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

Related links
More Honda Civic reviews on Autos.ca

2012 Honda Civic Owner Reviews

Manufacturer’s web site
Honda Canada

Review and photos by Chris Chase

Photo Gallery:
2012 Honda Civic

The 2012 Civic speaks to a Honda spooked by the cool reception and so-so sales of a number of its recent designs, like the underwhelming Insight hybrid and the practical-but-ugly Accord Crosstour.

Honda can’t afford to mess up the Civic. This is arguably the company’s most important model, one of the most recognizable and trusted names on Canadian roads, and a perennial bestselling compact sedan in this country. Lately, that sales title has been under attack, namely by the aggressively-priced, generously-equipped and seriously good Hyundai Elantra.

Six years after the last redesign, it was time for an updated Civic, but you can see how Honda would be leery of going too dramatic, given its recent track record. So, the changes here are relatively minor ones: the wedgy profile and squinty headlights remain, making the restyled back-end, shared by both sedan and coupe models, the most significant cosmetic change, inside or out.

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

My tester was a 2012 Civic EX coupe, slotting in above the base LX two-door (the true entry-level Civic model is the DX sedan). The EX’s major upgrades include 16-inch alloy wheels, power sunroof, rear disc brakes, intermittent wipers and an auto up/down driver’s power window, all of which add $2,000 to the LX coupe’s $17,990 MSRP.

The powertrain is a 1.8-litre engine with five-speed manual transmission, both carried over from the outgoing Civic. A five-speed automatic is a $1,200 addition, except in the DX and Si, where it’s not available, and in the EX-L, where it’s the only one offered. The only Civics that don’t use the 1.8-litre are the sporty Si and the frugal hybrid variant.

The saying goes that it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car slowly, and that holds water here. Though its power output (140 horsepower and 128-lb-ft of torque) is average for the class, this engine loves a good flogging. The regular-grade Civic is no rocket, but what speed it is capable of comes with refined mechanical sounds. The manual shifter is light and precise, and the smooth clutch makes the car a cinch to drive smoothly.

We took my tester on a few of the twisty secondary roads between Brockville and Gananoque, Ontario, and even loaded up with camping gear, the Civic felt light on its feet and happy to be tossed around in corners. The light steering is responsive, but doesn’t provide a lot of road feel, and the brake pedal is a little on the soft side. The ride is firm, but rarely punishing; this is the rare case where I’d call the suspension tuning just about perfect for its purpose as a sporty car that will mostly not be driven like one.

Connect with Autos.ca