By on November 30, 2012

Sometimes promises are kept in the car design biz: the 2013 Civic sounds like a big step up from this 2012 model. Which was a big step down from the ’70s concept car chic of the 8th generation Civic. Aside from Wayne Cherry’s professional nightmare, how often does a manufacturer make such significant changes after one year of production?  This model insulted more than one autojourno and countless fanbois, apparently Honda doesn’t mess around when reputation and $$$ are on the line.  But just how bad was it in 2012? What in the hell is that?

The 8th generation Civic’s bumpers had a flat and clean, 1970s People Mover vibe to it. Radical yes, but not offensive. The 9th Gen’s redesign added lumps and bumps to the bumper, with the aesthetic pleasure of a pear-shaped silhouette. Adding insult to injury, all the folds and unique planes on the bumper’s face. This nose doesn’t work on a body this tall and, um, People Mover like.


The pear shape isn’t obvious from this angle.  Aside from the blocky-cheapness of the grille (even in fancy Hybrid trim), the Civic looks okay from here.  A perfectly flat nose (without the high point for the license plate) woulda been nicer, however.


This is a good time to mention that I gladly put my fingers in strange holes for TTAC’s readership. And, that solid casting behind the logo looks even cheaper in real life.  Shouldn’t Hybrids have a flat, solid badge for better aerodynamics?


This blue strip of Hybrid Snobbery is kinda cool.  First green was marketed for unique Hybrid markings, now blue. Which any luck, we will see more brown hues taking over in the Eco-Friendly color challenge.  After all, isn’t the earth mostly made of brown stuff?  There’s just a lot of green and blue on top of the chocolatey goodness!


While I’m all for unique trimmings on unique models, this blue lightbulb umbrella is a bit much.  Anodized(?) blue on a cheap metal stamping doesn’t look better, it accentuates something that’s better left in chrome camouflage. The only thing worse would be my brown remark from above, translated here.


If there was no fender flare, no pear shape to the bumper, this would be a decent enough looking machine. Then again, the 8th Gen Civic already had that covered. Much like the awful Chevy Uplander (CUV-wannabe) to the mediocre Chevy Venture (Minivan) that came before it, sometimes change is a very bad, very half-assed thing indeed.


On the plus side, the plane of the bumper that flows into the headlight is pretty cool from here.  And the bumper to fender seam is logical. There’s a bit of the 1970s wedgy perfection here.  Just not enough of it.


The 9th Gen Hybrid wheels are as contrived and overwrought as the front end.  The 8th Gen’s totally futuristic wheels were so much better.


Contrary to most cab-forward designs, the Civic’s plastic trim on the cowl is quite minimal and clean.  It’s nice to see more painted hood and less black plastic in this manner.


Too bad about this slab of plastic.  The Daylight Opening (DLO) of the 9th Gen is so, so much worse than the 8th Gen.  What used to be a cool ’70s people mover with those sleek bits of glass in front of the door turned into plastic triangles of DLO FAIL.  It’s very sad to see Honda go to Pontiac Aztek levels of cheapness in their quest to…well, I have no idea what they were thinking.

That’s right, they were thinking about the $$$.  And since the 2013 model still has the plastic triangles of DLO FAIL, we see that it’s still all about the money. Ain’t a damn thing funny!


DLO FAIL from another angle, complete with round-ish mirrors that fight the very wedgy greenhouse.  Remember when Honda spent the money to put covered headlights on the 3rd Generation Accord?  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  Hyundai and Kia: the ball is in your court.


And yet, just like my review back in 2007, I still hear Jazz-Rock Fusion when I see a Civic.  The 70’s never died, it just went mainstream pop. The watered down wheel design, big hunka DLO FAIL, unnecessary muscular crease by the door handles and generic taillights don’t totally negate the wedge greenhouse. Probably.


Ack: bargain basement Hofmeister Kinkery!!! Try saying that three times fast!

Another reason to love the 8th Gen Civic.  While this isn’t DLO FAIL like the front, this cheap bit of (tacked on, not-flush fitting) trim at the end of the DLO means Honda took a page from GM’s beancounting playbook.  A very sad move indeed, son.

