2012 Honda Civic EX
2012 Honda Civic EX
2012 Honda Civic EX. Click image to enlarge

As has been the case with any test vehicle since November, the Civic’s stock P205/55R16-inch all-season tires had been replaced with winter ones. Although great on their own, the winter tires and this Civic felt like a hockey team with two all-star forwards lacking chemistry; they just didn’t gel together.  The tires easily rolled over and provided poor grip when cornering hard.  Our test vehicle had roughly 18,000 km on the clock and the front tires showed considerably more wear than the rears; a direct result of excessive understeer when pushed hard.  It is a shame, too, as the steering is light, quick and direct.  At city speeds it is very manoeuvrable but on the highway it becomes too direct.  Our Civic was darty and wandered back and forth within its lane, an unnerving trait exaggerated by soft-sidewall winter tires.  Aside from this nuisance, the Civic drives like, well, a Civic, keeping alive the tradition of being easy to use with a flair for driver engagement.

The real area of controversy with the new Civic has to do with its styling, inside and out.  It isn’t fair to say the new Civic is a step backward from the 2006 redesign, but it isn’t a step forward either.  The interior feels cheap and is full of hard plastics everywhere except for the armrests and steering wheel.  The grey hues that make up the dash do not completely match and panel gaps vary randomly. 

The highly sophisticated technologies featured inside this Honda contrast directly with its inconsistent interior quality. Menu screens in the top tier of the dash are clear, and voice command instructions in menus like ‘phone pairing’ are non-robotic.  The dash gives an overall feeling of 2012 technology stuffed into a 2001 design.

2012 Honda Civic EX
2012 Honda Civic EX
2012 Honda Civic EX. Click image to enlarge

From the driver’s seat, outward visibility is panoramic, thanks to the steeply raked windshield.  The Honda feels twice as open as it really is thanks to a relatively low belt line and thin A-pillars, and the seats are very comfortable and easy to adjust.  That reminiscent smell mentioned earlier may be because the seats were actually left over stock from the 1990s.  What else could account for the outdated pattern dyed onto them?  Rear seat leg and head room are acceptable for the compact class and I could fit my six-foot, one-inch frame back there without issue.  A center armrest with cup-holders folds down from the middle of the rear seats, which appears to be a growing trend in the compact segment.  In the trunk, the EX-trimmed Civic offers 344 litres of cargo space, which is nine litres less than in the DX or LX, due to the disc brake set-up.

Exterior styling of the 2012 Civic has taken a lot of flak since the redesign.  Criticized for not being as edgy and distinct as the 2006 Civic, the dark gray paint of our test car hid a lot of the unflattering lines, making it look conservative rather than ugly.  Some of the slab-sided body panels are functional and help to improve aerodynamics and fuel efficiency, which is important if the Civic is to uphold its fuel-sipping heritage.  Fuel consumption is officially estimated, by Natural Resources Canada, at 7.2 L/100 km in city driving and 5.0 L/100 km on the highway.  These numbers couldn’t be duplicated due to the gruelling commute the Civic was subject to during its stay with us.  Still, an average of 8.1 L/100 km is not too bad and betters both the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze we tested last fall.

Overall it is neither fair nor accurate to say the Civic has fallen behind the pack in the compact car market.  A changing of roles would be a more appropriate assessment.  No longer the class leader all other compacts aspire to be, the Civic has become a ‘mid-packer’ that delivers good value for money and a proven reliability record.  Is Honda resting on its laurels?  Maybe, or maybe Honda is trying its best to fight in a highly competitive, highly crowded market segment.  Either way, the Civic is still a strong contender and will continue fighting for its 15th consecutive ‘Best Selling Car in Canada’ crown.

Pricing: 2012 Honda Civic EX sedan
  • Base price: $19,740
  • Options: $1,200 (Automatic transmission)
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,395
  • Price as tested: $22,435

  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Honda Civic

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    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
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