who dont drive fast up highway entrance ramps and who just drone along on thier daily commute.

      This car will sell very well, people will buy it because its a Honda, and well, its better than the Corolla. Honda will say “We have a hit, look how many we sell”, because the enthusiast market is fairly small. But I wont buy one, not until the go back to making cars that appeal to more than just the appliance drivers.

      • 0 avatar
        David

        mnm4ever: see my post reply to “SV”. It’s a matter of “needs” versus “wants”. I “want” a specific car that appeals to enthusiasts but what I “need” is an appliance.

        But yeah, I didn’t look at Corollas because: 1. I used to sell Toyotas and 2: as you mentioned, the Honda is “better” in my mind.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      Actually, the Civic, while initially costing more, historically ends up being the least expensive car to own in its class. Edmunds’ true cost of owning.

      Fords and the like depreciate greatly compared with Hondas, making Hondas usually the most economical choice in their respective classes. Of course, Ford and GM lost billions subsidizing leases to move their stuff, something Honda does not do.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Depending how long you keep the car. Also residuals are based on the old car, since the Cruze and Focus are much improved compared to their predecessors and are class leading it is fair to assume the residuals will increase.

        Anyway if money was everything why do you come on here – driving fun and some style are worth some extra.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        In the real world the Civic is one of the most expensive to own as it’s maintenance, repair, and insurance costs are much higher than the rest of the segment. Edmunds figure the cost of maintenance and repairs as a % of the purchase price which doesn’t reflect the real world.

        A dirty little secret is that the average Honda dealer makes 110% of it’s profit from the parts and service depts. That one of the reasons you find that the average Honda dealer has up to twice the number of service bays (and often runs them 2 shifts) as a Ford or GM dealer that does similar new car sales volume.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        @thornmark, Earlier I forgot to add that the depreciation si also not figured in the real world as reported by most sources. Most use sticker price not transaction price.

        Say that Honda stickers out at 21K sells for that sticker price and after 5 years it’s worth 50% of its sticker price then there was 10.5K of depreciation

        Compare that to the “lesser” brand G which carries a sticker price of 20K and a resdiual value of 40% or 8K. But wait it originally only sold for 17.5K so the real world depreciation was only 9.5K. Leaving the owner with an extra 1K on top of the 1-2K more that was spend on maintaining and insuring that Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      I welcome differing opinions, as long as they are thoughtful ones. So thank you David. I fall on the enthusiast side, and some of the replies to you seem to have forgotten that there is a Civic SI for those who want a sporty ride.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        WheelMcCoy, congratulations on entirely missing the point.

        In past iterations, ALL models of the Civic were enjoyable to drive. It wasn’t necessary to buy the SI to get decent handling and well-executed driving dynamics. There’s no reason a base model version has to be a penalty box for people who enjoy driving. They managed it fine for decades. Why can’t they do it now?

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        @ Steve65 – Congratulations on missing David’s point. To drivers like David, a base model with sporty handling would be a penalty for those who like a soft ride. Why should the majority of Civic buyers suffer for what a minority of enthusiasts demand? Yes, Honda’s roots were sporty, and I miss it too. But Honda is free to change, and customers are free to look elsewhere. That’s why I went with a 2010 Mazda 3i.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        Reasserting a false dichotomy does not magically make it true. Decent handling does not demand a punishing ride, or any compromises on the part of owners who don’t care one way or another.

    • 0 avatar
      jplew138

      Hmmm…you’re an “enthusiast”, yet you don’t care about how a car handles…don’t care about the features…don’t care about how a car looks, nor do you care about interior quality?? Memo to David…I had a 1995 Geo Prizm that recently gave up the ghost at 198,765 miles, and I can tell you that the interior quality of that Prizm was miles ahead of the present-day Civic. And you don’t care about non-padded armrests or things like that…obviously, you don’t take too many long trips in your car, or you most certainly would care about those things posthaste. Face facts…the competition has basically caught up to the Civic and passed it…and I’m a Honda guy saying that, but I’m also objective enough to see that Honda is turning into Toyota (the HORROR) before my very eyes. And that, whether you think so or not, isn’t a good thing. Brand loyalty will only get you so far before you actually have to start building a quality car, and sooner or later, it will bite you in the ass…just ask Detroit.

      • 0 avatar
        David

        JPLew138:

        >Hmmm…you’re an “enthusiast”, yet you don’t care about how a car >handles…

        This was already answered above in my previous responses.
        1. A car “enthusiast” isn’t defined by what they drive. Do you have to know how to act to enjoy movies? Do you have to had played football well to be a football “fan”? Are criminals the only people who can enjoy crime novels?
        2. I care how a car handles, but I don’t care how a Civic handles. I never qualified the Civic as a car for car enthusiasts – I qualified this in my previous answers.
        3. There are many features, functions of a car that attracts people. Some people like the exterior styling, some enthusiasts care about off-road capabilities, some enthusiasts care about handling.

        >don’t care about the features…don’t care about how a car looks, >nor do you care about interior quality??