Since I am not one of those autojournos that gets all-expense paid trips to the LA Auto Show (sorry about that), I don’t know if the 2013 Civic improved here.  From what I see on the web, I have my doubts. Too bad about that.


Is this one piece plastic casting of parcel shelf and high-mount stop light (CHMSL) a clean and modern design, or a cheap bit from the dark days of GM and Chrysler interiors? I like carpet better, personally.


Most (all?) Civics in the history of Honda Awesomeness sported taillights that were either full width or something close to it. This cheapness is too Toyota like, and shameful.  Luckily the 2013 model goes back to a lamp arrangement befitting the brand and the Civic lineage. Now if only I knew for sure that bumper shelf below the taillights also met the chopping block for ’13.

At least you can’t see the DLO FAIL from this angle.



The strong shoulder line in this panel extends logically into the rear door.  It looks good enough, but the flat and wedgy profile of the 8th Gen was far more appealing from this angle. Mostly because it didn’t over promise on style, in an overwrought Toyota way. Hondas used to be so lithe and clean!


Thank goodness that mustache above the license plate isn’t chrome, as Honda would be just a fender ventiport away from copying every design cliché in the book! And that “shelf” at each corner really needs to go from this angle.  The pear-shaped Civic must never been seen again!


While there is an interesting dynamic of busy angles at the border of the Civic’s body, it is lumpy and frumpy.  This design will not age well.


Dare I say that, compared to what you see here, the 8th Gen Civic was downright gorgeous from this angle? While all the planes and wedges all lead to complimentary vanishing points somewhere out there in interstellar space (hopefully), there are simply far too many of them.


More blue tinting and pointless chrome bits. The lights would look better if they were flush to the body. It would also eliminate many lumps you’ve seen in the last two pictures.


And the spoiler adds a coupla more unique planes into the mix.  Just waaaay too busy.


Too many clichés, too much abandonment of what made the Civic a quality product with progressive and/or upscale design. The best thing you can say about the 2012 Civic is that the 2013 model should be in the showrooms very shortly.

Thanks for reading, you have a lovely weekend! This photo from 2006 will help.


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45 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 2012 Honda Civic (Hybrid)...”

  • avatar

    “Is this one piece plastic casting of parcel shelf and high-mount stop light (CHMSL) a clean and modern design, or a cheap bit from the dark days of GM and Chrysler interiors? I like carpet better, personally.”

    With the severe rack of that backlight, I think “parcel shelf” is a bit of a misnomer at this point.

    Where is Grandma supposed to put her kleenex?

  • avatar

    What’s deal with Honda’s bubble lights on all corners? Cheaper than designing sheet metal and the dies to make them?

  • avatar

    Apparently, when you dig into the details the 2012 Civic only gets worse. I mostly picked on the DLO here:

    As noted in the design critique, they’re not going to spend the money to change metal, so these problems remain with the 2013.

    The interior was even worse than the exterior, though. Reports I’ve read suggest that the worst bits have been replaced and the suspension has been firmed up. So those weaknesses might have been more successfully addressed.

  • avatar

    As long as we are discussing DLO FAIL, lets talk about Mazda’s CX7, and WAY UP FRONT triangular window. WHY? You have to unbuckle the seat belt move the seat forward and lay your head over two feet of the incredibly over-grown dash to see out of the teensy-tinsy little window, so how much daylight can we get from it? And even at that it has black paint all around the glass. I’ts a SLIVER, not a window, designed to mock you by doing away with operable vent windows.

    Maybe I don’t understand the use of the term DLO Fail, but I think Mazda has misunderstood it worse than Honda.

    • 0 avatar

      “Maybe I don’t understand the use of the term DLO Fail, but I think Mazda has misunderstood it worse than Honda.”

      I need to see the CX-7 up close, but it sounds like they both failed hard enough to merit the term DLO FAIL.

