The Honda Civic is the car that proved that small cars can be good to drive, appeal to the masses, and not be entirely soulless. Honda’s ninth-generation Civic debuts for the 2012 model year, but unless you look closely, you might not notice. Both inside and out, the Civic retains signature cues from the previous car, with a single-arc profile and a two-tier dashboard. For the sedan, there are few changes to report under the hood, either, as the 1.8-liter four-cylinder and five-speed automatic carry over. The sporty Si does get a new engine — a 201-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder — and eco-warriors now have the choice of the HF sedan (41 mpg highway) or the Hybrid (44 mpg combined). The Civic uses a multilink rear suspension that is more planted and comfortable than the torsion-beam arrangements used by its competitors from Chevrolet, Hyundai, and Toyota, making it one of the better-driving small cars. Inside, however, the Civic has lost some ground to its competitors, with plastics that are not very appealing and a navigation system with fiddly buttons. Still, the cabin feels spacious; the engineers from Honda managed to carve an additional 3.7 cubic feet of interior volume from an exterior that’s unchanged in size. A 60/40-split rear seat means that even coupe models can carry large items. The Civic used to stand apart from its competitors, but that’s no longer the case. However, we can’t discount the Civic’s competent road manners, reliability, and stellar resale value.
Trim Levels: DX, LX, HF, EX, EX-L, Si, Hybrid, GX
Body styles: Sedan, coupe, 5-passenger
Engines: 1.8L I-4, 140 hp, 128 lb-ft
1.5L I-4/electric hybrid, 110 hp, 127 lb-ft
1.8L I-4/natural gas, 110 hp, 106 lb-ft
2.4L I-4, 201 hp, 170 lb-ft
Transmissions: 5- or 6-speed manual, 5-speed automatic, continuously variable
Passenger volume: (sedan/coupe) 92.1-94.6/
82.6-83.2 cu ft
Cargo Space: (Hybrid/coupe/sedan)
10.7/11.7/12.5 cu ft
The Civic was redesigned for 2012, with new styling, a four-cylinder engine that’s been tweaked for better gas mileage, and a new engine for the sporty Si. Models above the DX trim level get a five-inch color monitor next to the speedometer and the Eco Assist system. The Hybrid now has a lithium-ion battery pack and a 1.5-liter engine to replace its old 1.3-liter and nickel-metal-hydride battery pack.
Front, side, and side curtain air bags are standard, as are traction and stability control, antilock brakes, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
All: 22-44 mpg city/31-41 mpg highway
- Lots of models to choose from
- Stellar reliability
- Competent handling
- Lackluster interior
- Dull but predictable steering feel
Is “good” good enough?
- Chevrolet Cruze
- Ford Focus
- Hyundai Elantra
- Toyota Corolla