2012 Civic: You’ve come a long way, baby
Summit Daily Auto Writer
It has literally been a half decade since I last spent any time in a Honda Civic and, after a week in the 2012 version of the ever-popular car, I see the world has indeed changed.
Still small but now futuristically wedge-shaped and loaded with a litany of hybrid-derived functionality, Civic has come a long way. To reiterate, the model I drove is not a hybrid, though it gets hybrid-style mileage (36 mpg highway) using regular gasoline engine technology; an actual Hybrid model also exists and is rated at 44 mpg, combined, and there’s also a natural-gas powered model, as well.
However, in the five years since I last drove a Civic, a funny thing happened: All the small, efficient economy vehicles the Civic once soundly eclipsed have become pretty good vehicles in their own right.
Back then, you couldn’t earnestly say that the economy offerings from the Koreans (Kia and Hyundai) or even Ford, General Motors or Chrysler were all that good. Nowadays, four of those five produce consistently impressive automobiles in the sub-$20K range, with build quality and looks that match or beat Honda. A world where the Chevy Cruze or the Ford Fiesta or Focus match up against a Civic is indeed a different world.
Stacked up against that competition, Civic is still a nice machine, but it’s no longer the only game in town. It still drives comfortably and features an impressive amount of interior room and nice surfaces and is just fine for the price.
Design is pleasant, with that steeply raked windshield, flowing body lines and a punchy, pointy nose – a look that Honda calls “One-Motion,” which works for me. Aircraft-styled windows in front of the side mirrors help with the visibility, with protruding tweeter speakers on the inside A-pillars.
There might just be a little too much going on when it comes to surface materials, as the doors alone feature leathery plastic, checkered plastic, stippled plastic, fabric armrests, chrome plastic and black plastic.
The coupe is nearly two inches shorter than the sedan but features the same 140-HP four-cylinder, making it not a rocket but pleasantly powerful for general cruising.
Settle into the slightly unusually shaped, cloth-covered seats and you get a fun runabout with concise steering. The coupe’s larger doors aren’t overly heavy and open to provide simple access to the back.
And what do you get, in the case of the 2012 Civic EX coupe, that being the third-highest trim level?
The eco-related stuff (besides the easily attainable highway figure) is hard to miss, as there are giant stickers on the windows and a huge green button on the dash to let you know it’s there.
Eco Assist offers immediate feedback in the form of colored lights that shroud the heads-up display styled digital speedometer atop that deep, deep dash, indicating that you’re driving in an efficient manner. And that’s about it. You learn that if you drive fast and use a lot of gas pedal, you won’t see green.
That display is part of a nicely styled system known as the intelligent Multi-Information Display, also a mouthful of words to describe the fact that there’s now a five-inch LCD display in the middle of the dash that, depending on the model, can provide trip computer info, hybrid energy flow, navigation or audio information.
In the EX, it’s just trip and audio, as the audio knobs don’t provide much feedback and were confusing to use, at first; the system is 360 watts with a subwoofer.
The wheel is literally covered with rubbery fingertip controls for all of those audio and display functions, helping you (sort of) keep your eyes on the road.
Some of the Civic’s other stuff is usefully austere (open cup holders) or mildly futuristic (two power outlets, a USB input and a regular audio jack input for iPods and such); Bluetooth phone and audio connect is also standard.
Other models in the 2012 lineup include the HF (a high-efficiency version with smaller, lightweight wheels (15 inches, versus the EX’s 16-inchers) and extra aerodynamics to yield 41 mpg on the highway) and the new Si, the racer-boy special with 201 HP, 17-inch wheels and loads of visual tweaks.
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