        I do care about these features. But you missed the point in which I mentioned I drive a Civic because it meets my “needs” even though it isn’t what I “want”.
        1. You are aware that some cars appeal to enthusiasts, such as a Lotus Exige has a very poor interior don’t you? The floor isn’t carpeted, the interior is noisy and the dash has hard plastics?

        >Memo to David…I had a 1995 Geo Prizm that recently gave up the >ghost at 198,765 miles, and I can tell you that the interior >quality of that Prizm was miles ahead of the present-day Civic.

        According to your logic, then the 1995 Geo Prizm is an enthusiast car? If you consider yourself an “enthusiast,” then according to your reasoning, a Geo Prism is an enthusiast car. Seriously? How does a 1995 Geo Prizm meet your own requirements of good handling, good looks and a good interior? Are you telling me a Toyota Corolla is an enthusiast car? I really find that hard to believe.

        >And you don’t care about non-padded armrests or things like >that…obviously, you don’t take too many long trips in your car, >or you most certainly would care about those things posthaste.

        Not really, I don’t care about non-padded armrests in a Honda Civic. See above about “needs” vs. “wants”. By the way, a Lotus Exige doesn’t have padded armrests, is my friend a non-enthusiast?
        1. So according to your reasoning, enthusiasts need to have cars with padded armrests and take long road trips?
        2. Not sure what you mean by “things like that”, but my answer to your post has been previously addressed above in my two prior responses.

        >Face facts…the competition has basically caught up to the Civic >and passed it…and I’m a Honda guy saying that, but I’m also >objective enough to see that Honda is turning into Toyota (the >HORROR) before my very eyes.
        >And that, whether you think so or not, isn’t a good thing. >Brand loyalty will only get you so far before you actually have >to start building a quality car, and sooner or later, it will >bite you in the ass…just ask Detroit.

        Already answered this above also. I don’t care about the competition. If other people buy the Focus/Cruze/Elantra/Forte that’s fine by me, I’m not out to change their mind or tell them how to spend their money.

        I have enjoyed my 13+ years (hopefully more) of trouble free ownership combined from my two Civics. When the time comes to replace my current Civic, if the then Civic meets my “needs”, I would still buy another one.

      • 0 avatar
        jplew138

        Ok, David, let’s go point by point, or at least the important ones:

        1. >A car “enthusiast” isn’t defined by what they drive.I care how a car handles, but I don’t care how a Civic handles.You are aware that some cars appeal to enthusiasts, such as a Lotus Exige has a very poor interior don’t you?According to your logic, then the 1995 Geo Prizm is an enthusiast car?So according to your reasoning, enthusiasts need to have cars with padded armrests and take long road trips?<
        I would say so…especially when the competition has them, along with an overall better interior. And I know you don't care about the competition, but much of the rest of the people who buy cars do.

        To sum up, an "enthusiast" cares about cars period – about how they look, drive, and especially about how they make the person who bought the car feel. It's not all about performance and handling, but that's a lot of it for sure. And the Civic used to have all of that, even in base form, but that's no longer the case. And brand loyalty can only get you so far if you're not building any cars that actually make the average person – not just the enthusiast, buy them. Like I said before, just ask Detroit…that's why they will be playing eternal catch-up now. And if Honda, Toyota, and Nissan don't believe it can happen to them, just you wait…

  • avatar

    It’s like they’ve carefully excised everything that was so excellent and special about Hondas — the just-right interiors, the excellent steering, the functional-yet-attractive styling, always-fun tossable handling. They needed this car to be good enough to blow away the Focus, really needed that. But one doesn’t need to do anything more than look at the photos to see how badly they missed the mark. So when are customers around the world going to catch up to the reality (vs the reputation) of Honda’s current products?

  • avatar
    thornmark

    If the new Focus does become a hit, the Mazda3 is doomed. The 3 is old and fugly while the Focus is new and less fugly but both seem aimed at the same buyer.

    With Mazda otherwise declining, the new Focus can’t be good for them.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Aimed at the same buyer – ones who actually value driving dynamics and a sense of style (albeit the new 3 is ugly, but the original 3 was great). Also a buyer that favors choice – sedan or useful hatchback, as opposed to sedan or coupe which as minimal trunk and tiny back seats.

  • avatar
    relton

    The gas gauge in this picture is now backwards from the gas gauge in teh Civic in the parking lot outside.

    This one reads backwards because F is on the left and E is on the right.

    Doesn’t anyone study ergonomics and psychology these days?

    Bob

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I can tell you that being a digital gas gauge, the LEDs go out as the gas level falls, so you’d have to be dumber than Eric Holder to think that all the lights going off and the warning light flashing at you meant you had a full tank.

      • 0 avatar
        MattPete

        CJinSD: based on your comment, you’ve illustrated relton’s point about no one studying human factors, psychology, or ergonomics. The absence of something (e.g. lights turned off) is a lot harder to detect than the presence of something.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        You obviously haven’t driven one of these cars. The gauges are mirrored on either side of the speedometer. Half the segments of the termperature gauge are illuminated at operating temperature, so a lack of lights on the gas gauge is obvious. On top of that, and as I noted above, there is a low fuel warning light that illuminates brightly to announce that you’re down to about 2.5 gallons. I’ve had a 2007 Civic for 4 years. At no point has any control or display created the least amount of confusion. But maybe Detroit does have to pander to the more easily duped.

