Familiar look and feel
Anyone coming out of the previous Civic should be very comfortable with the new one. The silhouette maintains what chief exterior designer Toshiyuki Okumoto calls the "one-motion form." That is, the hood and trunk are extremely short, while the passenger cabin is extremely large, and the windshield and backlight are steeply raked. What Okumoto introduced with the new model are more undulations in the surfaces. Even so, this is clearly recognizable as a Civic.
Inside, it's a similar story. The steeply raked windshield again makes for a large dash area. The quarter windows at the front have grown larger and the A-pillars have bucked the prevailing trend by getting slimmer. Outward visibility overall is better than most sedans. The two-tier dashboard returns, with the upper binnacle housing the digital speed readout, now bracketed by lights that glow green when you let off the gas or blue when you're on it. Flanking that display are the gas gauge and a bar-graph meter that's supposed to represent fuel economy. The lower binnacle is home to the analog tachometer. On all but the base DX, there's a new additional screen in the upper binnacle that can display audio information, a trip computer, a photo that you upload, Bluetooth info, or hybrid system monitoring (for the Hybrid).
The Civic again features a small-diameter, three-spoke steering wheel. The secondary controls are simple to use. Stowage space in the center console is generous. Overall, the interior is supremely functional but not particularly stylish.
Why so stingy?
One Honda tradition that unfortunately lingers here is a stinginess with available equipment. Bluetooth, for example, is not available on the DX, LX, or HF. Satellite radio can only be had with navigation, meaning it too is the exclusive province of the EX, the Si, and the Hybrid. And then there's the DX. Honda didn't have one at the launch event, but it might be more appropriate to introduce that model at the Bada Bing. The DX is an old-school stripper, as it comes without air-conditioning, power mirrors, power door locks, or a radio. At least it does have stability control, which is finally standard on all models.
Watching its waistline
By resisting the temptation to increase the Civic's exterior dimensions, Honda was able to keep a lid on the car's weight. In fact, nearly all the various Civic models have actually shed a few pounds compared to their 2011 counterparts. Keeping the new car's weight under control helped Honda engineers eek out better gas mileage from a powertrain that's little changed.