      • 0 avatar

        If you’ve been in the 8th and 9th back to back, the 9th’s a-pillar is a big improvement in visibility. People keep saying that there wasn’t any change between the generations, but think of the engineering and manufacturing needed in this area of the car… the 8th needed a double pillar for the same application that the 9th needs one. It’s not a small thing.

        The best aesthetic solution would be for the triangle to be glass, but that’s a pretty expensive solution for an inconsequential portion of the car. The part underneath the triangle is sheet metal, and giving it a body colour would make this portion look chunky. If you listen to the boyz on, the solution would be to push the windshield back, never mind aerodynamics and the fact that the steeply raked front was one of the design features that made the 8th stand out from the crowd. So black plastic it is.

    • 0 avatar

      If any car merited an emergency redesign it would be the Mazda3. The 3 is so unfortunate looking it should have a Barbra Streisand edition.

      But people have expectations of greatness for Honda, not so much Mazda.

  • avatar

    The eighth-gen Civic (2006-2011) really has aged nicely. The A-pillar windowlets (so much better than black plastic), eagle-head taillamps, E60-esque tumblehome, and turbine alloys are among my favorite details – details lost on the 2012 and 2013 models.

    • 0 avatar

      For me, it’s the fourth generation (1987-1991) that stands out as the classic Civic design, at least in hatchback form. Clean, sparse lines, classic wedge shape, a nicely-shaped greenhouse.

      • 0 avatar

        +10 internet points for referencing the tail lights with a picture of the ’85 Civic S Hatch. I owned such a model in Red over Silver for years and loved it.

        The 3rd gen Civic family (remember when they made a wagon and CRX version ?!?) were Honda really hit peak “Honda-ness”. The 4th gen didn’t change much. The 5th gen things changed from the blocky classic look to a smoother shape and likewise became more refined. At that point I owned an EX sedan. When the 6th gen arrived it was mess and its been downhill every since. Checking Wikipedia it was around this time the car’s weight went over the 2,500lbs mark – need I say more?

    • 0 avatar

      When the 2006 model was first introduced, it was also bashed heavily (surprise for a Honda?).

      May I suggest that TTAC only review cars that cost $30k and up?

      “Immature” would be the kindest word I have for this review. If you want to find hard plastic in a compact economy car, you will find it.

      A lot of people honestly think they are rational. But they aren’t. They will always tell you that the new Honda is a FAIL, while the new GM totally changed things. Every (insert positive integer here) years.

      • 0 avatar

        @wsn, if you don’t want to read an automotive design critique, you might want to skip Vellum Venom in the future. For me, they’re the highlight of TTAC. (TTADLO?)

        It’s quite possible to do good design on a small budget, and bad design on a large one. And if you read more of Sajeev’s VV articles, I don’t think you’ll find any particular anti-Honda or pro-GM bias.

      • 0 avatar

        The 2001 was trashed for losing the double wishbones. Guess what? sales increased, and profits.

        Want a fan boi racer car? Build your own. Car companies are not in “entertainment industry” for car magazine racers, they have to make $ to survive.

      • 0 avatar

        This is a classic hatchet job in the best sense of the phrase. Keep bringing the truth, Sajeev!

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed, I though the 2006 Civic was one of the best looking compacts on the market, and believed it was just as true for 2011. The 2012/2013 seems like an attempt to keep the 8th generation shape, but with a bunch of unneeded gewgaws tacked on to make it look newer.

      I have a coworker that went through three 8th gen Civic hybrids and never tired of talking up their merits to anyone that would listen. As much as I’m not really the target market for these sorts of cars, I had to admit they were quite tasteful looking and I always loved the smooth rims on the hybrids.

      Right now, though, he’s driving a Fusion Hybrid and now seems to have moved on to a rabid love affair with Ford after 25 years in Hondas (he just traded his wife’s ’08 CRV for an Escape). Never in a million years would have seen that coming, he bought something like 14 cars in a row from the same Honda dealer.

  • avatar

    “This photo from 2006 will help.”

    You know, it actually did! It was sort of like a nose spray commercial moment for my visual cortex. Much obliged…

  • avatar

    It doesn’t make sense to me, why put plastic over the kink? What purpose could it serve except make noise and increase costs? So unlike Honda of yore. Sochiro must be spinning in his grave!