  • avatar

    So is this the first time that both Chevrolet and Ford are making much better small cars than Honda and Toyota?

    • 0 avatar
      Rada

      What makes you think Chevy and Ford are making much better small cars than Honda and Toyota?

      • 0 avatar

        Probably because they are? It’s not even arguable, really, the domestic competition is superior in every possible way now.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        The Cruze is not superior to this Civic in every way, no matter how desperately GM fans want to believe this. And that’s not even considering reliability, where GM still lags behind Honda.

        The Focus, however, is a superior effort. Ford really gave 110 percent on this car, and it shows.

      • 0 avatar
        Rada

        “I am right because I am, it’s not even arguable” – did you come up with this, or you stole the joke from someone?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Is this the first time that both Chevrolet and Ford are making much better small cars than Honda and Toyota? Not at all. People like you thought exactly the same thing about the Citation and the Escort when they were released.

  • avatar

    “Honda needs to pay much closer attention to what GM, Ford, and Hyundai have been doing—the interiors of the Cruze, Focus, and (to a lesser but still large extent) Elantra are all far ahead.”

    It’s all really sad, when you think about it. Before I clicked onto this review, I hoped that I wouldn’t read that Honda screwed up the Civic in the same fashion that Toyota screwed up the Corolla, and VW did the Jetta. According to this review, that’s exactly what they did.

    The ’93 corolla had near Lexus-like interior materials, and a very refined drivetrain/ride (The current generation is highly disappointing. I didn’t even want to test drive it after I sat in it). The 88-91 Civic (in my opinion) is still one of the best all-around compacts ever made. The b13 sentra se-r was and is one of the most fun-to-drive cars for the money. The Jetta used to be a poor man’s Audi (now, it’s just like a Corolla with electrical problems). The Cavalier and Shadow/Sundance couldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as those cars. The Escort was decent (and Mazda-based), and the Neon was an enjoyable drive (until the head gasket went at 50k, and the pillar-less windows started to become misaligned). The Saturn was okay, but suffered from poor refinement. Hyundai, at that point, was still using outdated drivetrains and platforms from older-generation Mitsubishis. Now, it seems that the Japanese brands are all being out-engineered and out-classed by the Korean and American competition. The same makes that made other car companies have to play catch-up, now have to play catch-up themselves. I mean Have the Toyondawagen engineers spent any time in a new Cruze? I don’t see how anyone nowadays could even choose a Corolla over a Cruze or Elantra. In fact, the only two Japanese compact cars that I’d even consider purchasing are the Suzuki SX4 (very fun to drive) and the Mazda3 (even though I’m still not too fond of the new styling).

    The past few years have been very interesting in the automotive world, and I can’t wait to see what the next few years will bring.

  • avatar
    ckgs

    I recently helped a young family friend with $2000 purchase a used car. I was insistent he look at used Civics with manual transmissions. What we both soon found is the market is incredible for used Civics. There are many, many out there for sale with 250-300k+ miles still selling for good money. You have to go all the way back to the mid-90′s to find decent examples for $2000.

    And they go fast…literally within minutes on Craigslist. We had to watch the postings and call/email the sellers right away to get to the front of the line.

    I know the premise is that Honda has screwed up, but my bet is they kept this basic DNA in the Civic.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      Is being worth $2000 instead of $0 twenty years and three owners later really something for the first buyer to give a crap about?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        It comes down to the reasons why a 20 year old Honda is still worth more than scrap metal while a Ford, Chevy, Mazda, Nissan, or VW is not. Right now the economy is in the toilet with California losing 4.5 businesses every stinking day. The supply of quality cars is choked with the natural disaster in Japan. Energy prices will be high and uncertain until the last elected progressive is cold and dead. There are three cars in my fleet, all paid for. Two of them are a 2004 Acura TSX and a 2007 Honda Civic Si. Neither has given any indication of losing its touble free nature or displaying any evidence of interior wear and tear. I’m pretty comfortable that it will take two car accidents to see me forced to buy any of the miserable alternatives during the coming Honda and Toyota shortage, because my Hondas will keep doing their jobs well for many years to come.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    Have they fixed the throttle lag?

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    So in essence they gave it the interior and exterior of the Jetta with some Corolla mixed in and also gave it the Toyota driving experience to boot. Sounds like another reason to look at a Cruze, Elantra or Focus.

