The 2012 Honda Civic sits toward the bottom of the small, affordable car class even in the face of a redesign for the new model year. With a ho hum exterior and an equally unimpressive interior, the lower-priced competition has it over the Civic this year in spades. Priced in an MSRP range of $15,605 to $23,455, the Civic gets 28 mpg city and 36 highway.
Buyers have a number of better choices including Honda's own Fit, which is cheaper and offers more hauling room. Since there is a hybrid variant of the Civic, comparison shoppers will also want to look at the iconic Toyota Prius for $23,000 and racks up a stunning 51/48 city/highway.
There are seven Civic models: sedan, coupe, Si sedan, Si coupe, hybrid, high fuel-efficiency (HF), and a natural gas version. In the sedan, coupe, HF, and natural gas there's a 1.8-liter four cylinder with 140 hp. The Si gets a 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 200 hp with 170 lb. ft. of torque. All models except the Si can be outfitted with a five-speed manual or automatic transmission.
In terms of handling, the Civic isn't the most powerful in the class. The driving feel is nimble enough, but lacks the degree of "oomph" most test drivers would prefer. Vehicle stability control is a standard feature in the 2012, but opinions are divided on whether or not it's an improvement. Some drivers find more body roll and complain of understeering, others say the 2012 performs on a much higher level than the 2011. This means one thing. You have to drive it for yourself.
"Simple" is a word often used for the Civic's exterior, but that's frankly just code for "boring." The changes for 2012 are too subtle and the overall design still seems just too dated. Open the door and the first thing you encounter is a long feature list, but there are much better cabins in this class, notably on the Chevrolet Cruze and the Hyundai Elantra.
It continues to be confounding that the base Civic doesn't come with AC or even a radio. You can drop $16,500 on the Cruze (just $700 more) and drive off with air and an audio unit that has XM, MP3 capability, and an audio input jack. The over-use of plastic on the dash and doors just adds insult to injury for this interior that comfortable seats can't smooth over. (You do get 12.5 cubic feet in the trunk, but again, the Elantra has 14.8 and the Cruze 15.4.)
The 2012 Honda Civic has not yet been tested by the federal government or the insurance industry, but the 2011 did not do well, earning only three stars in front and rollover testing. In addition to vehicle stability assist, other safety standards include anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, and side curtain and front airbags.
The 2012 Honda Civic is one of those models that trades on its name value. Unfortunately the real value doesn't hold up to the perceived reputation. There are lots of variations of the Civic, and lots of options (with every one costing more), and some equate that with choice. The real choice is to shop the competition. There are more affordable small cars out there, that do much better. Even with a redesign, take a pass on the Civic. It's just not worth the money.