  • avatar

    I keep wondering why Honda has to go through effort of redesign a terrible product when there’s a perfectly good looking Euro Civic just waiting to be brought here.

    Look at this!

    It was from the mid-2000’s, yet it still looks like something that Honda North America might consider proposing in 2020.

    People who buy Hondas will buy anything (I mean they bought the 2012 for gods sake!)….so you don’t even have to worry about them. Bring us the good looking Honda’s and those of us who you used to own one when you could still get a hatch might come back too.

    • 0 avatar

      The Euro Civic is the dog. It’s got a beam axle where the US Civic has multi-link IRS. The Euro R-type had an open differential where the US Civic Si has a helical LSD. It weighs more than the US Civic sedan. Space ship styling and a gadget-packed dash may be more important to some, but I wouldn’t have bought one. The last JDM Civic was a sedan like the US 8th generation car, since Honda of Japan apparently cared more about handling than a hatchback body style too.

    • 0 avatar

      Do yourself a favor and google 02-05 Civic Si.
      We had a Civic hatch built in the UK and didn’t want it.

      • 0 avatar

        The ’02 through ’05 Civic Si hatch still had the good rear suspension. The European version was even better, in that it had a version of the K20 that was similar to the one in the RSX Type-S. While it is true that the US version was never a strong seller, the Type-R version of that car was excellent. The US version is a great used car and can often be found in non-riced condition. For some reason, the Euro 8th generation Civic went down a style over substance path. It even has the hidden rear door handles that are a dead giveaway of a car for people that are trying to fool themselves.

  • avatar

    I bit on a ’12 Civic Si back in August. I guess it’s to each his own… but everytime I get in it, I keep wondering why I haven’t been buying Hondas forever. It’s my first one, and I love it. I would say the reviewers are just stuck on crap that Honda found out doesn’t actually matter to buyers, since buyers are still sucking them up.

    Honestly, I don’t do anything on my dash that requires soft plastic which cracks with age anyway :)

    Maybe other people use their dashes & door panels for more intimate purposes?

    • 0 avatar

      If you had been buying Hondas forever you would understand the criticism about this car. It is a nice car but I think the thought is that Honda mailed this one in. Civics peaked a long time ago and they never use to feel cheep. I hope they still last forever, I suspect they will, at least with a manual.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not that Honda’s are empirically bad, it’s just that they were SO good before all this nonsense. I jumped ship in 2007 after my 99 Accord bit the dust and I don’t see a reason to go back for a current model. The most intriguing Honda to me these days is a late 90s NSX.

      • 0 avatar

        i agree. my last honda was/is a 2007 odyssey. while we have kept that we have added two bmws to the driveway. my wife would have bought a new minivan instead of the bmw but the new odyssey is a step down from the last one.

    • 0 avatar

      The 2012 Civic Si is a great car. I’m personally a bigger fan of the 8th generation’s styling, particularly in the pre-facelift versions. Still, the 9th generation is faster than the 8th generation, and it is faster than the GTI and Focus ST. That’s nice, since it doesn’t suffer the compromises of forced induction. It also doesn’t come with an automatic transmission and mental masturbation paddles. If I had to replace my 2007 Civic Si, the new one is about the only one that would do. I’d consider the BRZ, but reliability seems to more Subaru than Toyota and I like the utility of my Si sedan.

      I think Honda went conservative with the design this time because there was initially resistance to the radical 8th generation car. It didn’t really catch on until gas prices shot up, and there are still dullards that can’t wrap their heads around having an instantaneously read speedometer and a huge tachometer holding sole billing in the conventional location. I must admit I am a bit jealous of the Bluetooth integration of my friend’s 2012 EX-L, but other than that I couldn’t be happier with my old Si. I hate to jinx it, but I haven’t had a single problem in almost 6 years.

  • avatar

    I own a 2012 Civic and compared to previous Focuses, Escorts, and even a Sentra I used to own, it’s solid a a rock.