    • 0 avatar
      jplew138

      You rather hit the nail on the head. Cruze – far better interior, acceptable driving dynamics, damn near as quiet as a Lexus, engine is good around town, but kinda runs out of breath on the highway, price of the top-line model unreasonably stiff. Elantra – wonderful interior styling (C/D compared the A/C knobs to a Bentley), ride is kinda bouncy and unsettled, the engine is quite noisy on the highway and under load, but definitely priced right. Focus – very nice interior, although not quite as nice as the Cruze, extremely quiet, especially compared to the previous generation Focus, and nearly as quiet as the Cruze, best handling of the bunch (you can definitely tell that it was tuned in Europe), with a good ride to boot, very good pickup from the engine, if a bit peaky, and the tranny that everyone’s scared of was perfectly fine – the problem with the same tranny in the Fiesta was probably a software flash. And oh yes – I’ve actually driven all of these cars, because I’m actively in the market for a car. And right now, if I get a car of that size, it’s between the Focus SE with the sport package and a Mazda 3s. And because of noise issues with the Mazda, I think I’d be inclined to go with the Focus. Sorry to say, as I’ve always loved Hondas, but it seems that they are turning into Toyota, or worse, GM, before my eyes. The new Civic is basically a carryover car with the same engines and transmissions, and slightly different styling than the previous car. And with the competition this fierce, that’s not a good thing.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Is that the same front end as the Optima? I know people have said the ’11s looked like a Forte, I vaguely see that, but that front end is a dead ringer for an Optima.

    Confused.

    When is the new generation Accord going to be debuting? I’m curious to see what it might look like.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Honda, what happened to you? You used to have outstanding design, great economy, fun to drive factor and reliability. Now, you have weird, incoherent design, average economy and are using so-so materials.

    Sad.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    I am going to commit a blogosphere sin here and write this comment before reading the review. This needs to be said. I am (was?) a huge Honda fan for years.

    I will qualify this with the comment that I never buy new. So, my comments below are not those of a potential customer for a new Civic.

    I walked up to this new Civic on a dealer lot a week ago, and within literally 2 minutes, observed 2 things that caused me to walk away never to look at this car again. And for the record, I think the last Civic was an incredible design inside and out. I think the new Elantra quietly cribs some of the design elements of the last gen civic.

    Here goes…

    1. The flares around the fog light housings on higher trim models is GLUED ON. Why DOES NOT ONE mention this in their reviews. This is disgusting. It is not 1995. I know Honda/Acura have a major issue with bespoke bumpers (front and rear) and like to do the disgusting ‘glued on perimter apron’ non-sense but on a 2011 Civic, it is just gross. I just couldnt believe it. When I saw the pictures and advertisements, I couldnt believe Honda had an aggressive bumper design for higher-end Civic’s. When I walked up and saw the manner in which the ‘eye lids’ were deisgned and applied, I almost puked.

    2. The treatment of the window around the base of A-pillar. On the previous generation, it was a very clean RECTANGULAR one-window design ahead of the primary front windows. On this new model, it is a disgusting slanted trapezoid with an additional peice of black trim. To add further insult to injury, the trim peices along the base DO NOT aligh with the window trim. It is very noticable and very Ford/GM a la 1985. Just gross.

    This car reeks of cost cutting. Not innovation.

    I dont mind the 5 speed auto tranny, I dont mind no direct injection (nor does the Aventador)… I mind that they are not even keeping abreast with the last model.

    The fog light trim and the A-pillar window treatment are all you need to know about present day Honda… Riding the cotails of previous customer good will.

    But I still love Acura. And the current Accord is a great design.

  • avatar
    Adub

    I have given up on Toyota and Honda. I own a previous generation Accord (V6) and convinced my sister to buy an original Fit, but the current cars are cut-rate with baffling styling. I think Hyundai is going to eat their lunch.

  • avatar

    Hyundais/Kias used to look like cheap dulled down Hondas, now you could easily say the reverse is true.

  • avatar
    Invisible

    What do you mean no car company has copied the Civic’s dash.

    The Mazda 3′s dash is a blatant ripoff of the Euro Civic Dash. Even the little display on the Mazda is similar to the Civic.

    I for one thank God Honda didn’t do the $50 Ghetto Boom Box from Best Buy dash as seen in the Focus, Cruze, and Elantra.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    I’m really not surprised about the tone of this review.

    This latest Civic is just another step down the less innovative path Honda is apparently taking with its vehicles (the Odyssey being perhaps the lone exception as far as looks are concerned). This interior plastics rivaling that of the new Jetta for worst-in-the-market? What the hell happened to Honda’s leadership role in quality interiors?

    It’s like they could’ve done more but chose not to…I see a disturbing trend of GM’s past ‘good enough’ mentality here. When cars like the Cruze and Focus (and the Elantra) are kicking your ass up and down the market, SOMETHING must be wrong.

  • avatar
    MarkD

    I own an 01 and 02 Civic (son drives the 01) and bought a 10 for my daughter. As reliable transportation, I’m going to second the thumbs up others have awarded. However, my next car won’t be a Honda. I want, no I demand, a hatch. Not a CRV (my wife loves her 07) but a real hatchback.

    I think the Focus looks like hell, but the 2012 Mazda 3 looks OK, although not as good as the previous generation. I’m years away from buying, and would definitely want a year or two to have the kinks, if any, worked out of the direct injection before I buy one, but I’m thinking zoom zoom.

    Sporty is good. Butt ugly is a deal breaker. Reliable is a must. (I will never, ever own another VW after my PA Rabbit experience. I’ll walk first. Not one dime, ever, even if it was the best car on the planet and cost $10 new.)

