How bad was the 2012 Honda Civic? Despite the less-than favorable reviews, not very. So why all the fuss?
|1. The Civic’s powertrain remains unchanged with a 140 hp 1.8L and a best of 28 mpg city and 39 mpg highway. |
2. Improved standard equipment means all cars get Bluetooth, steering wheel audio controls, an i-MID display screen and a back-up camera.
3. Along with design and interior upgrades the Civic receives better sound deadening, an improved ride and more responsive steering.
4. With all models seeing a price increase of $160 the 2013 Civic now starts at $18,165.
With other automakers, ranging from the domestics to the surging Korean powerhouses of Hyundai and Kia, having stepped-up their respective games, 2012 was seen as a sink or swim moment for Honda. The once revered brand had suffered from a spate of problems, ranging from supply issues and low sales surrounding the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, to products that were either poor, or perceived to be that way, including the Insight, CR-Z and Crosstour.
In other words, Honda needed to do something big, right at a time when anything less than big would be perceived as half-assed. The 2012 Civic was undoubtedly of the partial-posterior variety.
FLAWS OF THE PAST
Based on eight previous generations of Civics, however, it was still near the top of the pack and even if it came up short in certain respects Honda was able to benefit from the hard-earned reputation for flawless reliability, making the Civic a strong seller.
Along with so-so style and less-than-quality interior components, the 2012 Civic also lacked the fuel economy of the competition. Not being able to hit the magical 40 mpg mark that its rivals bragged of (inaccurately it now appears), it also lacked the flashy marketing tagline “Best-in-Class Fuel Economy.”
The difference between 39 mpg and 40 mpg in the real world is negligible, but Honda failed to understand that perception is reality.
So 18 months after the original debuted Honda has updated the ninth generation Civic in only its second model year on sale, improving everything from the look, to the quality, to the drive.
SAME ENGINE, SAME FUEL ECONOMY
About the only area not improved is the fuel economy, continuing to be rated at a best of 28 mpg city and 39 mpg highway, for a combined 32 mpg. While better numbers could be achieved by adding direct-injection and swapping out the old 5-speed automatic for a CVT, those technologies will continue to wait in the wings, for now.
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NEW LOOK, BETTER MATERIALS
Outside, the Civic is significantly more Accord-like, with a larger front grille that mimics its big brother, while down low is a long chrome bar that gives some added style, making the car appear both lower and wider. Out back are new taillights as well. Seemingly a minor change, the new design adds small interior markers on the trunk, and overall the pieces seem to be made of a more reflective material and (cliché as it is to say) look like something off a premium model. Then there are the wheels with significantly more design than in the past, with curve-spoke 15s on base cars, while EX and EX-L models get more dramatic black and silver 17s.
Changes inside the car are more noticeable. Gone is the eco-grade dash material that looked like paper mache. In its place is a new textured black surface that looks not unlike something you’d find in a BMW 3 Series. The entire dash top is now also black, as are the floormats, making for a more serious, premium look. Numerous other small improvements also show their mark, ranging from black trim pieces to small bits of chrome and brushed aluminum, while control knobs gain textured grips to help improve the feel. New seat material also join the list of upgrades.
QUIETER AND MORE RESPONSIVE
Hit the road and the Civic immediately feels more premium for another reason: it’s quiet. Added soundproofing material now coats much of the cabin, while the windshield glass and driver’s side glass have been thickened. Honda claims the improvements are so significant the Civic is now in league with mid-size cars for the low level of sound intrusion into the cabin – and we don’t disagree.
In the handling department the 2012 Civic showed signs of letting itself go. It was still near top-of-class but lacked the edge a Honda should have. The 2013 model gains some of that reputation back thanks to stiffer spring rates, reduced body roll and a steering ratio that’s seven percent quicker than last year’s car.
These changes don’t add any serious sportiness back into the Civic, but do make for a more solid feeling ride. They aren’t as noticeable as the sound deadening, but when combined the overall driving experience is significantly improved.
AND SAFER TOO
Also improved is safety. While cosmetic updates are the norm for a mid-cycle refresh, modifications to the car’s structure are unheard of, and yet that’s what Honda has done. Numerous reinforcements are designed so that the Civic will meet new even more strict crash testing procedures, including the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s new Top Safety Pick Plus rating.
Those structural changes, as well as the added sound deadening do, however, add weight to the Civic. According to a Honda representative we spoke with, the updates add as much as 100 lbs. He informed us that small changes to the engine did actually result in improved fuel economy, but the added weight negated the benefits.
MORE, FOR MORE
As with almost any new model year, the 2013 Civic’s price has increased though we’re pleased to report the adjustment is minimal – especially considering the heavy upgrades packaged into the car.
Added equipment means that all models now come standard with Bluetooth, Pandora, SMS text messaging, a USB outlet, steering wheel audio controls and an i-MID display screen with a back-up camera.
For all that, the increase is just $160 across the board, meaning that base DX models with a stick shift will cost $18,165 while automatic models retail for $18, 995. Well-equipped EX models start at $20,815 while EX-L versions sit at $22,265.
A vastly improved Civic, should Honda be lauded for its improvements and quick response to critics, or should it still be harped upon for trying to pass off the 2012 model on customers? We’d argue, a bit of both.
The 2013 Civic makes notable improvements to keep it right near the top of the class, and when you factor in Honda qualities of reliability and durability, this smart choice is now a more satisfying one too.
However, the Civic still lacks leadership in the fuel economy segment, something it once could always lay claim to. With technologies that will put Honda there still waiting in the wings, we’ll look forward to true leadership soon. We’ve already seen what happens when critics push Honda to be better. So let’s keep pushing.