    The nit picky stuff is for effete critics who drive used luxury cars and dump on anything else. I couldn’t care less what they think. Most of my friends like the car, and go ‘Hondas are good investment, I love mine’ and don’t go ‘its got the icky interior’.

    With that said, I got to test drive a ’13 at same dealer, and it is impoirved ride, sound deadening, and door/dash trim. But, it is what Honda and other makes have done, ‘continuous improvement’. And it has been more than one calendar year since the ’12 was unveiled.

    Critics are making too big a deal. Honda recovered greatly from the Tsunami of 2011, and even the “icky” Civic are selling as they always have. They haven’t “lost it”, in fact they gained me from Ford loyalty. And maybe many others.

  • avatar

    That front screams Passat and those wheels are just painful to look at.
    Seeing recent the Avenger/200 VV’s posts, I would have to say the Avenger is barely better looking that this and the 200 much better looking. I am sure it drives well like most Honda products do though.

  • avatar

    The lease on my 2009 Civic Hybrid expired in May of this year and, while I’d had no problems with it, I just didn’t feel comfortable committing myself to Hybrid ownership. That got me to the Honda dealership and brought me face-to-face with the 2012 Civic. I won’t take the time to go into details, but parking the ’09 next to the ’12 and comparing them was a head shaker. The ’12 looked like they’d turned every part from the 8th generation over to the bean counters and told them to wring all possible costs out of it. The interior was cheap looking to the point of being laughable.

    I ended up leasing a ’12 Accord EX sedan for three years. I might add that the countdown to lease end on the Accord began almost as soon as it was driven off the lot. I really don’t like it at all and, again, the more you poke around, the more you can see the cost-cutting. The car almost has that old “GM” vibe to it. What happened to the old Honda that always seemed to over-deliver and bring a smile to your face?

    The upshot is that the neighbors know I take good care of my cars and, except for the Hybrid, they are generally sold before I have to trade/turn them in. A couple up the street has already told me they want first chance at the Accord and I’m already looking. I have over two years and many more choices. The competition is getting better and Honda chose to get worse… I don’t think that’s a good decision in the business world…

  • avatar

    The huge protuberant “H” corporate logo on the front is a pet peeve of mine, and this is not just a Honda thing. Toyota bends its sheet metal and some model’s styling contours just to flash its over sized “T” badges. Yuk. Commercialist, egotistical, and just plain ugly.
    It will be interesting to see how far this trend goes. It would be amusing and disgusting to see a corporate logo be the single predominant styling feature on the front of some future model.

  • avatar


    A suggestion: write a glossary. And link to it in the footnote in your articles. Then you have a centralized list of terms and acronyms and won’t have to parenthesize anymore.

    My favorite: “dead cat hole” (not)

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting. Problem is, I don’t use many terms since I am not a design student anymore. I bet my glossary will be spotty. I’d prefer that people just ask in the comments section for specific items I discuss, so I won’t look bad for writing such a poor glossary.

      And I am trying to eliminate doubt in these terms. I’ll get better over time.

  • avatar

    I thought Honda was really messing up its cars on redesign, but then Nissan started messing up its cars even worse.

  • avatar

    I would love you to do a review of the 2013 Lincoln MKZ

  • avatar

    Re: Hybrid “blue” themes

    You might notice the blue trend signifying Hybrid and “green” cars is mostly on Asian vehicles thought the Germans seem to have caught the trend. As a Japanese friend explained to me, this is because traditionally some of those languages did not distinguish between blue and green, they are the same color. (

    e.g. A Hyundai Elantra Blue makes a bit more sense when you realize it is the equivalent of what we would call “Elantra Green” being the high MPG model.

  • avatar

    The difference is most obvious when you see them next to each other. The 9th generation is just so anonymous – the taillights, the back bumper, the side-view mirrors. I don’t hate the 2012, but the 8th generation was just so nice I guess it was hard to beat.

    I personally didn’t think the interior of the 2012 was too bad. To me, Hondas are more about the superior engines and transmissions. To drive a Honda is to feel the difference.

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