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    Sigh.

    Looks like Honda gets one last chance with me, for the next Accord. Fortunately, the ’02 Accord EX-L coupe (4 cyl, 5 speed) is only beginning to show signs of wear. Had thought maybe I’d replace it with this new gen of Civic. Now it’s looking like a very long term keeper.

    Please don’t make me buy a Hyundai, Honda.

  • avatar
    Almost Jake

    I just got back from looking at the 2012 Civic. To start, I have been a Honda enthusiast since 1994, and the redesigned Civic made me want to cry. I had hoped it would reestablish the Civic as the benchmark, but all it did was show how anyone can fall pry to cost cutting and resting on their laurels.

    I am in the market for a new commuter car. Sadly, it will no longer be a Civic.

    • 0 avatar
      tekkypekky

      A bit late from my end, but I second that. The 2012 is a severe disappointment. But, the Civic’s have more or less been a disappointment since 2001. When you set the bar really high with the EJ and EK models, the only way to go is, unfortunately, down.

      I really don’t understand why Honda killed the double wishbone front suspension. They certainly did not save any weight going to MacPherson struts. If the new Civics are any indication, they’re at least 100+ Kg heavier than the pre-2001 models. On top of that, I don’t understand the need for a rear multi-link suspension in a front wheel drive car. If anything, I would put struts in the rear and keep/refine the double wishbones up front.

  • avatar
    afflo

    How is the legroom in the Civic? The latest compact Hondas seem very limited in rearward seat travel, as well as seats that can’t be lowered enough. They seem fine for women and short guys, but for someone like me with a 35″ inseam, they aren’t pleasant (and the previous gen Civic had a handbrake that was designed to rub my right light… though at least I didn’t have to move my knee out of the way to shift into 1st like in the Fit.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      you must not have had the seat all the way back in the Fit you drove. I have the same inseam and I definitely don’t have to move my knee to shift. That said, it isn’t possible for me to go quite as far back as I would like for highway driving. If I could add 1 or 2 inches of travel to my seat rails safely I would.

      I like the Fit and think very highly of it, but the cheap plastic dash materials, fussy interior and developing rattle sources are something I wouldn’t have had to put up with in some other, similarly priced, competitors.

      • 0 avatar
        afflo

        I owned an Automatic Fit Sport (2010 model) for about 18 mos. I loved a lot of things about the car, and still think VERY highly of it, but t was simply not comfortable for me, and I was tired to trying different things to make it comfortable. I had test-sat a Fit with a manual, and it just felt like there was too much stuff down around my feet and knees. The dead pedal was too close, so I needed that space where the clutch would be for my left foot.

        - Seat frame: I could feel the seat frame through the seat cusions, which felt too thin and soft. Specifically, it put pressure on my sciatic nurve on my right side, probably compounded my my right leg being turned somewhat sideways to fit.
        - Seat travel: Very limited. I always reached down and tried to click it back further.
        - Seat support: The seat, particularly the seat bottom, felt too short and unsupportive – my knees were up, so the front of the seat cushion didn’t supply much support anyway. If I could have slid the seat back another 1-2 inches, I would have been far more comfortable. I consulted a body shop about doing that, and they had reservations about doing so with the gas tank under the front seat.
        - Seat height: I always wanted it lower, which usually gives you a bit more leg-stretching room. Unfortunately, no seat height adjustment, and the seats feel unusually tall in there.

        Overall, it just didn’t work for me, so I bit the bullet and traded it for a car with abundant front legroom. Wanting another stick shift (the Fit was my first and hopefully last automatic – the paddles are neat but not a true substitute!) as well as wanting a car without my ex-wife’s name on the loan prodded me to trade it for a car that, ergonomically, is a slam dunk for me, and despite more mass, displacement, and power, is giving me the same fuel economy that the auto-tranny Fit did. (’11 Scion tC).

        The self-appointed car snobs of the universe don’t like it, but it turned out to be a home run for me in a variety of areas, at a price I couldn’t refuse ($17995 after the military rebate for a 3-door compact with moonroof, lots of space, 180 hp, 6 spd, and still giving me 26 mpg around town? It’s hard to say no!)

  • avatar

    I like the 8th generation Civic and hoped the 9th would be a step up. I’ve been expecting this kind of review on it given the other negative reviews online. It’s sad that Honda had no real direction in launching their new bread-and-butter line. I read somewhere that they actually had an entirely new Civic in mind but scrapped that plan because it was too big for a rising oil market. Thus, they hastily put together this refresh of the 8th generation. Someone is asleep at Honda’s helm.

    So, what other choices are out there in the compact yet sporty sedan segment? Well, aside from the latest Focus, Cruze, Elantra, and Mazda3, I see the 2012 Subaru Impreza as the best candidate so far to fill this place. The 2012 Civic will bottom out with the Corolla.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      Yes, a well publicized reversal was Honda’s position to cancel the new NSX, followed by a double reversal to resume development on the NSX, albeit in a hybrid direction instead of a V-10. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear there was a lot of confusion internally about other lines.

