2012 Honda Civic EX sedan
2012 Honda Civic EX sedan. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2012 Honda Civic

After having been wowed by the recent styling upgrades to the Hyundai Elantra and Ford Focus, it was a bit of a shock to see the comparatively tame styling of the 2012 Honda Civic sedan. Though 90 per cent of the Civic sedan’s bodywork is new, according to Honda, it looks very much like the 2011 model, except for its large tail lights which resemble those of the last generation Toyota Camry.

Ironically, it was the dynamic styling of the last generation Civic sedan that raised eyebrows when it was redesigned five years ago. Its sweeping profile and two-tiered digital instrument panel were bold design moves at that time.

This time however, Honda is playing it safe. Though the new Civic sedan continues to offer a short hood, steeply raked windscreen, and aerodynamic profile, subtle differences in the shape of the grille, front bumper, rear bumper and tail lights make it appear more conservative than the last model.

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

That’s probably not an oversight: as Canada’s best-selling car for the past 13 years, the Civic has a proven record. Perhaps the company feels there is no need to take a risk on controversial new styling.

What Honda has done is improved the Civic’s fuel economy, cabin roominess, ride comfort, level of standard equipment, safety, and pricing. However, it’s debatable whether Honda has done enough to keep up with rapidly improving competitors like the Elantra, Focus, Mazda3, Cruze, and Forte.

The 2012 Civic sedan is the same length, width and height as the 2011 sedan, but its wheelbase is 30 mm (1.2 in.) shorter. Even so, the new Civic’s passenger volume has increased by 105 litres (3.7 cu. ft.), with more front shoulder and hip room, and additional rear hip room. As well, the trunk volume has increased to 353 litres (12.4 cu. ft.) from 340 litres (12.0 cu. ft.) in DX and LX models. Civic EX and EX-L models have slightly less trunk space, 344 litres (12.1 cu. ft.).

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

New for 2012 is a small screen to the right of the speedometer that provides driver information such as average fuel economy, clock, outside temperature and trip odometer; and on EX-L models, the screen serves as part of the newly available navigation system. The new Civic is also available with a USB audio interface, and Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio.

Under the Civic’s short hood, the DX, LX, EX and EX-L models continue to offer a 140-hp 1.8-litre SOHC 16-valve i-VTEC four-cylinder engine, but internal engine changes to reduce friction combined with a seven per cent reduction in the sedan’s body weight have contributed to a slight improvement in fuel economy. With the standard five-speed manual transmission, its official L/100 km rating of 7.2/5.4 city/hwy compares to last year’s 7.4/5.4. With the optional five-speed automatic transmission however, there is a much bigger improvement: now 7.2/5.0 city/hwy compared to 8.2/5.7 before. That’s indicative of revised transmission gear ratios and/or transmission software changes.

The new Civic sedan also features a new driver-selectable “Econ” mode that modifies the electronic throttle to provide more gradual response, adjusts the automatic transmission shifting points, and reduces the amount of power allotted to the air conditioning system. More on this in a minute.

2012 Honda Civic sedans are also available in the sporty Si trim with a new 201-hp 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, and as the Civic Hybrid with a new 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, integrated motor assist and a new lithium-ion battery pack. For the purposes of this review, we’ll focus on the Civic EX with the standard 1.8-litre motor.

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