      But there’s got to be something redeeming about the recent Civics. I like that they’ve eliminated the hump in the rear floor to give passengers more leg room. Also, a very common complaint was that Hondas were noisy. The 2012 versions are indeed quieter, but at a cost of dampened handling. That’s not entirely a bad thing. If 4 out of 5 drivers like a quiet, soft, and refined ride, then Honda got it right by providing 4 out of 5 trims that have a quiet and soft ride, the SI being the lone noisy, good road feel, sporty model.

      That there are 5 different Civics is a remarkable achievement. No other Honda line offers so much diversity. Heck, no other car manufacturer offers so much diversity. Ok, you got me on the lack of the hatch, but Honda’s answer, for better or for worse, is to go check out the Fit.

      I have mixed feelings about Honda. I, too, find them uninspiring, but hope they can become a leader again. And leadership doesn’t have to be mean being the #1 volume seller (leave that to Toyota and Volkswagon please). Instead, I like the approach of Mazda or BMW; they don’t need to sell to the mass market to be successful.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      Mr Gregario: I don’t think the Corolla is quite a valid comparison, but the Civic is going that direction… Toyota may be the only mainstream automaker left still putting 4-speed automatics in new cars (Corolla, xA, xB, Yaris). Honda is showing signs of having stagnation in the technological arena, but at least seems to be putting work into refinement, even if it comes at the cost of inspiration. That said, the Corolla and Camry both seem to have a real lock on the Asian market out here in Cali, and this is likely the reason that they haven’t bothered doing much in the way of updates. I joke that the scariest thing on the highways here (when I’m out on the motorcycle) is an Asian lady in a Toyota Camry or Corolla*.

      * There’s a large immigrant population here, particularly from Korea – they seem to bring the driving culture of Seoul with them, which is more or less “might makes right.”

      Mr WheelMcCoy: really, there are two civics… two and a half if you count the Hybrid as a separate model. There are coupes and sedans. Yes, you can get an engine upgrade and some go-fast detailing, but the SI isn’t exactly a separate line.

      For all the bellyaching on here, you’d think that Honda had cooked up something awful, like a Cobalt or a Neon and slapped an “H” on it. This will be another quality Honda product – the difference is that it’s not competing against throwaway junk like the Cavalier, Escort, and Sephia of yesteryear. The competition is far more fierce these days.

      And the Fit, nice little car though it is, is not really competitive against the C-segment autos. It has all the right dimensions on the inside, but it’s cheap (crummy seats, rock-hard door armrest-things, carpet that looks like cheap autozone floormats, not to mention missing features like seat height adjustment, locking glove-box, locking gas cap, dual tripometer, etc.) in a way that simply doesn’t stack up against cars a segment higher… though it certainly is a heavyweight in the bottom rung of the market.

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    “Mr WheelMcCoy: really, there are two civics… two and a half if you count the Hybrid as a separate model. There are coupes and sedans. Yes, you can get an engine upgrade and some go-fast detailing, but the SI isn’t exactly a separate line.:

    I counted five, thinking along the lines of Honda’s marketing brochure:
    1. coupe
    2. sedan
    3. Si
    4. HF (high fuel efficiency / natural gas)
    5. Hybrid

    So there’s something for tree huggers to speed demons, and drivers in between. (Natural Gas model is probably a candidate for fleet sales.)

  • avatar
    Elusivellama

    Michael, did you push on the interior of the door and notice how much it bent under light hand pressure?

    Are you reminded of recycled fibreboard when you look at and touch the upper door panels/dashboard?

    Did you notice that the LX had steel wheels (at least, up here in Canada they do)?

    Also, I think this is an 8th gen civic thing as well, but the orange dipstick is made entirely of plastic. WTF Honda. Plastic dipstick.

  • avatar
    The Mockingbird

    After 4 Hondas over a space of 20 years, it was a sad day when I test drove the Gen8 Civic. I was wondering what had got into the design team at Honda. I was hoping for better things with the Gen9, and would gladly be a driver of a new Honda again, but no dice. I don’t want to give it a good or bad rating, because that is in the eyes of the beholder. But it just did not have the appeal that used to make the Civic at the top of the purchase list for us.

    I was prepared to give the Crosstour a serious look(O.K, stop laughing at me), in spite of the negative comments that abound. However, I did not even bother to test drive it – the whole package was just so “blah”. I haven’t test driven the Gen3 Odyssey yet but will at some point. But the options packages available are very awkward and frustrating – I would have to spend big bucks on items I want because they are packaged with a myriad of stuff I don’t need or even want.

    Looks like we will have to stick to our Gen6 Si for a few more years, or else look elsewhere. Brand loyalty can only stretch so far.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    In terms of usable space, the new Civic wins out. I’m 5’9″, and when I sit properly in the back seat of the Elantra (without slouching), my head is touching the roof. This may or may not matter to some folks, but there’s noticeably more headroom in the back of the Civic. I see the Elanta as following the the previous VW Jetta… the engineering isn’t a big enough of a draw, so they’ve gone the design and interior quality route. But to refresh everybody’s memory, Honda’s from the 90′s ‘classic’ era are simple and straightforward but spartan nonetheless. Jetta’s from that era had great design and ergonomics, but in the end that didn’t amount to much as a lasting legacy, did it?

    All of the forum bashing (not just here) on the Civic is…amusing? Back in the 90′s, Honda’s were desirable but they weren’t supercars. That mythos got added by the tuner community, but at it’s heart, Hondas and Acuras were highly competent day to day cars. ‘Si’ in 1994 meant that the cars did 120bhp over 102bhp. Yet today, there’s an expectation that 200bhp isn’t enough. It’s silly to compare the Si to the the WRX or the MazdaSpeed. We didn’t think of the Prelude or Integra as alternatives to the Supra or Rx7 back in the day.

  • avatar
    dgacioch

    Just touched 1500 miles on my 12 civic sedan lx. Very good car so far, averaging 35 mpg with a 50/50 mix of city/highway driving. As a family guy who needs a reliable commuter car the honda was the clear cut choice over the cruze and focus. And yes, I test drove all 3. The civic had enough room in the back for my kids to all sit in reasonable comfort. My kids loved the look of the cruze and focus, but after actually riding in them and being shoved in their backseats told me to get the honda. The driver and passenger area are far more open and roomy as well. While Ive heard all the complaints on the interior, i can tell you the car is very comfortable and rides fine. The two tier gauge design is very easy to read and doesnt take long to get used too. Road noise is probably my only complaint with the vehicle and I can live with that. The family sedan downsizing market is where the compacts are going, not fun little commuter cars that many of you fondly recall the with the old civic hatchbacks from days back. If you want something comparable look at the ford fiesta, honda fit, and chevy sonic. The cruze was cramped, actual fuel economy looks to be worse out of the bunch, and I had serious doubts about the turbocharged engine for the long term. I liked the focus, but it was more expensive, didnt have as much room and frankly I still have worries about reliability, particularly with the transmission. Im guessing ford will work the kinks out, but the civics carry over drivetrain to me was a selling point. Honda got better fuel economy using a proven drivetrain. I have no problem with that, I dont need new and untested. Im 44 now, have kids, bills, and a wife with a long work commute. I need reliability, comfort, fuel economy and value for my dollar. The honda delivered that, perhaps a bit boring but if im still driving it 6 or 7 years from now with minimal maintenance i can live with boring and reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      danno_m

      Very well put. Not sure what all the Civic-bashing is about. The biggest plus for me is reliability. I’ve owned various civics for over 25yrs now and none of them have ever given me any problems. They ran flawlessly till the day I either sold them or sent them to the scrapyard due to rust after 15yrs driving in northern salt-baths (ie Ontario roads). I just bought the 2012 LX and while it isn’t the most exciting car to drive, I get 30mpg city and > 40mpg highway, as well as peace of mind knowing it won’t start developing all kinds of weird rattles or engine noises in the next 6 months (like the only American car I ever bought (and sold within a year) did), not to mention breakdowns. I love the Civic.

      • 0 avatar
        civwave

        Great post. You put it like it really is. I too, and in my 14th year of Honda Civic-ism ownership. My 2001 Honda Civic was the best care I ever owned, which I traded in a purchase of my new 2012 Civic LX coupe. I am completely satisfied and confident of my new 2012. The best Civic ever. Isee all the Civic bashhing-hating is due to envy, jelousy and covetting as others had to settle for something less than a wonderful Civic.

  • avatar
    JMII

    This model Civic has earned the title of most disliked cars of 2011, citing this very review as evidence.

    http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2011/autos/1112/gallery.most-disliked-cars.fortune/12.html

    • 0 avatar
      civwave

      And this is supposed to make me feel how?
      What a scam against Honda, even Consumer Reports is listing the 2012 Honda Civic Si on their recommended list (6 months later). As if I care, but will never rely on Consumer Reports ever again.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Amazingly Honda and Nissan each got three cars on CNN’s most-disliked list. GM and Fiat-Chrysler each had one, and Ford managed to stay off the list completely.

  • avatar
    civwave

    THis article is well written, however, I see much sarcasm documented my Michael Karesh, mixed with some exaggeration.
    Now in my 4th week of being a 2012 Honda Civic LX Coupe owner, I am hard-pressed to see much of these type claims that these type of reviews are claiming.I see these reviews a some kind of a scam, akin to some type of sabatage towards Honda. Even Consumer Reports is saying “we now have placed the 2012 Honda Civic Si on our recommended lists”… oops, what was that?After 6 months?? Excuse me, but the 2012 should have been on that so-called recommended list since day one. I have been using Consumer Reports less and less, and now for sure will never rely on Consumer Reports again…. they’re just a scam anyway, reviewing products just so they can sell their little magazine.
    Compared to my 2001 Honda Civic, the new 2012 Honda Civic offers many, many improvements. Yes, the dash may have some hard plastic, but so do all other cars in the segemnt. Big deal, I can live with that… I don’t sit on the dash. The interior design is very attractive, well though out and designed in my opinion. The seats are VERY comfortable (an improvement over the 2011).The competiton seems inferior, especailly the Chevy Cruze.
    In my eyes, the 2012 styling is superior of that of the 2011 Civic and much improved. Better fuel MPG. Even the interior is much better, the dash is supreme and very user-friendly. Well laid out and very easy to use, even the new i-MID screen and controls are very easy to use and very useful, another improvement over the 2011 Civic. The competitors can match this, not even close to this in comparison. Also, as another poster mentioned here, the carry-over engine (if they had) was an excellent choice— why mess with goodness?
    I can see quality throughout my Civic and even though the competitiors are “cheaper”, and seemingly offer “more” for the money, you truely get what you pay for. I for one REALLY shop for cars when I buy a new car as I don’t do that often ( bought and kept my 2001 Honda Civic for 11 years!!, which was 174,ooo happy miles on it and still going strong), and the Honda Civic was STILL the best choice by far. The Chevy Cruze is inferior in many ways namely the styling and the dash is so confusing and oblitered with the sterring wheel, plus it is a GM product… somthing I have had many bad expeiences with in the past, so GM products are on the bottom. Ford Focus was even more expensive in some of their models (why?), and let’s face it, it’s a Ford (although Ford is geting much better these days), but I still want my known Honda reliability, quality and value for the money. And economically speaking, the CIvic is the best choice by far. It is comfortable, quiet (quieter than my 2001 was), and is completetely a 100% different car, totally redesigned and much beter than ever! The drive experience is wonderful and feels so roomy and handles in an excellent way!
    I just can’t see how reviewers such as this one here can publish such biased and unqualified reviews. In a few years from now, we will see how well this fares compared to the competition. Know what? I can already see the futre, given the track record of the competition (namely GM). Hyandai’s are nice, but face it, they are still cheapened by offering so much for the money, quality does suffer in respects to relation as a whole. Think about that for a moment. And besides, I am more than happy to pay the little extra for my Civic, it’s worth it in every way. I look forward to seeing the 2013 & 2014 Civic models. You bet!
    Perhaps Mr. Karesh will edit his review here when he sees what a poor job he’s done. Honda may just have some backlashes towards all the scamming and ill-written publicity about this, as well as towards Consumer Reports. If I were the Honda CEO, I would definitely be looking into that matter.
    Just watch out… the competition will really be hard pressed when Honda rolls out their 2013 & 2014 Honda Civic’s. I’m not worried a bit about my 2012 Civic, I am very, very pleased with my purchase and nothing can change that, not even this poor review here.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      I’m (almost) speechless! Now that I know that the 2012 Civic is better AND quieter than the 2001 Civic, what possible reason would there be for anyone to buy anything else? Especially since those competitors obliterate their dashboards by putting in dreaded steering wheels!

      • 0 avatar
        civwave

        Nice play on words. I run into your type all the time, and stop short of saying “moron”. At least I give you the benefit of a doubt (you do know what that means, do you?). No problem, if you’re speechless, I completely understand. There really isn’t much to say about “what” you think anyway, right?

  • avatar
    lou3000

    I did it, I just committed a cardinal sin of auto enthusiasm. Despite knowing that it wasn’t the most fun to drive, and reading all of these awful reviews, I bought a 2012 Honda Civic. In the end, I’m tired of owning the most fun car. My entire car ownership life has been a serious of reliability nightmares and poor decisions.

    Oh there was the Wrangler, that fun for about an hour, then I had to drive on the highway. There was the turbocharged VW that spent about 80% of its life at the dealership with a laundry list of issues. Then there was the Volvo R that was its own little set of headaches. And finally the 3-series that was reliable but when it wasn’t, it cost a fortune. Automotive writers fawn over these vehicles, enthusiasts say they are great, they win all the awards, and they are fun as hell to drive around in. But I’m done with it.

    I say screw it, I just need to get to work. I just need a dirt cheap, reliable, M-F commuter. And now I have a Civic. So when the writers of auto enthusiast blogs are stranded because their Focus DSG is screwed up or because the wheels literally fell off the Elantra, this ugly little Civic will still be going, getting better MPG, and retain that ridiculous Honda resale value.

    And to be honest, I like my new Civic.

  • avatar
    oleladycarnut

    I also wonder how many of the new Civic haters piling on the bash Honda band wagon have actually driven the car. I also got sick and tired of “fun.” MINI burned me with its cold start issues, miraculously opening sun roofs, thermostat and water pump failures and shoddy dealer service.

    I’ve driven Hondas for 30 plus years, and I am gladly commuting to work in my 2012 Honda Civic EX Coupe. It isn’t even boring! I’ve reached a point in life where reliability trumps all in driving habits.

  • avatar
    edwilley3

    Update: I got rid of my 2008 Civic Ex. I looked around for a larger car that I liked and basically came away with the idea that I didn’t like what I found. SO, I wound back the clock and bought a low mileage 2004 Lexus.

  • avatar
    jayzwhiterabbit

    Dude, if Ford or Chevy released this car it would be a laughing stock. I loved – love! – Hondas and especially Civics from the 80′s and 90′s, but come on. Please.

    Civic went from tuner king to the ultimate retired-schoolteacher car. Bummer.


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